Twelve Days of Christmas Fun at Home


One of my true loves is the Christmas season. And for my family, that means an extended celebration of the twelve days of Christmas.

This year, our usual celebrations are topsy-turvy, and gatherings and activities are cancelled. The approaching winter break stretches out like an abyss with more time at home. So I am going to lean in to celebrating the twelve days of Christmas with fun activities we can do each day at home.

The idea of twelve days of Christmas dates back long before the well-known carol. Traditionally, for the Christian church the Christmas season started (yes, started!) on December 25. It lasted until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, the day that celebrates the arrival of the Magi.

Really, Dec. 25 should be the start, not the end of the festivities.

Stretch out the Christmas cheer

This year, I need as much cheer as I can get. I don’t want to pack it all up on December 26th. So I am going to spread out the gifts, baking, and fun and celebrate twelve days of Christmas at home. 

Here are 12 ideas to keep your Christmas celebration going without ever leaving your house. You can make Christmas last from December 25 through January 5th, for the full twelve days of Christmas.

For more ideas on extending the joy of the season, check out the 2020 Holiday Light Display Guide and guide to live and online Christmas Tree Lightings.

Twelve Days of Christmas Fun at Home

  1. Spread out those gifts. If you have a lot of gifts for your children, consider spreading out the fun of opening them over multiple days. When my children were little, I noticed they wanted to open a gift and play with it. So I let them. I hid some gifts to reappear later, and others just stayed under the tree for another day. If you’re going to be home for an extended period of time, the novelty of a new gift might add fun to the days.
  2. Celebrate Boxing Day. The second day of Christmas, Dec. 26, is known as “Boxing Day” and is a public holiday in the United Kingdom. It can be a day to box up gifts for service employees. This might be a great opportunity to leave thank-you notes or treats for the postal carriers and package delivery people who have kept us going these past months.
  3. Speaking of boxes… When you are done spreading cheer, take a modern spin on Boxing Day and create a fort, puppet stage, pirate ship, or some art out of all those delivery boxes from your holiday ordering spree.

    Sometimes good things come from packages. Let your kids loose with some craft supplies and boxes and see what creative things they can create.
  4. Have visions of Sugarplums. We will miss our usual tradition of attending a performance of The Nutcracker. But the Washington Ballet has a sweet online Nutcracker tea party at home, with performances, activities, and instructions to make your own Nutcracker diorama.
  5. Don’t burn out on baking cookies. It is always the right time to bake cookies…especially in 2020. We plan to browse the Washington Post’s cookie generator for more ideas. Full disclosure: my kids are more interested in eating the cookies than in executing the recipe, but they get a little better at helping every year.
  6. Thank a health care hero. This year especially we should take a moment to thank the brave doctors, nurses, and hospital staff who are working through the pandemic. Your family could make cards or signs to send to hospital staff or your own doctors’ office. Or get out the sidewalk chalk and decorate the walkway into a local hospital.
  7. Decorate a Christmas tree for the birds. Cover a pine cone with birdseed or hang some dried fruit to make an outdoor ornament that can feed the birds (or let’s be honest, the squirrels). Your kids might enjoy sharing the Christmas cheer with wildlife and watching animals enjoy the snacks.                                                           

    Christmas at home can still be festive 

  8. Host the greatest virtual Christmas pageant ever. My children will not be able to participate in any Christmas pageant or church services this year. But this gave me the idea of a new opportunity: a silly cousin Christmas pageant on Zoom! Our pandemic puppy is going to make a great sheep. This can be a creative project for my kids and a fun memory for their grandparents.
  9. Go Christmas caroling from inside your home. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear. But this year, singing in groups is sadly on the COVID naughty list. However, that does not mean the cheer has to be squashed! Try popping in on friends and relatives via facetime for a quick Christmas carol. Or spread cheer within your own home by caroling around the house, knocking on each other’s doors, and singing carols. 
  1. Have a balloon drop at home. Sorry, 2020, but we are not sad to see you go. Let’s throw a party for what we hope will be a better year for all. Blow up balloons and put them in a bag or box to drop in celebration. Next, toast the new year at home with a glass of bubbly (juice … or fermented juice).  You can count down to noon or celebrate the new year on Greenwich Mean Time. When the clock strikes midnight in London, it is just 7 pm on the east coast… basically toddler midnight.
  2. Throw a 12th Night Party. The Twelfth Night of Christmas, January 5th, was traditionally a night for revels. I am on a campaign to bring it back. For instance, have a “last night of Christmas” celebration with your family. Eat some favorite foods, crank up those cozy holiday tunes one more time, or have a Mariah Carey dance party. William Shakespeare writes in his play “Twelfth Night”: “If music be the food of love, play on.” Let’s play on and on and on.
  3. Celebrate Three Kings Day. Cap off your holiday season with a celebration of Three Kings Day, Epiphany, or Dia de los Reyes on January 6th. In some countries, this is the bigger gift-giving day, to mark the gifts the wise men gave to baby Jesus. We usually make or order a King Cake. We hide a small plastic baby (or a dry bean, if we can’t find a baby) inside the cake. Whoever finds the baby is the king or queen of the celebration.
    A king cake is a fun way to celebrate the end of Christmas. Hide a small plastic baby inside. Whoever gets the baby is the king or queen!