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40 Free Things to Do During the Holiday Season

Just because you’re on a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t still have an amazing holiday season full of great memories. Here’s a list of 40 free things to do during the holiday season to make the days merry and bright.

free things to do during the holiday season

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It’s beginning to look a lot like (an expensive) Christmas!

As you’re out shopping this year, you’ve more than likely noticed that prices on gifts, decorations, and even food are much higher than in years past. All that money being spent can cause a little bit of added stress. (Okay, a lot of added stress!)

However, there are some things you can do to keep the holidays merry and bright without spending a dime! Keep reading for my list of 40 free things to do during the holiday season.

Free Things to Do During the Holiday Season

1. Visit light displays.

Put on your favorite pj’s, grab a mug of hot chocolate, and drive around the neighborhood to see all the pretty lights. Or, you can walk around the neighborhood, as Michelle suggests. That sounds like a lot of fun to me!

2. Attend a holiday festival.

Many cities host winter festivals to celebrate the holiday season. The small town we recently moved from hosts a free Christmas event every year at the beginning of December. They close off the streets to downtown and the area comes to life with Christmas lights and decorations, hot chocolate stands, food, music, sleigh rides, and plenty of shopping opportunities. To make it an official no-cost event, you have to have the willpower not to shop! Check your local newspaper or community social media page to see what events your town holds.

3. Go caroling.

Gather together some friends and/or family and go caroling through the neighborhoods. After all, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!

Not sure what to sing or forgot the lyrics to your favorite childhood songs? Here’s a list of Christmas carols with their lyrics.

4. Visit Santa.

Even if you’re a grownup, you can still sit on Santa’s lap. Head to the mall and spend a few minutes with Santa to get in the Christmas spirit.

Need some inspiration (or just a belly laugh)? Here are some fun photos of people putting a funny twist on mall Santa pics.

5. Have a home photoshoot.

Use your seasonal home decor as the backdrop in a fun and free photoshoot. Or if the weather is nice, head outdoors.

6. Play in the snow.

If you’re lucky enough to live in an area that gets snow, take advantage of it. Get outside and go sledding, make snow angels, or have a snowball fight.

7. Trim the tree.

Decorating the Christmas tree is always a fun tradition for my family. We decorate the tree the day after Thanksgiving (after I’ve spent all day Black Friday shopping!). If you already have ornaments and an artificial tree, then this is one of the easiest free things to do during the holiday season. Don’t forget to turn on the Christmas music!

8. Decorate the house.

After the tree has been trimmed, pull out all those Christmas decorations you’ve had for years and find the perfect spots for them. Your home will be looking festive in no time.

9. Make Christmas crafts.

Gather all of your craft supplies and finally make those Christmas crafts you’ve been saving to Pinterest.

Here are some budget-friendly Christmas craft ideas to help you out!

10. Make your own Christmas gifts.

Presents don’t have to come from the store. Homemade gifts are just as special, if not more so!

Here are some DIY gift baskets you can make this year.

11. Bake Christmas treats.

Fill your home with the aroma of cookies and pies and cinnamon rolls! Bake some Christmas treats to munch on all season or to share with family and friends. Or challenge yourself to try a new recipe!

Try these easy recipes: Chocolate Eclair Cake, Pretzel Hugs

12. Host a cookie swap.

Call all your baking friends and challenge them to make a few dozen of their best cookies. Then get everyone together to swap their delicious creations!

Need an easy cookie recipe? Try these: Cake Mix Fudge Crinkle Cookies

13. Host a toy exchange.

If you have kids that have a bunch of like-new toys they’ve outgrown, organize a toy exchange with other families. Every kid will leave with a new-to-them toy and you don’t have to spend a dime.

14. Host a clothing exchange.

Just like a toy exchange, clothing exchanges can be for all ages. Gather clothes that you’ve outworn or no longer want and host a clothing exchange with others.

15. Host a potluck.

Instead of spending a ton of money at the grocery store and spending all day cooking Christmas dinner, consider hosting a potluck-style meal. Everyone brings something – a side dish, dessert, plates, napkins, etc. so that no one person is stuck with the financial burden.

16. Sing karaoke.

No need for talented singers here! Find some Christmas karaoke videos on YouTube and sing your heart out!

17. Have a game night.

Gather your family/friends together for a fun game night. Pull out your favorite board games and have your friends bring over their favorites to play.

My favorite board games include The Game of Life and Mall Madness (Does anyone else remember that game?)

18. Have a movie night

Toss some pillows and blankets on the floor and grab a mug of hot chocolate and get ready to spend a night watching your favorite Christmas movies.

My favorite Christmas movies include Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Elf, A Christmas Carol, Home Alone, and The Polar Express.

19. Volunteer.

One of the best free things to do during the holiday season is to give back and serve others. Volunteer your time serving meals at a local soup kitchen or helping in some other way. Other ideas include wrapping gifts for elderly family members or neighbors, reading to kids in a children’s hospital, visiting with those in nursing homes who have no family.

Visit the Volunteer Match website for opportunities to volunteer near you.

20. Decorate cookies.

After spending all day baking delicious cookies, don’t forget to have fun decorating them!

21. Make gingerbread houses.

Challenge yourself to make a gingerbread house from scratch this year instead of buying a kit. (They always fall apart anyway.) Your home will smell amazing and you’ll get to have fun with icing!

Need some inspiration? Here are 60 of the best gingerbread house ideas that the internet has to offer.

22. Make paper snowflakes.

I loved making paper snowflakes in elementary school when I was a child. (Okay, I still love making them!) Grab some paper and create a bunch of paper snowflakes then hang them in your windows.

23. Go on a candy cane scavenger hunt.

Hide a bunch of candy canes around the house and let the kids try to find them all. Think “Easter egg hunt” but with candy canes!

24. Attend a parade.

Check to see when your town is having its annual Christmas parade and plan to attend. If you’re up for it, attend nearby towns parades as well. Nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit quicker than a small-town Christmas parade!

25. Make Christmas cards.

Instead of purchasing a box of Christmas cards to give out this year, make your own. You can even personalize them with a short letter inside. To keep this free, consider hand-delivering them.

26. Read Christmas stories.

Spend an afternoon curled up by the fire reading traditional Christmas stories or some fun Christmas novels.

27. Host a no-spend white elephant gift exchange.

We all have something laying around the house that we’ve never used or just don’t really like. Wrap it up and get others to do the same. Then have everyone over to exchange their no-longer wanted gifts. Make it fun!

28. Decorate someone else’s home.

One of the nicest free things to do during the holiday season is to decorate someone else’s home for them. Consider asking an elderly or disabled family member or neighbor if you can decorate their home for the holidays. I’m sure they’ll appreciate all the decorations, plus getting to spend some time with you. (Don’t forget to take the decorations down for them after the holidays!)

29. Make salt dough ornaments.

Salt dough ornaments are easy and fun for kids to make, but adults can have just as much fun making them. This is a fun way to get crafty in the kitchen for the holiday season and they make great gits, too!

Here’s a great recipe with a video.

30. Make birdseed ornaments.

Birdseed ornaments are so fun and easy to make. Make up a bunch to decorate an outside tree just for the birds! Use Christmas cookie cutters to make cute and useful outdoor decorations.

Find an easy birdseed ornament recipe here.

31. Roast S’mores in the fireplace.

If you’re stuck indoors on a cold snowy day, take advantage of it. Roast some S’mores in the fireplace while telling scary Christmas ghost stories. (No fireplace? Don’t fret! You can fix S’mores in the microwave, too!)

32. Bake and deliver homemade treats to someone unexpected.

Spend some time baking up some holiday goodies to deliver to your local firefighters, policemen, or your favorite cashier at the grocery store. It’s guaranteed to make their day and yours, too!

33. Make a playlist of your favorite Christmas songs.

Keep all your favorite Christmas songs in one place by making your own playlist. Sure you can listen to them on the radio, but this way they’ll be commercial-free and you can leave out the songs you don’t really like.

34. Send a Christmas card to soldiers.

Create a personalized Christmas card to send to a soldier that will not be able to come home for the holidays. is a great place to send Christmas cards to soldiers to let them know they are not alone during the holiday season.

35. Donate your gently worn coats.

There are many people out there who are in need of coats – children, seniors, veterans, and entire families. You can help keep those affected by the cold warm this winter by donating your gently worn coats.

Use this map to find a coat drive location closest to you or learn how to host your own coat drive.

36. Attend a tree lighting ceremony.

Many cities hold ceremonies honoring the lighting of their tree. Check local newspapers or social media sites to find one near you. Tree lighting ceremonies are fun free things to do during the holiday season!

37. Attend a midnight Christmas Eve service.

Typically called “Midnight Mass”, this Christian tradition is held on Christmas Eve usually starting about an hour before midnight. The service is held as a form of dedicating the holiday season to God and celebrating the birth of Jesus.

38. Have a snowball fight.

No snow? Ball up some white paper and start tossing!

39. Make a wreath for your front door.

Welcome your guests with a beautiful DIY wreath for your front door. Wreaths can be simple to make, and you can make them easily with things you already have on hand.

Check out these beautiful DIY wreaths from Country Living! I love the mini ornament color wheel wreath!

40. Hang stockings.

It’s just not Christmas until the stockings are hung. Make your own stocking or hang stockings from years past. Stockings are so much fun to hide little Christmas surprises in.

Here are some beautiful DIY Christmas stockings you can try!

That’s quite a list of free things to do during the holiday season! What are your favorite free things to do during the holidays?

Find more Christmas inspiration here:

Don’t forget to pin it for later!

40 free things to do during the holiday season
Free things to do during the holidays

Thank you for sharing!