St Peter's College Oxford sing carols in Angels fancy dress shop to raise money to support the Crisis homeless persons charity on December 18, 2015 in London, England. The mixed-voice choir made of students from the college sing during the weekly Evensong services during term time. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
Joshua Trudell, Rare.us
While family gatherings are generally marked by an enormous amount of food, there are other things you can do instead of sitting around in carbohydrate comas.
1. Give them something else to keep their hands busy
While it’s easy to stuff your face and nod during awkward conversations at a party, there are other things you can do.
Instead of snacks and drinks, put out some Rubik’s Cubes, Play-Doh or other little finger toys -- it accomplishes the same thing, and it’s a conversation starter, to boot.
2. Board and card games
With a boom in board games in recent years, there’s a game for every age, skill level, interest and time constraint, so board games are perfect for family gatherings where you have to account for both elderly relatives and young children.
Giving is an important part of the holiday season, and giving time is an easy and free gift.
If you’ve got a small group, think about tasks such as raking the leaves for elderly people, who struggle to do it for themselves. Another option is have a card-making session for kids in a local pediatric ward.
4. Wreath decorating
Instead of leaving a party with discomfort from eating too much, making wreaths can have you leaving with a fun new decoration for your home.
Instead of bringing food, have everyone bring a basic wreath or garland and one packet of fun art supplies, such as mini-ornaments, glittery pipe cleaners, pine cones, fake snow, tiny figurines, strings of cranberries, etc.
5. Tea tasting
Sometimes, a warm drink is the best way to perk up a winter afternoon. Hosting a tea tasting party is one way to stave off the winter chill.
Either have each guest bring a box of their favorite seasonal tea, or get sample packs from a specialty store and test them out.
6. Surprise a friend
The holidays can be hard for some people, especially if they are going through added stress like a breakup or a job loss. Get together a group of mutual friends and come up with some things that can make their life easier, such as surprising them with a garage full of winter supplies or cooking them some meals that are freezer-ready.
7. Host a knitting party
If you have older relatives who might feel left out or isolated during parties, ask them to be the expert at a knitting party.
Engaging them and having those skills being passed between generations is a wonderful gift all by itself. Or just ask that everyone show up with their own supplies, find a how-to book and have fun figuring it out on your own.
8. Go to a performance
It’s easy to stay on the couch during the dark and cold season, but dressing up and going to watch live actors on stage is a fun and festive exercise. The late-night performances, the bright costumes and stage lights -- there’s something about being there in person that just can’t be replicated in your own living room.
Get a gang together and support your local community theater.
9. Go caroling
One of the oldest holiday traditions is singing carols to celebrate the season. You don’t have to have perfect pitch to enjoy singing to others -- you just need to enjoy it.
If you can find some like-minded friends, try calling a local care home or retirement community to see whether the residents would appreciate visits by a group of Christmas carolers.
10. Classic holiday movie night
Whether it is “A Christmas Story” or “The Muppets Christmas Carol,” this is the season to dig into the favorite holiday movies of friends and family. Get together, hang out and enjoy!
If you have a local independent cinema nearby, you could also check their showtimes to see if you can catch something on the big screen; often, they’ll offer seasonal classics that you might not have ever seen.