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Fun Holiday Experiences as Alternatives to Gifts

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Family Skiing

By Jeffrey Pang from Berkeley, CA, USA (Mount Rose 3Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Most happiness researchers will tell you that you are almost always better off spending your money on experiences and not on things[2]. With that in mind, here are some family experiences that you should consider this holiday season as alternatives to buying more toys or other material things that a year or two from now you will either throw in the trash or give to goodwill.

Ice Skating

Nothing gets you in the mood for the holidays like falling on your butt repeatedly. Your more nimble children might laugh at you, but later they will remember that you made the effort to have some fun.

Ski Trips

Skiing is not a cheap family activity, but if you have the funds, a ski trip will create memories for your kids that will last a long time. Much longer than the latest Xbox video game. If skiing is too expensive, and you live in a northern climate, at least take your family sledding if that is an option. As a child, I chipped two of my front teeth while sledding when an errant toboggan side-swiped me. Memorable times.

Painting Pottery

For an indoor activity, paint ceramics at a paint your own pottery store. Paint yourself a Christmas mug that you can use every year for hot chocolate. Each time you use it, you will remember fondly when your clumsy brother bumped your arm and turned the C in Christmas into a O.

Christmas Cookies


This was not an option when I was a child, but now you can take your family skydiving at Christmas! Indoor skydiving, that is. Look for iFly locations in your area. They simulate an indoor skydiving experience with true free fall conditions, but you don’t have to jump out of an airplane. They use a vertical wind tunnel to generate a wall-to-wall cushion of air. Sounds like a rush. Kids as young as 3 can take part.

Christmas Caroling

If you neighborhood doesn’t do Christmas caroling, consider starting it up. The more people you have, the less likely someone will notice that you can’t sing.

Christmas Tree Excursions

You can take the family to a Christmas tree farm and chop down your own tree. Try to go on the coldest, snowiest day of the year, so that everyone is in the proper mood.

Holiday Plays

Take your family and friends to see a holiday play. The Nutcracker is not your only option. Many local theatres have holiday-themed plays. Every year we attend a local Panto[1] performance, which is a playful mix of zany characters and audience participation. Panto (short for pantomime) is a type of comedy show that originated in England and is usually performed during the holiday season.

Laser Tag

Is there a better way to celebrate the holidays than running around a dark obstacle course shooting your loved ones? I think not. You can go dressed up for the holidays, with antlers on your head and elf ears. 

Be creative whatever you choose to do and make it memorable!



Dec 25, 2014 9:04pm
Good ideas, I think Christmas should be more about the thought of Christmas and sharing memorable moments. Rather than buying presents that in most cases people pass on to someone else or throw away.
Like you say, memories will last a lifetime, a few toys are great for winter days, but if weather permits get out in the fresh air and enjoy yourselves.
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  1. Multiple "Pantomime." Wikipedia. 15/12/2014. 15/12/2014 <Web >
  2. James Hamblin "Buy Experiences, Not Things." The Atlantic. 7/10/2014.

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