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The 10 Best Things To Do Instead of Exchange Gifts This Holiday Season

Tired of riding on the consumer carousel during the holiday season? Here are 10 things you can do instead.

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Throw a Winter Barbecue

You can have it in a park, in the backyard or even in the driveway (which is conveniently located next to the shelter of the garage). Set up a grill and either a fire pit (if allowed) or an outdoor heater. Make sure your guests know it’s an outdoor barbecue so they can dress appropriately. And have plenty of hot beverages on hand. Here are some products to keep you warm while you’re outdoors.

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Visit a Nursing Home

There are many residents with few or no visitors and the holiday season can be an especially difficult time for them. Consider setting aside an hour every week or two to visit someone who would appreciate the company. If you have an older family member or friend who wants to stay in their home, these 14 DIY projects for aging in place will be helpful.

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Build Something with a Child

If you’ve got woodworking skills, build something from scratch. If not, buy unfinished wooden items at hobby stores and invite a young person to help assemble and decorate the item as a gift to a loved one or to be donated to charity. Here are some surprisingly easy woodworking projects.

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Take a Hike

Get outdoors and explore nature this holiday season. It’s a wonderful family activity that encourages children to get to know the natural world for themselves. Or go with a special someone or even by yourself. The main thing is to develop an appreciative eye for nature. Take it a step further and plan a winter camping outing and be sure to check out these 16 camping hacks and tips before you go!

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Feed the Hungry

When you’re at the supermarket stocking up on holiday fare, start an additional bag of pantry items to donate to a local food bank. Many stores have receptacles right by the door during the holiday season. You could also volunteer at a soup kitchen or packing meals for an organization such as Meals from the Heartland.

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Volunteer

There are many worthy organizations that are struggling to find enough volunteers. Even if it’s just a one-time volunteer commitment, your help will be appreciated. Contact your local United Way, Salvation Army or similar organization to inquire where you or your family might volunteer this holiday season.

You can also do good in your own neighborhood. Here are 15 ways to be a good neighbor.

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Have a Game Night

Take turns picking the game and have a good old-fashioned night (or afternoon!) of family fun. No kids? No problem. Game night works for adult friends and family, too. It’s a good way to catch up on each other’s lives in a relaxed atmosphere. For fun on the run, you can make this take-along tic-tac-toe board!

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Host a Potluck Dinner

This is a great idea when you’re trying to bring together friends and family who might not have plans this holiday season (think bachelor uncles, widowed aunts, single friends, etc.). Make it a potluck if you think they’d like to contribute a dish of their own. Or, get all the supplies yourself and invite everyone to pitch in on the cooking and cleanup.

Dishwasher not working properly? Here’s what you need to do.

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Pot Up Some Indoor Color

Buy plants like Christmas cactus and bulbs like amaryllis and paperwhites. Make up some colorful combinations (you can reuse old pots and baskets from thrift stores) and give them to friends, relatives or shut-ins during the holiday season. Learn more about potting bulbs indoors.

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Donate

The December holidays remind us of humanity’s desire for love and peace. When making end-of-year contributions to worthy causes, try to involve young children. It’s a good opportunity for them to think of others—not just what’s going to be under the Christmas tree for them. You might even start a communal fund that both adults and children contribute to throughout the year, then choose one or more charities to donate the money to.

Luke Miller
Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.