Home for the Holidays: Easy Ideas for Celebrating with Family and Friends

Everything you do to celebrate the holidays makes your home special for family and guests. But if preparing for seasonal celebrations sounds like another burden on top of managing your family's day-to-day needs, take heart--it needn't be stressful. Try these easy ideas for keeping the holiday joyous and your home welcoming.

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Give Kids a Sneak Peak

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Give Kids a Sneak Peak

Sure, all kids love digging into a pile of presents. But, sometimes savoring one meaningful gift can be just as special. Start a family tradition by letting your child pick one gift to open on Christmas Eve. Kick off the celebration early can to give you and your child an opportunity to make lasting memories before the chaos of Christmas day.

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Make a Gingerbread House

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Make a Gingerbread House

Cultivate your little one's creativity (and sweet tooth) by decorating a gingerbread house together. Then display their masterpiece on your holiday table. Don't have much time? Try dressing up these Easy Gingerbread House Cookies instead.

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Start a Chain Reaction

Anthony Masterson Photography

Start a Chain Reaction

This festive craft project will keep little ones busy while adults are mingling at your holiday gathering. Simply set out strips of pre-cut construction paper, washable markers or crayons, and double-sided tape. Kids can put their own personal stamp on each strip and then affix it to the master chain. Show off their finished product around your tree or on top of your mantel.

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Create a Color Code

Anthony Masterson Photography

Create a Color Code

Cut back on Christmas morning craziness by wrapping each family member's present in a different wrapping paper. That way, everyone can instantly determine which gift to open without having to rummage through hard-to-read labels. Plus, the personalization will make each child feel extra special.

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Deck the Halls (and Kids' Rooms)

Cameron Sadeghpour

Deck the Halls (and Kids' Rooms)

Spread holiday cheer beyond the family and dining rooms by bringing cute crafts and decorations to other corners of your home. This merry and bright mobile is sure to add festive flair to any kid's room. String paper cut-out Christmas characters onto a rod or stick and hang on the wall above a desk or dresser.

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All Hands on Deck

Kim Cornelison

All Hands on Deck

When it comes to preparing for holiday mealtime, delegation is key. Make it easy for little ones to help set the table by prepackaging silverware in colorful paper pockets. Use extra wrapping paper, or Christmas-theme scrapbook paper to match your tabletop decor. Tie a candy cane on for a little extra cheer!

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Make Up Your Mantel

John Granen

Make Up Your Mantel

Don't let your evergreen hog all the attention this year: Incorporate elements of your Christmas tree decorations into your mantel display, such as colorful glass balls and oversize bows.

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Start a Christmas Countdown

Kim Cornelison

Start a Christmas Countdown

Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas with a calendar countdown that doubles as holiday wall art. Write a good deed or inspirational quote underneath each number flap and let your child remove it at the start of each day.

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Share a Holiday Story

Blend Images/Getty

Share a Holiday Story

Whether it's a traditional favorite from your childhood or a new holiday hardback, take time to read with your little ones this holiday season. Bonus: Tales involving Santa's naughty- and- nice list may prove helpful in preventing shopping-induced tantrums.

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Use What You Have

Jon Jensen

Use What You Have

Scatter simple holiday accents throughout the house. Fill clear glass bowls with artificial snow and colorful Christmas balls. Hang Christmas cards on a garland draped in front of a mirror or on the mantel. Embellish artificial flowers with glitter or attach holiday cards to twigs; arrange in vases.

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Create an Annual Ritual

Steven McDonald

Create an Annual Ritual

Create a few rituals to observe each year that family and friends will look forward to as the season approaches. Make a special time to light the tree every night together as a family. Sing a different carol each time and open a door to the advent calendar.

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Enjoy a Snack with a Classic Movie

Digital Vision Photography/Veer

Enjoy a Snack with a Classic Movie

Gather around the TV for classic Christmas movies and TV specials -- many run repeatedly, and most are available on DVD, so find a time when everyone can be involved. Light a fire in the fireplace and serve popcorn or roasted chestnuts.

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Bake from the Heart

Scott Little

Bake from the Heart

Bake sweets and cookies with the kids. Let them help as their ages allow -- older children can help with mixing and decorating, toddlers can be taste-testers. Wrap up goodies and deliver them to homebound friends or nursing homes. Bring messages from the children or the kids themselves if they're prepared to behave quietly.

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Make a Giving Tree

Make a Giving Tree

Make a Giving Tree with an artificial Christmas tree. Use a tabletop size if you have space constraints. Ask each child to select a charity to give to that will be especially meaningful for him or her. If you want your children to see the impact of their gifts, a local charity may know of families in need in your area. Have the kids make ornaments for the Giving Tree that illustrate the gifts or purchase ornaments that symbolize the gifts. Add to the tree each year.

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Get in the Game

Anna Molvik Mazzetti

Get in the Game

Wrap up a board game for each member of your family to open on Christmas morning. That way, you'll have plenty of options for family game nights for the new year and beyond.

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