5 Holiday Ideas That Aren't A Gift Exchange


I’ll be the first one to tell you I love the holidays. There’s nothing I love more than being home with my family and trudging around in my snowshoes up in the mountains in below-freezing weather. Call me crazy, but this girl was built for winter temperatures. In addition to the awesome weather, I crave the community that the holidays always seem to bring into my life. The ability to gather with people I love simply because it’s December is kind of the best. That being said, it can be exhausting when every gathering revolves around gifts.

Don’t get me wrong - after all, gifts are my love language. But, at a certain point, when ‘Secret Santa’ becomes the center of the holiday season, the meaning of giving and receiving gifts loses its luster. So, I want to offer you five meaningful alternatives to celebrating the holidays that don’t involve a $25 budget cap!

1. Host a cookie exchange

The holidays are the perfect excuse to put your sweet tooth to work! Have each of your friends make a dozen cookies and gather with hot chocolate and cider to exchange cookies so everyone goes home with a variety! You could always go with a classic sugar cookie or maybe mix it up with a frosted, peppermint chocolate option.

Not sold on the idea of a cookie exchange? Invite friends over to decorate cookies instead! Buy lots of fun sprinkles and food dyes and Instagram-worthy desserts will be yours for the taking.

2. Volunteer together

One of my favorite things I did last Christmas was volunteer with a friend from college at our local community center helping to put together grocery bags of food for families in need. Because lots of us have ample time over break, this is a great way to give back to the community and reflect on all we are grateful for and privileged enough to have this holiday season.

3. Host a holiday movie night

Sometimes there’s nothing better than popping in Elf, Four Christmases, The Polar Express or any of your other favorite holiday movies and laughing with friends over eggnog and popcorn! Wear fun plaid pajamas and decorate the room with twinkle lights! This could also be an awesome addition to a potluck or cookie exchange.

4. Go ice skating

Last year, one of the best nights of December was when my brothers and I laced up our hockey skates and went to a rink downtown! Throw on your favorite hat, scarf, and gloves and enjoy the crisp, winter air. Warm up afterwards with hot chocolate and fuzzy socks.

5. Share a potluck dinner

Gather together with your best friends for a fun dinner...Friendsgiving 2.0? where everyone makes a dish of his or her choice. Set out table topics (here’s an awesome list of 365) and enjoy authentic conversation with the people you love most!

...And, if you’re desperate to give a gift to friends, maybe opt for a handwritten letter. For many, heading into the New Year is exciting but can also be anxiety-inducing. Calm fears by sharing what you cherish and appreciate about the individuals in your life!