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Thanksgiving marked the start of the holiday season! As a kid, I always cherished the months of November and December: excited about snow days, thirsty for hot cocoa (with marshmallows of course), eager for mom’s stuffing and mashed potatoes, and delighted at the prospect of gift-giving. Yet, these past few years as an adult, the realities of difficult family members, the hustle and bustle of school and/or work, and the scare of holiday spending have put a damper on my once exhilarating holiday mood. 

However, that rush of excitement and warm fuzzy feeling that the holidays may have once provided doesn’t have to end! For me, it starts with focusing on the little things: the smell of a holiday candle, the chance to show off a new scarf, or the opportunity to watch my favorite holiday movie. It’s also about making memories through experiences, not things. 

From food-related fun to ways to play outside in the cold, I’ve gathered a list of different holiday and winter activities to hype up your holiday season – whether you have just a few minutes or all day. Get ready to usher in the new year by energizing yourself with some fun holiday activities.

1. Go ice skating

Lace up your skates, or grab a pair of rentals, and hit the ice. As a former competitive figure skater, I can attest that there’s no better feeling than gliding around the rink. Whether you stumble and fall or master the perfect stroke, skating is a fun, carefree activity for anyone. Many cities have rinks set up downtown or frozen lakes to skate on to enjoy the winter weather. 

2. Find a holiday lights tour

Whether you go to a traditional drive-through light display, an out-of-this-world illumination at a local zoo or garden, or simply take a tour of the twinkling lights around your neighborhood, enjoying the decorations that brighten up those extra-long nights can be mesmerizing. 

3. See the nutcracker at a local theater

Check your local theater to see if they’re hosting the Nutcracker, one of the most popular ballets in the United States! Grab some friends, get tickets for the show, and dress up for a festive night out.

4. Roast marshmallows

Instead of roasting chestnuts by the fire, try something better: marshmallows. Use your fireplace, a firepit, a stove, or a grill, to (carefully) roast marshmallows. The gooey, warm treat is fun and delicious.

5. volunteer or donate to a locl nonprofit

It’s also the season of giving! There are plenty of ways to help those in need. Whether you sign-up for a volunteer activity with a local nonprofit or shelter or simply donate old coats, used toys, or non-perishable food, it’s great to commit to helping the local community in whatever way you can.  

6. find a holiday market near you

I’m a sucker for cute holiday trinkets. This trademark in many European countries has become popular in cities around the nation. Check if there are any holiday markets in your town or area and add them to the calendar. Shopping small and from local artisans is always appreciated. 

7. have a cozy night in and watch a movie

Grab a warm blanket, some popcorn, and cozy up by yourself, with a friend or two, or with a significant other. Find a heartwarming story on Hallmark Channel. Laugh so hard you might cry with “Elf,” “Home Alone,” or “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Dig up those nostalgic feelings with “A Christmas Story.” Or find a smile plastered across your face with a movie from the “Charlie Brown” collection.

8. Make a wreath to decorate your door

For those who love crafts and DIY, this is for you! Dress up your room with a homemade wreath. I always appreciate something more when I make it myself. You can make it look traditional or get creative and make something unique with ribbons, twine, or jewels. Martha Stewart has a step-by-step slideshow that shows how to make wreaths in a variety of styles. 

9. bake holiday cookies and organize a cookie exchange

I can almost smell gingerbread cookies just thinking about it. There are hundreds of different kinds of holiday cookies. Pick your favorite, put your apron on, and start baking. You can also get a group of friends together who like baking and host a cookie exchange. 

10. host a holiday game night

Naughty or nice, everyone appreciates a good party game. Charades. Trivia. Pictionary. Cards. It’s all fun! Grab your family or friends and find a game everyone can enjoy. It’s a great way to relax, connect, and share a few laughs. 

Madison Rudolf

George Mason University '22

Madison is currently a senior at George Mason University studying Communication with a concentration in Journalism and a minor in Sustainability Studies. Madison enjoys using journalism as an outlet to write and inform about the environment. She is also a Strategic Communications Intern for Mason's Office of Communications and Marketing writing stories for the Mason website and The George newsletter. Outside of school, Madison enjoys running, reading, and exploring Washington, D.C.
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