In case you didn’t know, Christmastime is my jam. I am obsessed with the holidays. Corny as it sounds, there’s definitely magic in the air. People are happier, more giving, more loving, more caring…just nicer. Personally, my happiness level flies through the roof at this time of year. A big part of that is probably because I’m on break from school, buuuut it’s mostly the holiday season in general.

While I might be a Christmas-holic, I know many people who just aren’t really into the holiday season. This time of year can be tough for a lot of people, for a number of reasons. Even if it’s not tough, you might be someone who simply goes through the motions but doesn’t really feel the season.

People always ask me how to get in the spirit. They’ll say, “I like Christmas…I’m just not obsessed with it.” Well, get obsessed with it. Being happy at this time of year is the same as any other time of year – you have to choose to be happy. In fact, I think it’s easier to choose happiness at this time of year than any other, because there’s a very formulaic way to get in the spirit.

Basically, you need to fake it ’til you make it. Seriously. If you’re not that into the holidays but you want to be, do all of the traditions. Immerse yourself in the season. Check off the to-do’s. Ask yourself the questions. I’m about to be very specific, don’t you worry.

I also want to emphasize that it is never too late to start traditions. It is never too late to start enjoying the holiday season. Just because you grow up not really enjoying the holidays doesn’t mean this holiday season won’t be different. Again, it’s a choice. You have the power.

Basically, I’m about to give you a list of things to do. Do them. And add anything else you can think of. Every year, I write a Christmas to-do list, which I’ve talked about before. This is a variation of my to-do list, plus the unspoken things I do that make me really feel that holiday magic. At first it might feel like you’re just going through the motions, but sooner or later it’ll go to your heart. Kind of like the thing where people who force smiles report feeling happy, even though they smiled based on a command instead of true happiness. Humans are weird like that. But anyways, here’s your guide to the best holiday season EVER.

  1. Listen to Christmas music. I literally have an entire “Christmas iPod.” You don’t have to be that crazy, but make a playlist. And you def don’t have to go with that old, boring Christmas jazz. Spice it up. Here’s a quick playlist for ya – burn it on a CD and play it in your car, old school, if you can. If you don’t have Spotify, head to this blog post for the Ultimate Holiday Playlist. Let me know if you want me to make another one!
  2. Sing a Christmas carol. You can be alone. Or you can be with your friends. I don’t care. BELT IT OUT.
  3. Make hot cocoa. It’s a must. I don’t mean go to Starbucks and get hot cocoa. Actually heat up the (non-dairy?!) milk and stir in the ingredients. There’s something magical about stirring it up yourself. If you want a pre-made powder, I recommend the hot chocolate from Eating Evolved.
  4. Watch Christmas movies. Everyone knows this is a HUGE part of my holiday routine. Each year, I make a long list of movies I need to watch by December 25th, and I make sure to get through all of them. Then I move onto random Hallmark and Lifetime holiday movies. They’re horrible, but so good. Even if you’re not fully paying attention, it’s nice to have a Christmas movie on in the background. Here’s my list from last year. My absolute musts, though, are How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Polar Express, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, The Santa Clause, and Home Alone.
  5. Bake cookies. Any kind of cookie will do. At least once, but probably multiple times. Invite a friend over and bake a batch of cookies while watching a Christmas movie! Make some hot cocoa while you’re at it. If you don’t want to keep all of the cookies, give them to a friend as a holiday treat. Who would say no to cookies? And if you don’t like cookies, then bake something else. Just BAKE! There are five million recipes on the Internet.
  6. Build a gingerbread house. Go to the grocery store and spend $5 on a gingerbread house kit. Make it. It’s seriously so fun, and kind of frustrating. But still fun. Some people are super fancy and construct gingerbread houses completely from scratch. If that’s you, then oh my god you’re my idol. If not, no worries. That’s what CVS is for.
  7. Go to Bath & Body Works or Target and stock up on seasonal candles. Then light them every single day. MY HOUSE SMELLS LIKE A GIANT CHRISTMAS BAKERY.
  8. Wear fuzzy socks every. single. day. No excuses. They are so cozy! Extra points if they’re holiday-themed.
    You need at least one Christmas sweater. I recommend ugly, but it can be cute, too. There are SO MANY out there.
    Decorate your house. Obviously I think you should go all out, but you don’t have to. Do anything festive, even if it’s small. Put up a tree, or don’t. A stocking, maybe? It can even just be some pretty poinsettias. Or what about a nutcracker?! Make a change in your environment that makes you feel good. The point is to differentiate the season and make it feel special. Also, make decorating an event. Blast the Christmas music, and invite someone to help you decorate. You must have a mini dance party to the music. It’s non-negotiable.
  9. Visit a large Christmas tree. I know there’s one somewhere near you. In Los Angeles, I like to visit the tree at The Grove. In San Francisco, I like to visit the tree in Union Square. Go at night when the tree is lit, and actually admire it. Seriously, take in the moment. Something that big and majestic will make you feel something.
  10. Drive around and look at Christmas lights and decorations in neighborhoods nearby. My favorite thing ever is to visit Eucalyptus Street in San Carlos. If you haven’t heard of it, look it up. The lights are insane. Even if you don’t have a street like that nearby, I’m sure there are houses somewhere near you that are decorated. I like to hit up a different neighborhood each week. This is when I turn on the slow Christmas jams and take a nice, relaxing drive.
  11. Curl up by the fire. You need a big, cozy blanket, comfy clothes, and a warm beverage (preferably hot cocoa). You can read a book or watch a movie. Or you can just sit and think. Do it alone or with friends. Just relax. Is it raining outside? Snowing? Soak it in. Take a sec to take a deep breath and center yourself. Curling up is good for your soul.
  12. Get someone a present. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You can make it yourself. Or find it yourself. It can be a note. But giving presents is a really important part of the holidays, because giving is a really important part of the holidays. Why are you giving that person a present? What does that person mean to you? Show them. Show them by putting thought into something. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing someone’s face when they open up a card or a present that actually means something.
  13. Going off of that, go Christmas shopping. Even if you don’t really have any shopping to do. See if you can tag along with a friend. It’s all about the experience and seeing what other people are all hyped up about. Plus, the people-watching at this time of year is honestly unreal.
  14. Go to Target. You don’t have to buy anything, but Target is seriously poppin’ at this time of year. I could spend days in there.
  15. Watch someone’s Vlogmas on YouTube. It seriously makes me so happy. So many people do Vlogmas, but my favorites are Zoella and Tanya Burr.
  16. You need Christmas pajamas. Whether than means a Christmas T-shirt, some classic flannels, or, my personal favorite, a Christmas onesie, get some PJs that are super ridiculous and seasonal. And wear them all the damn time.
    Get a Santa hat and wear it as often as you can. Done.
  17. Put up mistletoe and try to trick people into standing under it.
  18. If you live near snow: 1. Build a snowman. 2. Go sledding. 3. Have a snowball fight. 4. Make a snow angel. 5. You’re a lucky bitch.
  19. Look up Christmas things on Pinterest. Sorry in advance for how much time you’re gonna waste.
  20. Donate to a toy drive. I love going to the toy store and picking something out so I can imagine how excited a little girl or boy will be to receive a present on Christmas. There’s honestly nothing better.
  21. Hang out with family members that you like. Make extra time for your closest friends. Do something special for them. Really spend quality time with people. If there’s someone you miss, send them a card. Give them a call. The holidays can be extremely busy, but you have to take a second to stop and slow down. You have to remember that the season is really about love. All of the other stuff is just filler. Symbols. Who do you love? What do you love? Show them/it care and appreciation. What are you grateful for? PONDER IT. Seriously. Literally stop reading this right now, and for 30 seconds think about what and who you’re grateful for….Done? If you went straight to reading this next sentence and didn’t actually stop, then maybe you’re uncomfortable with really feeling things. Or silence. Either way, I suggest working on it. Introspection is absolutely essential to growth and fulfillment.
  22. Other things that are fun but not necessary: Secret Santa, throw a holiday party, play Elf on the Shelf, do a Christmas craft, go ice skating, see A Christmas Carol (the play)…the list goes on.

Hopefully this gave you a very clear idea of what to do this season.! This was my surface-level guide to the holidays, but we’ll get into the more complicated stuff very soon, I promise. What’s your favorite holiday tradition?

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