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Your Boston Bucket List for the Holiday Season

As November draws to a close and Boston briefly loses a sizeable chunk of its population in college students who return home for Thanksgiving, the one month mark to Christmas draws near. For some, November is remarkably early to begin celebrating, while for others, the pre-Christmas spirit has already taken hold. Regardless of when your Christmas timeline begins, once Thanksgiving passes we can officially usher in the Christmas season. Below is a personal Christmas bucket list of items, activities, and general holiday-related pastimes that always fuel my Christmas spirit, and will hopefully kickstart yours.

Boston Common Tree Lighting Ceremony

Credit: Boston Discovery Guide

This year, the giant Nova Scotian Christmas Tree that officially starts the Christmas season in Boston will be lit up in all its glory on Thursday, November 29. The celebration begins near the visitor’s center (it’s difficult to miss the giant crowd gathered around the tree) at 6 pm with the lighting of the tree to commence just minutes before the clock strikes 8. If you want to be surrounded by Christmas spirit, the Boston Common is the place to go on the 29th. There is live music and warm drinks to sip on (not to mention plenty of coffee shops nearby) while you talk with friends and wait for the lights to go up. I suggest taking a stroll through the park and admiring the myriad of colorful lights that turn the Boston Common into a stunning holiday display for the winter season.

Frog Pond Skating

Credit: Michele McDonald, The Boston Globe

The quaint little frog pond that kids like to splash in during the hot, Boston summer becomes a skating rink in the winter and is the perfect place to spend a carefree evening with friends. You can rent skates or bring your own and stay for as long as you like. It can get a tad crowded on the weekends but, since it’s not a time-consuming activity, I suggest going on a weekday. It’s the prime place to learn how to skate if you’re a beginner as everyone is there for a relaxed and leisurely time. And, whether you execute a few twists or cling to the edges, the scenery of the Boston Common, lit up with lights of all colors, is stunning to take in.

Christmas coffee

As a loyal coffee drinker, I look forward to the selection of holiday beverages topping the list of every coffee shop menu for the month of December. If you’re a Starbucks fan, then you wait excitedly each year for the company to reveal their newest holiday cup design. But design aside, it’s what’s inside the cup that I anxiously anticipate for the Christmas season. Both Starbucks and Caffè Nero make a delicious eggnog latte, probably my all-time favorite sugary coffee. If you’re not a fan of eggnog, I suggest a peppermint mocha, a white chocolate mocha or even a good old-fashioned hot chocolate (or make it peppermint hot chocolate!). As finals approach and the days become colder, treat yourself to your favorite holiday beverage to remind yourself that Christmas is right around the corner.

Christmas movies

We are never too old to curl up on the couch and watch a good old fashioned holiday movie. When December rolls around, each of us tends to have that one movie already picked out and queued up on our TVs or computers for a cozy night in. Personally, Christmas isn’t really Christmas unless I’ve watched How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolf, Elf, and my all-time favorite — Home Alone, by holiday’s end. A movie is also the perfect way to de-stress on a Friday or Saturday after hours of studying and remind yourself that you’ll soon have a month-long break to unwind.

Christmas music

Let’s say you’re swamped with homework, studying, and an array of other minute worries your tired brain blows out of proportion during exam season and feel as if you have no time to watch a movie or go for a skate. The best way to remedy your worries is to play some holiday music. It’s not cheesy, it’s simply festive, and will raise your spirits more than you could possibly predict. There are so many different genres of Christmas music to be enjoyed as well. Go on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon or your music provider of choice and listen to a Christmas radio station. Download the songs you like and piece together your ultimate Christmas playlist.

Faneuil Hall Marketplace Christmas Tree Light Show

Credit: The Odyssey

If you’re a college student in Boston, chances are you’ve wondered over to Faneuil Hall for a fun afternoon lunch/shopping outing with friends. In December, the giant musical Christmas tree is reason enough to venture back out there. The lights on the tree blink and shimmer to the rhythm of different Christmas songs! When fresh, flaky snow is falling, there is nothing more enjoyable than strolling over to watch the tree put on a show and brighten up everybody’s day.

We all celebrate and psyche ourselves up for Christmas in different ways. Personally, I like to fill my December with all the typical yet (in my opinion) necessary Christmas joys: the movies, the coffee, skating, and the big, shiny Christmas trees. It may sound cliché but, Boston comes alive for Christmas because coffee, Christmas trees, and music collectively produce an aura of happiness that no other season can rival. Every time we hear Silver Bells or Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, we feel a little warmer, a little closer to our families and friends, and a little lighter in spirit.

So, whether you want to brave the outdoors with your skates, or stay inside with some cocoa and a movie, take an afternoon or evening to begin your holiday celebrations. Tis’ the season after all.


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Emilee is a BU alumni from Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated with a BA Latin American Studies and a minor in Comparative Literature.  In addition to writing for Her Campus she enjoys reading, grabbing coffee with friends, and playing in the snow. She takes frequent trips to Ontario- the home of her family and grew up riding horses. Her favorite show is New Girl and she sees every day as an opportunity to pet a new dog. 
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