It’s the very last minute, and in all of the gift-buying, gift-wrapping, teacher-gifting, and holiday dropping-in, you realize that your own home is, well, less than festive. Never fear. There are a few last minute touches you can add to make your home and your holiday merry and bright.


There is something about a house filled with candles that makes everything brighter. More than just light, candles bring a warm relaxing glow to each room. Select candles that have a natural holiday scent such as pine or cinnamon and engage all of your senses. You can also use LED battery-operated candles if fire is a concern.


In a similar vein, if you have a fireplace, use it. Even if you use a fire starter log or simply turn on the gas, a fireplace epitomizes a warm holiday feeling and sets a holiday tone.

Family traditions

Adding a new family tradition to the holidays is easy: pick one, and get it going. Many families start off the holiday season by popping popcorn, making hot chocolate, and watching a holiday movie. Classics like It’s a Wonderful Life are always good, as are more recent movies like Elf and A Christmas Story. You can use this as a weekly family wind-down on Friday nights, or bring a frantic weekend to a close with Sunday night movies in pajamas.

Fresh greens

Did you forget to decorate your home? Are you allergic to tinsel or any other type of artificial cheer? Visit your local Christmas tree lot and ask them for some of their trimmed greenery. Twine it around banisters, use it as a runner down the center of your table, or place it on a mantel or hearth. You can include pinecones in your décor, adding a few drops of cinnamon essential oil to bring more fragrance to your home.

Fragrance on lights

A drop of essential oil on the light bulbs in your house will quickly fill each room with holiday fragrance. Refresh as necessary, but just one drop at a time. This only works on traditional bulbs that get warm.

Bake cookies

Grab the kids and bake some cookies, for Santa, the neighbors, or yourselves. Try a festive cookie recipe, or give candy-making a try. Or be adventurous and try the 25 Days of Christmas Cookies Challenge! Then host a cookie swap and renew your gym membership.

Make a gingerbread house

You can buy a kit from your local grocery store, or follow the steps here for a DIY-gingerbread house. Other ideas include making mini gingerbread villages with graham crackers.


The holidays can be a difficult time for a number of reasons. Maybe you have lost someone close to you, or you or a loved one are fighting a chronic illness. Maybe you are just tired from so much activity or pressure to be constantly feeling joyful.

Take a moment on your own to relax, recline, and reflect. It doesn’t need to be much: a cup of tea, a quiet, comfortable chair, a journal, and you. Write down what you are grateful for and make plans for the coming year. Look forward and back at the same time, and be restful in the present. This brief time-out may be just what you need to rejuvenate your spirit and mind.

Sing and dance

Do you have a colossal collection of carols? An overflow of holiday standards on vinyl? Play your holiday music and sing along. Get up and dance. Take lots of pictures.

Make holiday ornaments

Remember those pictures from your holiday music dance party? Turn them into photo ornaments for the tree or garlands. If picture ornaments aren’t your thing, check out these 25 other ornaments you can try. Many are made from materials you have around the house, so this is a good snowy day family craft.

Make an elaborate breakfast

Food instantly connects family, and who doesn’t love to eat a leisurely breakfast late in the morning? Now that we are so busy with activities and appointments and homework later in the day, breakfast might be the perfect place for a family meal. Make overnight French toast and serve it with fruit, yogurt, breakfast meat (vegetarian options, too!), and plenty of coffee and juice. Ban all electronics and start your day together.


Giving is good for your health. Study after study shows tangible health benefits to giving, either as a volunteer or with money or material goods. Take a moment when you feel way to busy to do one more thing, and try one of the following easy donations:

  • Give food: Pick up some extra food at the store during your weekly shopping trip and take it to a local food pantry. Many stores have bins to collect food and will take it for you! Food pantries need not only canned goods and things like dry pasta, peanut butter, and tuna, but they also need toiletries, diapers, feminine hygiene products, and socks. Give what you can. It all adds up.
  • Give blood: Blood banks experience critical blood shortages during the holidays. One pint of donated blood can help up to three separate people. Donating blood takes about an hour (even though the actual donation only takes about ten minutes). Find your local Red Cross donor center at this link.
  • Give money: Give money on the go with these five mobile apps for monetary donations.

Pay it forward

This is a quick and easy way to make someone else’s day bright with no extra effort. When you buy a coffee or food at drive-thru, or even in person, pay for the person behind you. If you want to do it for more than one person, buy a gift card in a set amount (say, $25) and tell the cashier to use it until it is gone on the people who come through after you. This is a selfless act of kindness that could very well change someone’s entire day.

When the holidays make you more “Bah, humbug,” than “Ho, Ho, Ho!” how do you turn yourself around? What are your last-minute secrets to holiday cheer?

Image by terren in Virginia via Flickr


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