Countdown to Christmas: 25 Festive Food, Gift, and Decorating Ideas

Spread cheer all through the house with these holiday crafts, recipes, and decorating projects.

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Have a Ball


Turn ornaments into keepsakes by embellishing them with rub-ons, stickers, ribbon, colored tape, or bits of greenery and glue.

Other stickers and embellishments, available at craft stores.

Noel Collection "Joy" rub-on,

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Let It Snow


Talk about reinterpreting the classics—these paper snowflakes take on a modern vibe in cool color combos. Try pale blue and brown, red and orange, any shade that strikes your fancy. Use thin paper and fine-tipped scissors for best results.

Fiskars microtip scissors, available at craft stores.

Forgot how to make flakes? For folding techniques or cutting inspiration, visit

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It's a Wrap


Get creative. Instead of buying rolls and rolls of holiday paper, wrap gifts with kraft or butcher paper, then add a pop of color. Folded and fanned squares of tissue paper make a pretty rosette (for step-by-step instructions, see the following three slides); the recycled fronts of old Christmas cards lend a decorative touch; and little details like twine elevate the ordinary. Use strips of tissue as ribbon.


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Make a Rosette


Stack four sheets of tissue paper together and cut out a rectangle that's a suitable size for your package. With the tissue still stacked, accordion fold the tissue, starting at one of the short ends.

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Global Network


Shake up your celebration by including holiday traditions from other cultures. Here's a sampling of possibilities:

Finland: Fill the bird feeders before sitting down to Christmas dinner.

China: Make red paper chains—they symbolize happiness.

France: Instead of stuffing stockings, leave your shoes by the fireplace so Pere Noel can fill them with gifts.

Mexico: Decorate with lilies and evergreens, and serve tamales.

The Netherlands: With every gift you give, include a rhyming note about the recipient.

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Door decor for the time-challenged: Insert a screw eye into the base of each pinecone and twist until tight. For 8 pinecones, cut 4 lengths of ribbon (3 of equal length and one slightly shorter). Thread each end of each ribbon through the screw eye on a pinecone and knot.

To finish, knot a short piece of ribbon around each screw eye and cut ends. Gather ribbons together and tie with another piece of ribbon. Hang on a nail or hook.

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Counting the Days


A new take on a charming tradition, this magnetized Advent calendar is made from favor tins filled with candies. Print numbered circles (download below) onto label paper or card stock that can be taped to the lids with double-side tape. Cut out each circle with a circle punch, then attach to the lid.

Glue a magnet to the back of each tin and arrange in a tree shape on the fridge.

Two-inch circle punch, Fiskars scissors, and favor tins, available at craft stores.

Get the Advent Calendar

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Eggnog Mousse

Eggnog Mousse
Makes 6
Prep 15 m
Chill 150 m
Cook 7 m

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Table Manner


How-to for a no-fail centerpiece: Arrange pinecones or sprigs of greenery in a pretty white dish.

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Let It Glow


Get the look of designer candles at a budget-friendly price by covering plain glass votives, candle holders, or even straight-sided drinking glasses with glittered scrapbook paper.

If you like, decorate the edges of the paper using a paper edge punch. Attach to the glass using double-side tape.

Sugar-coated 12-x-12-inch scrapbook paper,

Edge and snowflake punches, Martha Stewart Crafts, for info

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Holiday Pantry


Keep staples on hand during the season to make quick, yummy bites for unexpected guests.

Marinated Bocconcini
— wrap with salami
— skewer with cherry tomatoes
— stir into warm pasta

Frozen Shrimp
— marinate, skewer, then grill
— poach and serve with dipping sauces

Spreadable Cheeses
— fill cherry tomatoes
— stuff chicken breasts

Olive Tapenades
— serve with grilled bread
— top grilled fish
— spread on crackers

Parmesan & Salami
— antipasto platter
— make mini sandwiches

— crostini
— cheese platters
— croutons

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Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese

Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese
Prep 15 m
Bake 27 m

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Sound of Music


Use CD label software to create a family photo label for a disc of holiday songs. Include a play list (download ours below) and embellish the cover with patterned papers or recycled holiday cards.

Diagonal folder enclosure card,

CD label software,

Download our holiday playlist

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Holding Power


A neat trick for the buffet table: Corral flatware and napkins together in decorative envelopes. Print the downloadable template onto an envelope and cut off the top so that it measures 6 inches high.

Trim the edge with mini pinking paper edgers.

Mini pinking paper edgers, available at craft stores.

Get the Silverware Holder Template

#10 Luxe Fino White open-end envelopes,

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Glad Hands


Forget stocking stuffers. These mittens filled with treats are charming beyond words. Thread a piece of ribbon through the top of each mitten to hang.

Mittens, Sonya Leingang,

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Green Greetings


Why buy cards when you can easily make them from ones you received in the past? Simply cut out graphic, bright pieces and arrange on colored card stock or blank cards, and adhere with glue.

Beacon 3-in-1 gel glue, available at craft stores.

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Gingerbread Waffles

Gingerbread Waffles
Makes 10
Prep 15 m
Cook 2 m

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Fancy Feast


Treat your guests to a book of recipes from the big dinner or a few family favorites. Download cover art below, print recipes onto paper, fold, and trim as desired.

Staple pages together at the fold (or bind as desired, for example by punching holes and threading a ribbon through). To hide staples, glue the cover to the pages (or use thin double-side tape).

Get the Recipe Book Cover Template

Cover, Luxe Fino White cover-weight paper; interior, Luxe Fino White text-weight paper;

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Pear, Pomegranate & Prosecco Cocktail

Pear, Pomegranate & Prosecco Cocktail
Makes 4
Prep 10 m

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Getting Personal


Custom-create gift tags by downloading templates below. Cut tags into various sizes and shapes, then embellish with assorted trims, such as buttons, greenery, pinecones, ribbon, or paper scraps.

Green Gift Tags, Set #1

Green Gift Tags, Set #2

Red Gift Tags, Set #1

Red Gift Tags, Set #2

Turquoise Gift Tags, Set #1

Turquoise Gift Tags, Set #2

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They're the Tops


Glam up gifts with glittered floral picks in lots of styles, including leaves, berries, and flowers. Cut desired pieces and tie onto package with ribbon or cord.

Glittered picks, available at craft stores.

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Good Scents


Fill your home with a delectable, spicy fragrance. In a small saucepan combine 5 cinnamon sticks (broken), 1 tablespoon whole cloves, 1 tablespoon whole allspice, the rinds of 2 oranges, 3 bay leaves, and 3 cups water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to its lowest setting, and keep at a simmer. Replenish periodically with water.

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Create a jolly napkin ring. Simply thread a jingle bell onto a piece of ribbon, wrap around the napkin, and knot. Trim edges.

Bells, available at craft stores.

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Sugar Plums


Festive chocolate bars for the table. Yum! Remove the paper from a foil-wrapped chocolate bar and cut a piece of gift wrap to the same size. Wrap it around the chocolate bar and tape the back. Embellish with ribbon, jingle bells, and other holiday ephemera.

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Sweet Idea

Hot Cocoa

Fill a jar with your favorite homemade hot cocoa mix. Choose from multiple label designs (get them below), and print onto sturdy cover-weight paper. To finish your gift, tie label on with a pretty ribbon.

Hot Cocoa Tag #1

Hot Cocoa Tag #2

Hot Cocoa Tag #3

Hot Cocoa Tag #4

Hot Cocoa Directions

Luxe Fino White cover-weight paper,

Makes 12
Prep 10 m

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Cold Comfort


A nifty way to fake the winter wonderland look? Ice crystal spray on mirrors and windows.

Santa Ice Crystal Spray, available at craft stores.

Originally published in the December 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine.

This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings, and styles are subject to change.