Everyone has an opinion on how early in the year can Christmas carols be played, but it’s never too early to make plans for the holidays with your family. Schedules can get crazy by the time December rolls around, and Christmas is always best with family so better block those dates to get some well-deserved family time.

But what to do, outside of the usual nine evenings of Simbang Gabi, the gift-giving, and the Noche Buena? Here are some ideas for fun activities for your family!

Decorate the house together.

This may seem like a no-brainer, and something that Mom would probably be in charge of, but something as simple as decorating the house together for Christmas can prove to be fun quality time. You can divide the decorating among the family members: Dad to take care of the lights, Kuya and Ate to hang the tinsel and streamers, and the younger kids to set up the belen – all with Mom supervising, and making sure everything matches. Or maybe even forget making everything match, for a kitschier Christmas. If you want to take it a step further, gather some craft materials and create your own tree ornaments. It’s a little tacky, but there’s nothing like art to give the family a literal “hands-on” bonding session.

Make family gifts together.

It’s one thing to shop for gifts together with the family, it’s another to make them. Get together as a family and come up with a common gift – it could be something as simple as a DIY family greeting card signed by everyone or a batch of homemade cookies to give away. The effort of coming together to give something meaningful to friends as a family is a thoughtful token, and the quality time spent with everyone would be priceless.

Throw a Christmas party for a charity.

Parties always seem one too many this season and it’s kind of hard to keep your head straight but do spare a weekend to share the joy of the season with people who need it more. Visit an orphanage, a home for the aged, or ask your parish for a referral to an organization you can party with. Get together with other families to pull this one off. Prepare some food and gather some gifts to spread Christmas cheer to our less privileged brothers and sisters.

Spend some time under the lights.

Christmas is a bright season, figuratively and literally. Brave the traffic of the metro and marvel at the light shows set up at different establishments. For those in Metro Manila, head to Ayala Triangle and watch the lights dance with the music; visit San Juan City’s Greenhills Shopping Center to watch its Christmas On Display (COD), a 15-minute moving mannequin show, which tells the story of Christ’s birth; go to UP Diliman to watch the annual lantern parade, or visit Meralco Liwanag Park to enjoy the displays and visit the Christmas Village where kids can play. The best part: most of these attractions are free. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can head to San Fernando, Pampanga, to watch the Giant Lantern Festival. Not in Manila? Don’t fret – just ask your city or municipal hall for a schedule of their Christmas events – there’s bound to be something for the family to enjoy.

Have a ‘thank you’ peg for Christmas Eve.

Gather the family before you head out to Misa de Gallo to remember Jesus as the light of the world and the bread of our life, and also to take the time to thank the Lord for all the blessings the family has received. Before Noche Buena, let each family member thank God aloud for a specific grace he/she received during the year. If you’ve never done this before, it could be a new family tradition.

Regardless of how you choose to celebrate the season, the important thing is to remember the reason for the season with God’s greatest masterpiece, our families. From the FT family to yours, have a blessed and meaningful Christmas!

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