How can I make Christmas fun? 23 ways to have an enjoyable Christmas in 2020

Mum and dad kissing their daughter on Christmas Day
(Image credit: Albert Shakirov/Alamy)

The festive season is going to be a bit different this year and you may be thinking 'How can I make Christmas fun?' for the kids and for your family.

Although we’re hoping that the second national lockdown will be lifted in early December, the likelihood is that some restrictions will have to remain in place. Already because of the pandemic, many of the Christmas events and activities we love, such as carol services, Christmas markets and Santa’s grottos, have had to be cancelled or adapted.

But don’t let this dampen your Christmas spirit. We’re a resilient and resourceful lot and there are other ways to have fun at Christmas. Our round-up of enjoyable festive activities will help you celebrate with a smile and help you answer the one of the questions plaguing parents now - how can I make Christmas fun?

How can I make Christmas fun in 2020?

Visit Santa virtually…

We’re not the only ones brushing up on our tech skills this year – Santa has also been updating his résumé. If it’s not possible to see him in his grotto, kids can book a call to the North Pole to talk to Santa. Book online at Santa HQ (opens in new tab).

….Or have a socially distanced Santa experience

Subject to Covid-19 restrictions, there will also be some socially distanced Santa’s grottos operating around the country. As most parents know, these are very popular events and many have already sold out, but you can still book tickets at venues such as London’s Ally Pally (opens in new tab) and Greenwich Market (opens in new tab); at Manchester’s Trafford Centre (opens in new tab) and York’s Chocolate Story (opens in new tab); at Alton Towers (opens in new tab) and at various Dobbies Garden Centres (opens in new tab) around the country.

Witness an online Christmas window reveal

If you can’t make it into the city centre this year, but love an unveiling, Fenwick in Newcastle pffered a virtual Christmas window reveal of its much-loved wintry window display – all 38 metres of it. Head to the Fenwick Facebook page (opens in new tab) to watch the wonder unfold.

Trade Christmas treats

Have your own personal bake-off at home with your family this Christmas. Make festive treats and then do a swap. That way you get to try different batches of homemade treats and get to give some of your creations away. We've got some great recipes for glitzy Christmas cookies (opens in new tab)Oreo Christmas pudding pops (opens in new tab) (pictured above), cornflake wreaths (opens in new tab) and gingerbread tree decorations (opens in new tab) that are sure to secure you a festive win.

Book virtual gift advice

Not sure what to buy for your nearest and dearest? Iconic store Selfridges is here to help. Book a video call (opens in new tab) with the London, Birmingham or Manchester stores and speak with one of the Elfridges (geddit?). These gift-giving gurus will provide tips and pointers on how to buy the perfect presents.

Countdown to Christmas in style

Make the lead-up to Christmas a little more exciting by putting aside some the gift budget for one of the many brilliant advent calendars available. Everyone gets a daily treat and you’re officially the best gift-giver ever. There are some great alternative advent calendars out there - full of everything from gin to beauty products, as well as toy advent calendars for kids (opens in new tab). It's like getting a little gift every day of December. What's not to love?

Bake a gingerbread house

Ginger bread houses are relatively easy to bake and the most fun to decorate. Let your kids go to town on their edible house – they can be as creative as they want then eat their work of art afterwards. There'll be lots of clearing up but the memories made will make it worthwhile. Get the recipe for a gingerbread house here (opens in new tab).

(You can also cheat and buy a gingerbread house kit, such as this one from Lakeland for £12.99 (opens in new tab).)

Support festive fayres without leaving the sofa

Sadly, many Christmas markets and fayres will be cancelled this year, but if you love craft gifts, artisanal produce and supporting smaller, independent shops then all is not in vain. Brew up some mulled wine, warm a few mince pies and browse the Online Christmas Fair (opens in new tab) and Super Virtual Market (opens in new tab) for unique gifts.

Take a funny festive photo

By the end of what’s been a tricky year, we’ll be in need of a giggle. With this is mind, why not give the gift of laughter by dressing up for a family photo – Christmas jumpers, odd poses, Santa hats, matching onesies, dogs in reindeer antlers… the list is endless. It’s an easy way to cheer people up. To make your Christmas photos into cards, try PhotoBox (opens in new tab)  or Snapfish (opens in new tab). 

Get ahead with Christmas shopping

Ok, so it’s not as atmospheric, but shopping online means you’ll avoid traffic, sore feet and aching arms. Plus, with Black Friday 2020 coming up, you may just bag a few bargains too. Many retailers such as John Lewis (opens in new tab) are offering virtual Christmas shops to browse so you can plough ahead with the shopping this year. Maybe not a crowd pleaser for the kids, but fun for mum.

Hold a Kids Zoom Christmas party

If family members can’t meet up this year in person, an organised Virtual Christmas Party is the next best thing. Aimed at aged 4-11-year-olds, DNA Kids (opens in new tab) offer 30, 45 or 60 minute interactive Christmas parties, with party games, activities and music to keep the kids happy and occupied. Friends and family from across the country (and world) can join in simultaneously. Book and you’ll also receive invites, activity sheets and thank you notes.

Decorate your heart out

You have to be bit Bah Humbug not to love decorating at Christmas – for many it marks the start of the Christmas period, even if it does mean digging around in the loft or basement for your Christmas baubles. First choose your tree – these are some of the best artificial and real trees (opens in new tab) around – then dust down the decorations, put a festive film from Netflix on and spend an afternoon making your home feel Christmassy. You can go with a theme, such as all gold, Scandinavian, monochrome, or just mix it up and have an array of styles (the most likely option if you have young kids). Check out John Lewis for current trends (opens in new tab). For decorations, try M&S (opens in new tab).

Set up a festive craft table

We have compiled some really nifty ideas of Christmas crafts for kids here (opens in new tab), from snowmen tin can bowling pins to cardboard wreaths. If you have the space, set up a craft table with supplies from Amazon (opens in new tab) and print-outs of ideas and let the little ones work their messy magic.

Invent a scavenger hunt

Another brilliant way to keep the kids happy and have family fun at Christmas is to organise a scavenger hunt. All you need to do is write a list of 10-20 Christmas-related objects (think wreath, snow, present, star, angel) and give them an hour to find them all and tick them off. These hunts can be done inside and outside. Pinterest (opens in new tab) has some good ideas.

A colourful Pantomine Dame

Watch panto from the comfort of your living room

Panto is on! Oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it is! Thanks to the brainchild of actor, one-time Blue Peter presenter and pantomime producer Peter Duncan, it's on with the show this year. From just £30 for a family ticket (if you book before 30 November), you’ll be able to stream a professional production of Jack and the Beanstalk into your home. Now, that deserves a round of applause. Book here (opens in new tab).

String some popcorn tinsel

Stringing together popcorn and cranberries into pretty, edible tinsel decorations is an inspired way to keep the kids quiet for an hour or two. Get the recipe for popcorn and cranberry tinsel here (opens in new tab).

Ready, steady, wrap!

One sure-fire way to keep the kids entertained is to hold a gift-wrapping race. It will be fast, and possibly furious, and the results will be, er...interesting. But the children will love it. If you don’t want to waste good Christmas wrapping paper, cut up some old clothes and bedding and let them have a bash at Furoshiki (opens in new tab) – the Japanese method of wrapping with cloth. Alternatively, get a big roll of brown craft paper (opens in new tab) - that way you can reuse or recycle it afterwards.

Dress to impress

As Halloween proved, you don’t need to go out to dress for the holidays. If you’ve never been a Christmas dresser, 2020 is the year to ditch your doubts and don a jolly jumper. Whether you opt for sparkly, traditional or fun, wearing  Christmas jumpers can’t fail to get you in a festive mood. Especially silly jumpers will have everyone grinning, while these Christmassy baby outfits (opens in new tab) are so cute it almost hurts to look.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXQViqx6GMY

Compile a Christmas playlist

Music is synonymous with Crimbo – think carols such as Silent Night, classics such as Jingle Bells and Wham!'s legendary Last Christmas. If you have a smart speaker ask the likes of Alexa (opens in new tab) to create a playlist then add all your favourites, or use Spotifiy or You Tube. It’s a great task for older kids. Alternatively, go old school and buy a festive CD (opens in new tab).  

Enjoy an at-home candle-lit carol concert

At 7pm on Thursday 3 December, homeless charity Shelter is hosting what will hopefully become the UK’s largest carol concert (opens in new tab). Coming live from the beautiful St Martin-in-the-Fields church in central London, where Shelter was first founded, it promises to be a star-filled event with guest appearances from Stephen Fry and Julie Walters, as well as readings and live music. Sign up, donate, then dim the lights, warm the eggnog and sing.

Treat yo ‘elf

Here’s an easy way to inspire joy – invest in an Elf on the Shelf (if you haven’t already) and have some fun and games with members of your household. Every day from 1-24 December, choose a different place or position for the elf and watch your loved one’s faces light up when they see it. Finding spots is easy enough (though it gets a bit harder as the month goes on) but if you fancy a challenge these ingenious Elf on the Shelf ideas (opens in new tab) will help you fashion your elf into all sorts of weird and wonderful positions.

Rustle up kid-friendly canapés

Once the staple of adult-only dinner parties (and palates), today savoury and sweet canapés are an ideal way to not only get the kids creative in the kitchen but to sample new foods. Try simple yet inventive bite-sized recipes such as clever tomato and cream cheese Santa hats (opens in new tab), crunchy Christmas canape crackers (opens in new tab) (pictured above), and adorable no-bake marshmallow snowmen (opens in new tab).

A basket full of plastic toys

Another way to keep the kids busy is to ask them to do their bit for those less fortunate by giving away toys they don’t use anymore. While families tend to stock up on the top Christmas toys (opens in new tab) for the year, there are plenty that often go to waste.

There are numerous toy and baby banks (opens in new tab) around the country, and lots of charity shops and local churches also accept good quality toys and clothes. While many will be closed during lockdown they should re-open in December. Take a look at The Toy Project (opens in new tab) and Toys 4 Life (opens in new tab) for info.

Have more ideas on how to make Christmas fun? Share them in the comments below!

Debra Waters is an experienced online editor and lifestyle writer with a focus on health, wellbeing, beauty, food and parenting. She currently writes for Goodto and Woman&Home, and print publications Woman, Woman’s Own and Woman’s Weekly. Previously, Debra was digital food editor at delicious magazine and MSN. She’s written for M&S Food, Great British Chefs, loveFOOD, What to Expect, Everyday Health and Time Out, and has had articles published in The Telegraph and The Big Issue.