A Twist on the Secret Santa Game for Last Minute Christmas Fun

A Twist on the Secret Santa Game for Last Minute Christmas Fun

We gathered around my mom, anxiously shifting from foot to foot as she shook a red and green bag filled with slips of paper. On each slip was written a name—the name of the person we would need to buy a present for as part of our annual Secret Santa game. Finding out who I was assigned to was always my favorite part (other than opening my present, that is!). But after we drew names, my mom unleashed a surprise:…

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Funny and Festive Secret Santa Game Reveal Ideas

Funny and Festive Secret Santa Game Reveal Ideas

“Please tell me! Pleeeease!” my niece begged over the phone. We were two weeks away from Christmas, and she was dying to know who drew her name for our family’s big Secret Santa game. “The surprise is part of the fun,” I explained, knowing full well that hearing such words was agony to a seven-year-old. I remembered how, when I was a kid, my sister and I would conspire with our cousins to trade gift recipients and try to figure…

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Six Stress-Free Last Minute Christmas Shopping Tips

Six Stress-Free Last Minute Christmas Shopping Tips

“Rockin’ around/the Christmas tree,” crooned Brenda Lee. I was making circles in the mall parking lot, and this was the third or fourth rendition of my favorite holiday song I’d heard in the time it was taking me to find a spot. Usually, I try to Christmas shop throughout the year to avoid these eleventh hour journeys, but I’d been traveling for work a lot that year. Now I needed to get gifts for everyone in the family—on the last…

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Make Your Own Christmas Ornament Projects You Can Gift or Keep

Make Your Own Christmas Ornament Projects You Can Gift or Keep

There’s nothing I love more about Christmas than decorating the tree. When I was little, my family and I would turn on our favorite Mel Torme Christmas cassette, fill a tray with Christmas cookies my mom had baked, pass around the eggnog, and begin merrily untangling the lights and hanging ornaments. The best part was opening the box of ornaments and being reminded of all the wonderful memories attached to each one. And while they all had a special place…

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Homemade Edible Christmas Food Gifts You Can Make in Advance

Homemade Edible Christmas Food Gifts You Can Make in Advance

I’m not the craftiest person in the world, so it goes without saying that DIY Christmas gifts are not my forte. Give me a glue gun or a needle and I’ll probably end up hurting myself rather than creating something impressive. What I can do, however, is cook. One Christmas, fresh out of pastry school with very little money to spend on Christmas gifts, I used my new confectionary skills to make nougatine with rosewater, pistachios, and dried cherries for…

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Easy Last-Minute Christmas Gifts

Easy Last-Minute Christmas Gifts

“They’re here! They’re here!” my kids squealed, running between the just knocked-upon front door and the kitchen, where I was elbow-deep in sugar cookie dough. My sister was slated to arrive for a Christmas visit that night, but she was two hours early. Not to worry! I thought, remembering all the time we spent meticulously cutting out and decorating cookies when we were kids. I wiped the dough off my hands and ran to the door, flinging it open to…

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A Festive Christmas Wish List Maker for Kids That’s Online, Free, and Easy

A Festive Christmas Wish List Maker for Kids That’s Online, Free, and Easy

When my daughter told me she wanted “the new Barbie” for Christmas, I should have known there was more to the story than that. I arrived at my local big box retail emporium and asked an employee to direct me toward the “cool new Barbie.” She led me to the toy section, then down a hot-pink aisle lined floor-to-ceiling with dolls. “They’re pretty much all new this year,” she said. I bought (and eventually exchanged) the wrong “new” Barbie, and…

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The Best Online Wish List Website for Making a Child’s Christmas List

The Best Online Wish List Website for Making a Child’s Christmas List

When I was a kid, my sister and I started checking the mailbox with excitement in early November to see if the gigantic Sears Christmas catalog had arrived. When it finally did, it was the start of the Christmas season for us. The catalog also served as a guide for our parents when they made the long journey to the nearest mall to buy our presents.  If they couldn’t find what we wanted there, they would mail in the order…

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Quirky Christmas Party Games for Adults

Quirky Christmas Party Games for Adults

My mom and aunt were dancing the Macarena. The catch? They were doing the right dance moves but to the song “All I Want For Christmas is You,” all while wearing flashy elf hats.   Our family holiday party had been a bit dull, so we decided to split into teams and have a dance-off. We thought the kids would be most excited about the game, but to our surprise, they went into the other room to watch a movie…

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Family-Friendly Christmas Online Wish List Ideas That Are Easy and Free

Family-Friendly Christmas Online Wish List Ideas That Are Easy and Free

“An igloo. Doll bunk beds for my cats. A cheese bead necklace,” my mom said, reading off my niece’s Christmas list. “And where am I supposed to buy a cheese bead necklace?” I asked, laughing. Luckily, in addition to the adorable hand-written letter, my mom had also helped my niece set up a wish list online, filled with toys I could actually purchase. When you’re dealing with small kids or a big family, juggling all your shopping lists can be…

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How to Throw a Festive Christmas Ornament Gift Exchange Game Party

How to Throw a Festive Christmas Ornament Gift Exchange Game Party

“Every one of these has a story,” I explained to my husband as I pulled the gigantic box of holiday decor down from my closet shelf. Itty bitty snowmen, glittery snowflakes, and strands of tinsel spilled out the sides as I plopped it on the living room floor. We’d just bought our very first Christmas tree as a couple, and I wanted to impress him with my extensive collection of festive ornaments. Much to my delight, he seemed amused with…

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Funny Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas for Holiday Parties

Funny Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas for Holiday Parties

We’d been watching my father-in-law hack away at an enormous ball of duct tape for the better part of an hour. Each year, his niece gives him a present that’s as difficult to open as possible, and this year, he nearly gave up. That’s when Grandma brought out the saw. The whole family was laughing hysterically as my father-in-law sawed through layer after layer of tape. Finally, sweat pouring down his brow, he came upon a small box. We all…

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Homemade Christmas Gifts For In-Laws Who Have Everything

Homemade Christmas Gifts For In-Laws Who Have Everything

Beatrix stared at us from behind my father-in-law’s desk, her webbed feet and orange bill standing out against the dark wood decor. For Christmas, I had painted a picture of my father-in-law’s pet duck, Bea. The painting now hung proudly in his office as we relaxed by the fireplace. I have the best in-laws, but the one time of year they drive me crazy is Christmas. They have pretty much everything they need and are hesitant to ask for anything,…

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A Guide to Buying Christmas Gifts Throughout the Year

A Guide to Buying Christmas Gifts Throughout the Year

My husband sat on my enormous suitcase, which bulged cartoonishly at the seams, while I struggled to close the zipper. The telltale crackle of wrapping paper and ribbons being crushed created a worrisome soundtrack. I was headed across the country to visit my family for Christmas, and I was determined to bring all the presents I had collected over the year. (Next Christmas, I bought more travel-friendly gifts.) As usual, I’d been hoarding gifts since the end of last Christmas,…

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How to Get Your Christmas Shopping Done Early: 5 Easy Tips and Tricks

How to Get Your Christmas Shopping Done Early: 5 Easy Tips and Tricks

T’was the night before Christmas, and I was incredibly unprepared for the following day’s festivities. Despite my best intentions to get my shopping done early and enjoy a quiet Christmas Eve in front of the fire, I found myself in a mall. I dashed from store to store in a frenzy, not at all sure what I was looking for. I needed something—anything—for my dad, brother, and sister-in-law. As I weaved my way through the Christmas Eve crowds and entered…

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Keep Them Tied up with Laughter by Disguising Christmas Gifts in Prank Wrapping

Keep Them Tied up with Laughter by Disguising Christmas Gifts in Prank Wrapping

“Let me guess… Peanut M&Ms?!?,” my dad says, squishing the wrapped gift in his hands and shaking it ever so slightly. While they’re still his favorite treat, and a longstanding tradition I always include with his holiday gifts, I’ve had to learn the stealthy art of prank gift wrapping in order to stop dad from another year of, “Oh, I bet this is my candy,” as he tears into the paper. The sneaky gifting tricks I’ve developed over the years,…

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Honoring Diverse Cultural Traditions for a Christmas Around the World Party

Honoring Diverse Cultural Traditions for a Christmas Around the World Party

Sometimes, the best gift is simply being appreciated for who you are and where you come from. My alma mater, in the Bay Area, attracted a diverse student population—the racial makeup of our student body was like a youthful United Nations. Come Christmas, there was no right or wrong way to celebrate, as long as we all came together in peace, friendship, and joy. My dormmates and I started a tradition of celebrating an eclectic Christmas together and, while each…

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Easy Projects to Transform Reclaimed Scrap Wood into Rustic DIY Christmas Gifts

Easy Projects to Transform Reclaimed Scrap Wood into Rustic DIY Christmas Gifts

Fall is my favorite time of year—the leaves change colors, the weather starts to cool, and there’s always a lovely autumn breeze. But every once in awhile, in my little Texas town surrounded by nothing but wide open plains, that lovely autumn breeze turns into a gust of destruction.   About two weeks ago, we were bombarded with winds that were just too much for our old weather-beaten fence to stand up to. A section broke free from the support…

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A Carry-On Christmas: Travel-Friendly Gifts That Pack a Punch, Not Your Luggage

A Carry-On Christmas: Travel-Friendly Gifts That Pack a Punch, Not Your Luggage

“Above the river and over the woods, to Grandmother’s house I’ll fly…” I can’t help but laugh at my own goofy rendition of the familiar holiday tune, all the while puzzling on how I can possibly fit everything I’d love to gift my family into my carry-on suitcase—without needing to oust my favorite outfit of worn-in jeans and a cozy flannel top. Then it dawns on me. I don’t need to forgo my fireside comfies, nor will I have to…

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A Gift in Itself: Easy Eco-Friendly Christmas Wrapping Ideas

A Gift in Itself: Easy Eco-Friendly Christmas Wrapping Ideas

As a child, Christmas was full of magic. I loved the gifts, the food, being with family—and collecting leftover wrapping paper at the end of all the festivities. I always asked my family and friends to unwrap their presents carefully so I could save the paper. Then, I’d spend long, winter hours indoors turning the sparkly, colorful, crinkly scraps into art projects. Years later, I still love crafts and DIY, but I’m also more conscious about how wrapping paper affects…

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A Sneaky Elf’s Guide to Hosting an Anonymous Secret Santa Office Gift Exchange with Coworkers

A Sneaky Elf’s Guide to Hosting an Anonymous Secret Santa Office Gift Exchange with Coworkers

This time last year, I had just started in a new department at work. Along with my orientation package came an invitation to participate in the office Secret Santa gift exchange. I was hesitant because I didn’t actually know anyone in my new office, but my boss encouraged me to take part—and I’m so glad I did! This fun office tradition truly helped me become a part of the team. On the day of the gift exchange, I arrived at…

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Christmas Wrapping Party Ideas to Get Organized While Getting in the Spirit

Christmas Wrapping Party Ideas to Get Organized While Getting in the Spirit

Gifts are my favorite Christmas decoration. Each present is its own story—mysterious and offering the promise of joy—and the wrapping paper is the prologue. Watching as they are opened, and the heartfelt gifts inside discovered, is the beautiful conclusion. Each box or bag is filled with potential, symbols of upcoming happiness that embody the giddy anticipation of the holiday season. So, yeah, I love wrapped gifts. But actually wrapping them, that’s a whole other story. Wrapping a Christmas’ worth of…

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Christmas Shopping Tips to Help Soothe Sensory Overload in Special Needs Kids

Christmas Shopping Tips to Help Soothe Sensory Overload in Special Needs Kids

Christmas music chimes through overhead speakers, brightly colored lights gleam in window displays, and vast aisles of decor offer an assortment of musical novelty toys all belting out carols like a dissonant choir. Rushed shoppers are out in droves, lined up at check-out counters. As their treasures beep across the scanners, I hear them chatting on cellphones, or yelling to a spouse to make a run for a forgotten item while they hold down a coveted place in line. The…

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Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Seniors, from the Inexpensive to the Unexpected

Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Seniors, from the Inexpensive to the Unexpected

Buying gifts for seniors, whether your parents or another special person in your life, always seems strangely difficult, even as it feels more vital and urgent—and I think I’ve figured out why. They’ve had a lifetime to accumulate things. More than that, though, I’m always worried about getting something that seems too common, too basic, and not weighted with the thoughtfulness they deserve. There is so much I want to express with my gifts—love, appreciation, respect, a quiet thanks for…

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