For some of us, the Christmas spirit is a year-round lifestyle.
Whether it’s decorating the tree with pretty lights and ornaments or covering every inch of the house in Christmas cheer, we love creating a holiday celebration full of cherished traditions, memorable moments and, most of all, smiling loved ones.
However, holiday planning can get overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time being the organizer. So to help you keep your Christmas stress-free, we’re sharing our ultimate Christmas to-do list, complete with a free printable checklist to help you stay organized, plus a roundup of the best sales to save on all your holiday essentials.
Now grab a holiday drink, turn on your favorite Christmas playlist and let’s get planning!
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Before we jump into all the good stuff, we’ve gotta make a disclaimer! You don’t need extensive plans or a long Christmas to-do list for your holiday season to be full of beautiful moments with your favorite people.
These tips are to help if you want some guidance on planning, but don’t feel pressured to craft some “perfect” Christmas. If you’ve got people you love by your side to share cheer with, that’s all you need to make your holiday special.
If you already know what you need help with, jump right to that section:
One of my favorite feelings during the holiday season is walking into a store and seeing everything transformed into a festive wonderland. Gorgeous Christmas tree displays, tons of smiling snowmen, sparkling Christmas lights—it’s pure magic (and an excuse to squeal from excitement like a little kid).
Decorating your own house is just as fun, with the added bonus that you get to make everything personal to you and your family. If you need a little help figuring out how to create that awe-like, festive vibe at home, we’ve got a few tips and tricks.
But, when is the “right” time to start decorating? Let’s be honest: for those of us who LIVE for Christmas, we’d keep our decorations up year-round if we could. (And honestly, there’s no law against that.) When considering the perfect time to start making over the house, these are our general guidelines:
Decide on a theme.
Are you going for an indoor winter wonderland or bold, colorful pieces? Do you like vintage, traditional touches or lean towards a more modern style? When thinking of your holiday home décor, it helps to know what look you’re shopping for. Figure this out as early as possible. (No, January is not too early.)
Take inventory of what you already have.
It doesn’t hurt to make sure you’re not buying the same red garlands again. We recommend doing this by the first of November so when the holiday season hits, you’ll be ready to go!
Shop around and find the best deals.
Once you’ve taken stock of the things you do need to purchase, start with these holiday deals on all the essentials:
- Ornament Premiere, July 15–23 | Shop more than 250 new Keepsake Ornaments at Gold Crown stores and Hallmark.com.
- Ornament Debut, October 14–22 | Kick off the holiday season with all 2023 Keepsake Ornaments ready to shop.
- BOGO Sales Event, October 20–29 | Holiday gift wrap, boxed cards, tree trimmers and décor ornaments (Keepsakes not included) are buy one, get one free. Find deals on gifts, too!
- Holiday Open House, November 10–19 | Save on festive home décor items, Hallmark Channel gifts and more. BOGO 50% off boxed cards and holiday gift wrap, too.
- Cyber Sale, November 20–28 | Save big with 20% off thousands of items—online only. BOGO 50% off on boxed cards and gift wrap, plus more gift deals!
Deck the tree.
If you’re getting a live tree, try to buy it between the last week of November and the first week of December, to make sure it lives all season long. If you have an artificial tree, put it up whenever you please!
And the front yard!
Lights are one of the most popular ways to decorate the front yard (so much that they needed a separate section below), but there are tons of other fun ways to make your home look festive. Think inflatable snowmen, Santas, reindeer—all the classic faves!
We also love small touches like garlands hung over the front door or a gorgeous wreath like these personalized DIY ones to decorate the front door. Even a cute holiday mat can add a pop of cheer! Try to find a mild, sunny day to decorate outside, if you can.
Speaking of lights…
When it comes to picking your Christmas lights, you’ve got tons of options and different features to consider. Do you want bright, colorful lights for a traditional, childlike holiday feel? Or plain white lights for a cozier, relaxed vibe? Does the thought of your lights playing music throughout the night make you smile or cringe at hearing “Jingle Bell Rock” again? There’s no wrong choice here; the goal is to create an aesthetic you like.
If you want some extra guidance and a cohesive look, consider matching your lights with your gift wrap theme. We’ve even got a few fun gift wrap themes here to get you started. Choose one to stick with or mix and match—whatever creates a vibe that fills your heart with holiday joy!
Again, picking a nice day to put up lights is going to be best for the enjoyment (and safety!) of all involved.
Pro tip: If putting up your lights by yourself doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, it’s totally okay to hire someone for help! You get to be one of the brightest houses on the block without pulling out a ladder or watching any YouTube DIY videos.
Santa’s small (but mighty) helpers.
If you’ve got little ones in your home, chances are they get excited about decorating and helping, too! It might seem small in the moment, but these are some of the core holiday memories they’ll look back on one day—hanging their favorite ornament on the tree with Mom or the smell of Grandma’s special secret recipe cookies in the oven.
Make sure to take lots of pics (we promise they’ll appreciate them one day). More ideas:
- Check out our article on minimalist Christmas activities to do with kids.
- Let them craft their own decorations. We’ve got ideas here!
- Give them an easy task to handle. Maybe it’s putting all the candy canes on the tree or helping with cookie baking.
- Have them draw a picture for Santa Claus, to go next to the milk and cookies on Christmas Eve.
Finding the right gifts for your loved ones doesn’t have to be stressful. Start by making a complete list of everyone you’re shopping for. Then note important details, like:
- How will you deliver your gift? Are they long distance (Christmas care packages are perfect, if so), or will you see them in-person sometime during the holidays?
- What do they like? Do you already have a present in mind or do you need some inspo? For small gifts/stocking stuffers, see our fave gift ideas here. And if all else fails, cash is never a bad idea! Make it more special with these fun, creative ways to gift cash.
- What makes their heart melt? See our ideas for adding a personal touch to their gift.
We can’t forget presents for the family favorites: pets! Send them some sweet cheer with these DIY Christmas gifts for pets.
Whether you’re someone who enjoys elaborate gift-wrapping projects or just want to make something look pretty in a hurry (we get it), these gift wrap hacks will have your presents looking flawless under the tree.
Once you’ve got your wrap, it’s time to get rollin’!
- For the ultimate beginner, check out this detailed guide of tips and tricks to wrap Christmas presents like a pro.
- When you need to make use of all those gift wrap scraps, try one of these ideas for reusing them.
- If you need a solution to a gift wrapping dilemma (i.e. you ran out of tape or gift wrap), one of these easy hacks might help.
We can’t all be Santa and have letters sent to us from around the globe, but we can be the friend who sends out heartfelt Christmas cards! For all the basics on how to send ’em, how to pick ones you love and more advice, see our best Christmas card tips.
If you already found the perfect picks for your loved ones but need help figuring out message ideas, check out these ideas for what to write in a Christmas card. And once they’re filled with sweet words, make the envelopes pretty, too, with these easy Christmas card envelope lettering ideas or ways to decorate Christmas card envelopes.
For the people you can’t see during the holidays (or if you love a really personal touch), send a video greeting!
If you send out Christmas cards every year, chances are holiday family photos are usually included, too. For fun photo inspo and tips from Hallmark photographers, check out this simple guide or our tips for getting great iPhone pics. We even came up with some sweet holiday photo ideas for pets, aka the CUTEST pics ever!
Pro tip: Encourage kiddos to join in and send their own Christmas cards. For little ones who still need help writing, letting them add stickers or doodles adds a sweet, personal touch loved ones will appreciate.
If you’re organizing the holiday party this year, you deserve to have just as much fun as your guests—which means not stressing yourself out with an overwhelming number of tasks on your Christmas to-do list. Our party prep checklist includes:
Get all your party essentials in one trip with our Celebrate! party supplies. With a range of colors and patterns, you can mix and match for fun or create a look that matches your party theme.
Would this really be a Christmas article if we didn’t talk about Christmas movies?! From the excitement of rewatching your favorites as a family to finding new ones to love, the holiday season just isn’t complete without a movie marathon or two (or a million…who’s counting).
If you want to make it even more special, we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve:
- Play pin the tail on the movie. Have everyone write different holiday movies on sticky notes and stick them on a wall. Then, take turns blindfolding each other and choosing a random note.
- Make a movie fishbowl. If you can’t decide what movie to watch or need some new picks, let everyone write two options on separate slips of paper. The only rule is that one of their picks has to be something they’ve never seen (the internet is your best friend here!). Throw all the options in a bowl and take turns choosing from the bunch.
- Grab some comfy holiday gear. No movie marathon is complete without cozy pieces to snuggle in with. Gift a loved one (or yourself) any of these Hallmark Channel goodies perfect for a superfan!
- Bring the movie to life (and your tummies). Fruitcakes, eggnog, candy canes—holiday movies are filled with foods fit for the season. Make any of the foods characters in the film eat and feel like you’re right next to them!
- Host a virtual watch party. If you can’t be with your fave peeps during the holidays but still want to connect, see our tips for throwing a fun virtual watch party.
Every holiday moment deserves a good soundtrack to really set the mood.
That’s why we made a few playlists to match any vibe, from nostalgic Christmas classics to modern hits perfect for caroling with friends. Check them out on Spotify here.
And if you love Christmas music enough to go caroling, we’ve got a few tips to make the fun seamless:
- First, round up your caroling crew. Co-workers, friends, kiddos, neighbors—all are welcome! And no, you don’t need to have the voice of an angel to join the party. Just a love of Christmas music, a little enthusiasm and preferably some form of an ugly Christmas sweater or Santa hat. Don’t forget to bring a speaker to play music on, plus printed lyrics for anyone who wants to go the traditional route.
- Keep everyone comfy. If you’re caroling in the cold, make sure you’ve got warm drinks and the proper clothing. Hot cocoa, tea and coffee are great picks, plus water bottles for the road. Consider having a few extra items like hats, scarves, and mittens for forgetful folks, too!
- Have a plan. Before hitting the town, map out your route and give everyone an estimate of how long you’ll be walking. Add places along the way for bathroom breaks if needed, as well. And voila—you’re all set to carol the night away!
Your Christmas to-do list wouldn’t be complete without incorporating all your favorite holiday foods!
First up: Christmas cookies. Whether you’re baking them for Santa, yourself or a party, there are so many different tastes to choose from—sugar, oatmeal raisin, gingerbread, snickerdoodle, classic chocolate chip. Seriously, we could be here forever (which sounds quite delicious, actually).
And if you need a break from all the sugar, switch it up with this yummy pull-apart pizza bread. (But be warned, people will be asking you to bring it to every party until the end of time.)
Pro tip: Keep an eye out for sales on cookie-making essentials like flour and butter in the weeks leading up to Christmas. You can always stock up early and freeze ingredients for later to save, plus you skip the last-minute rush in stores.
Holiday menu ideas
Planning your Christmas Eve/Christmas Day dinner doesn’t have to be complicated. Start by asking yourself a few key questions:
- How many people am I feeding?
- What are the dietary restrictions? (i.e. vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten-free, nut-free)
- What will I cook and store ahead of time? (i.e., make appetizers and desserts the day before while the turkey cooks in the oven)
- What do I always need more of last-minute? Think a stick of butter, eggs, specific spices, brown sugar or other easily overlooked items. Stock up beforehand to avoid any frustrating grocery store trips!
Does saving money and getting early access to holiday deals sound like your thing? If so, make sure you’re a Crown Rewards member! Sign up here.
It would be impossible for me to choose a single favorite Christmas memory, but one from last year that always makes me smile is the night my family drove around our neighborhood singing (screeching, really) Christmas songs. It was one of those random moments that doesn’t seem so remarkable until you think back on it later, followed by that warm, fuzzy “gosh I love these people” feeling.
If you need ideas for fun ways to celebrate Christmas with the family—and get allll in your feels—we’ve got tons of inspo to get you started:
- Make a gingerbread house.
- Get adventurous with these advent calendar activities.
- Put together a hot cocoa bar. The more mini marshmallows, the better!
- Take a drive/walk and look at Christmas lights. Bonus points if you have a yummy drink to keep you warm!
- Let the kids pick out a new ornament for the tree at Ornament Debut.
- Write letters to Santa.
- Play some fun holiday games.
- Pull out the art supplies and color.
- Make a holiday-themed scrapbook together. Include things like family recipes, favorite memories, holiday movie lists and airplane tickets from holiday trips.
- Start a new family holiday tradition.
- Get matching holiday outfits/pajamas.
- Organize a Secret Santa exchange. The only catch? You can only gift things you have at home! Encourage everyone to get creative and think outside the box here. You can give your assigned person coupons (i.e., I’ll make you breakfast), a sweet letter detailing your favorite things about them, a handmade Christmas gift or something else. But remember—no spending allowed!
- Create some Christmas magic for the kiddos with these fun ideas.
- Make paper snowflakes for an ethereal, winter wonderland vibe.
- If the weather permits, have a family snow day. Think sledding, having a snowball fight and building a snowman (with a Santa hat, of course).
- Honor lost loved ones with a new holiday tradition.
- Go ice-skating in your ugliest Christmas sweaters.
- Create a holiday photo album.
The holly jolly vibes are definitely in the air with all this planning. We hope these ideas help you have a holiday season full of festive cheer (and a Christmas to-do list that feels manageable). Save it for later and get ready for your best Christmas ever!
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