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22 joyful Christmas traditions to start with your friends

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Megan Murray
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There’s no one we would rather celebrate the festive season with than our friends. Here are 22 of the most joyous traditions to start this year, and continue for many more to come.

Have you noticed how, when December rolls around, it’s those same little things that always get us excited about Christmas? 

It could be the first time you hear the distinctive opening notes of Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You, or your first taste of mulled wine; either way, it’s those familiar little traditions that help get us in the Christmas spirit year in, year out. 

And how better to revel in these bursts of seasonal joy than with our best friends? After all, when it comes to adorable Christmas traditions, there’s no one who will appreciate an afternoon of hand-making cards or re-watching Love Actually for the 3,746th time than our soul sisters. 

We’ve racked our brains, asked our nearest and dearest and reflected on festivities past, to come up with the most heart-warming Christmas traditions to start with your best friends. Repeat them every year to give you that Christmassy feeling, every single time.

Wreath Making 

There isn’t a more creative way to mix our love of plants and greenery with Christmas than by getting all of our friends round for an evening of wreath making. 

You’ll need to get your hands on some special wreath building equipment such as reel wire, gauge wire and plenty of moss and eucalyptus from your local flower market. Once you have all of your materials, organise yourselves on a flat, open space and try watching a YouTube video to guide you. 

Not only is it a chance to get your creative juices flowing, it’s an opportunity to sit and talk with your friends without having to travel to a loud bar or restaurant. As with most of the things on this list, we avidly suggest serving up your wreaths with a side of mulled wine and Christmas music!

Check out Kirstie Allsopp’s guide to wreath making for stylist.co.uk or buy one to get you started from female-founded flower and wedding prop shop Lavender and Rose.

Hand-made Christmas cards

For crafty types, nothing beats being surrounded by an avalanche of brightly coloured tissue paper, an abundance of ribbons and, of course, lots and lots of glitter. 

So imagine the glee on your creative pals’ faces when you surprise them with an evening of Christmas card making. We suggest stocking up on white card and going hell for leather in Paperchase, picking up a whole host of mini pegs, stickers, stamps and scrap book paper. Alternatively you could buy a ready made kit from Amazon.

If doing it unassisted seems a bit daunting, check out Paperchases’s card making classes and book you and your friends in with a professional. 

Christmas present wrapping 

Once the fun of spending money like it’s going out of fashion is over and your Christmas shopping is done, you actually have to sit down and wrap all the presents you lovingly selected, which can take a lot longer than you would think. 

Instead of letting your front room turn into some sort of wrapping paper sweat shop, invite your best friend round to do all your wrapping together. 

With a Christmas film on in the background (Netflix is brimming with them) and a friend to chat away with, time will fly and suddenly what could have been a long and laborious night suddenly becomes a sweet Christmas tradition.  

Okay, it doesn’t have to quite this fancy

Help the homeless

For all the presents, parties and festive tipples that come with this time of the year, it’s important not to forget the real point of Christmas. This holiday is a time for helping others, and a brilliant way of doing your bit is by showing support for the thousands who spend December cold and alone on the streets of our cities. 

Charities like Crisis are always looking for volunteers, especially around Christmas time, so why not grab a friend and sign up together? 

Take a look at their website to find your local centre.

Christmas caroling 

We reckon you can do no wrong with a spot of Christmas caroling - and with a multitude of glittering events lighting up the capital, you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to picking a venue. Grab a group of friends and make an evening of it, following up your sing-a-long with some festive drinks or dinner. 

From traditional church services, to cosy pubs and stylish restaurants, it doesn’t have to be like the long-winded carol services your Nan made you go to back in the day. Check out our guide to London’s best caroling events here

Nordic restaurant Aquavit hosts Christmas carols this year.

Bake some of Mary Berry’s mince pies 

Of all the warming, Christmassy smells that make us think of 25 December, freshly baked mince pies is a pretty good one. We reckon making some of your own would not only be a fun tradition to start, but a lovely way of passing on the Christmas spirit if you manage to make enough to take into your co-workers or surprise your neighbors with. After all, Christmas is all about goodwill, right?

And who better to lead you to mince pie salvation than the badass that is Mary Berry? Check out her cranberry mince pie recipe here.

Watch Love Actually exactly five weeks before Christmas

As any die-hard Love Actually fan knows, the glimpse into the lives of eight different couples happens in the five weeks leading up to Christmas. Now, it goes without saying that watching this much-loved festive film is a must during the Christmas period, but have you ever purposely watched it in the last week of November, as the story begins?

We say you make this your new Love Actually ritual, and as ever, combine it with a lot of mulled wine and mince pies. 

“Watch out America, here comes Colin Frissell!”

Go ice skating 

Once winter rolls around, the whole of London (and many cities up and down the country for) suddenly become home to ice rinks galore. Whether positioned outside of museums, in Christmas markets or on rooftops, these frozen pockets of fun are a lovely symbol of Christmas socialising in the city. 

Forgo the classic couple selfie shot and race your best mate around the rink, preferably followed up with some - you guessed it - mulled wine.  

With so many to choose from, you can try a different one every year, and pretty soon it’ll become ‘your thing’ that you wouldn’t dream of doing with anyone else. 

Decorate a gingerbread house

Okay, stay with us on this one. Although it sounds ever so slightly juvenile, this is really just an excuse to eat some delicious gingerbread and lick icing off your hands - and who’s not on board with that?

If you’re concerned about baking one from scratch, no fear. You can buy ready made sets that really just require you to decorate with the help of edible glitter and colourful decorations. 

Either get hold of one each and have a little competition, or club together and design one as a pair. We particularly like this set from Biscuiteers.  

£35, Biscuiteers

Take a trip to the theater 

There’s something about Christmas that just screams ‘razzle dazzle’. Maybe it’s all the tinsel or that it’s more socially acceptable to sprinkle glitter on everything in December. Either way, if you’re a razzmatazz kind of lady, and know someone else who is too, make it an annual affair to don your finery and take a trip to the theater. 

If you’re not a big musical-lover (or are feeling a little tight in the pocket) the panto is another great option, guaranteed to fill you with seasonal cheer.  

Visit Columbia Road flower market

East London’s Columbia Road gets ever so Christmassy at this time of year. As well as holding special late-night shopping evenings on Wednesdays, this much-loved street adds a whole host of seasonal blooms to its famous Sunday flower market, making it a lovely place to enjoy a stroll. 

Grab a warm drink and a best friend and marvel at the towering Christmas trees and bundles of eucalyptus, holly and other seasonal greenery known as ‘festive wraps’. 

Take it in turns to host an annual Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner is a huge part of our festive celebrations, from the big day itself to the obligatory office Christmas lunch. But do you make time to celebrate, knife and fork in hand, with your friends? If the answer is no, why not start a Christmas tradition of taking turns every year to host a meal as an excuse to get together. 

If cooking isn’t your strong point, take a look at these fool-proof recipes or even buy something ready made (we promise we won’t tell if you don’t). The only thing we absolutely do insist on, is popping some of these gorgeous crackers on your table. 

Watch a Christmas film at Backyard Cinema 

Every year, since starting in the founder’s own back garden, London-based independent, alternative cinema company, Backyard Cinema, has been putting on special showings of some of our favourite Christmas films. Worlds away from your local Odeon, these film enthusiasts build an entire winter-themed set for you to enjoy your chosen screening in.

This year sees visitors crossing a frozen lake to enter a snowed-in castle, while last year was set in an enchanted winter forest. Screenings run into March so there’s plenty of time to make a group trip, and who knows what they’ll come up with next year?

Backyard Cinema’s enchanted forest

Start a secret Santa

For many, secret Santa is already a yearly tradition, so if this secret-present-swapping is new to your gang, rest assured there are lots of ideas already out there. Set a budget (something around the £5-10 mark should do) and use an online generator like this one to ensure everyone gets divided fairly, and more importantly, secretively.

With so many people to buy presents for, many of us put our mates to the back of the list, and this is a lovely chance to give a gift to someone you usually wouldn’t, without breaking the bank. Plus, because of the small price range, you have to extra thoughtful and inventive when it comes to picking something they will love. If you’re lacking in inspiration, check out our gift guide here. 

Make your own crackers

If you’re on the hunt for even more make-and-dos, give crafting your own Christmas crackers a go. Perfect for those who have already earned their stripes with handmade cards, these are a little more challenging. 

All you really need is some A4 paper, toilet roll tubes, twine and double-sided sticky tape: see here for our how-to.

As ever, we suggest getting your friends round, warming some mulled wine and enjoying an evening of crafting and chatting. 

Homemade crackers are the best kind of crackers

Challenge your friend to a Christmas-jumper-off

There’s only one wardrobe must-have come December: the Christmas jumper. 

Perfect for keeping warm, wearing to the office and donning for your Christmas meal, it’s a purchase that simply can’t be ignored. Challenge your best friend to find the most ridiculous Christmas jumper they possibly can and get together over a glass of eggnog to compare your efforts. Whoever gets the most laughs from the other party wins!

Reflect on the past year, and plan for the year ahead

Our best friends are the people we can be the most honest with, making them the perfect partner to sit down and review the past year with, as well as setting goals for the year ahead. 

If you’re anything like us, you’ll be a sucker for a beautiful new notebook and pen (check out our stationery gift guide for inspiration). Break in the pages with all your aspirations for 2018.

We suggest going to an irresistibly cosy cafe with your friendship-soul mate and writing down five (or more) things that you’ve learned from the last year, five things you’re  most proud of and five things you want to achieve for the year ahead. If you use the same notebook, you can look back on your progress every time you meet a new year. 

With a journal this lovely, you can take anything 2018 has to throw at you

Marvel at London’s Christmas shop window displays

If you’re looking for a tradition that doesn’t cost a penny, you can’t go wrong with perusing the big unveil of some of London’s most iconic Christmas shop window displays. 

Every year, luxurious department stores such as Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols make a huge song and dance about their Christmas windows, and we can see why. From moving train sets to themes such as Beauty and the Beast, each one is a work of art. 

Head to West London with your friends to see the sights, giving yourself time to retire to a coffee shop (or pub) for a warming beverage afterwards. 

Visit a Christmas market

We don’t have to tell you Christmas markets are all the rage, but with so many going on across the capital and up and down the country, it can be easy to forget to make time to actually visit one. 

In London we especially recommend the South Bank’s little alpine village for artisan, hand-made gifts or Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Elsewhere in the UK, Edinburgh was recently named as home to the country’s favourite Christmas market, followed by ones in Bath and Birmingham. Feast your eyes on the festive sights, and your stomach on the cinnamon-coated treats. 

Edinburgh’s Christmas market has just been voted as the nation’s favourite

Watch Oxford Street’s Christmas lights turn on

If you’ve ever stood on one of London’s many bustling streets, towering monuments or iconic bridges and felt your face light up with glee at the sheer wonderfulness of this crazy capital city buzzing around you, you’ll know how it feels to have a ‘London moment’.

And one indisputably festive London moment has to be seeing the lights on Oxford street for the first time that year. Whether you prefer to witness the main event and soak up the atmosphere as they’re turned on, or take a peaceful stroll a few nights later with your friend, it’s a beautiful sight to see and one that’s worth doing every year, together. 

Take a Christmas trip away 

Europe is full of wonderfully winter-y locations, perfect for a weekend break with your friends. From the original German markets in Berlin and Hamburg, to Amsterdam’s annual arrival of Santa Claus, if you really want to push the boat out and get in the Christmas spirit, treat yourself to a city break abroad. 

Check out our list of 10 winter European city breaks for inspiration

Cook up some home-made mulled wine

From the amount of mentions our favourite winter-time tipple has had throughout this list, it’s inevitable it would get its own section. We love having our friends round to drink wine at any time of the year, so having the excuse to fill the house with the smells of cinnamon and orange makes it an even more desirable prospect. 

Plus, it’s not hard to do. All you need to do is grab a bottle of mulled wine from your local supermarket and heat it through with 60g of sugar, a chopped orange, a cinnamon stick, a bay leaf and some grated nutmeg. See, easy!

We hope our list of traditions helps you spend more time with those you love, not just this Christmas, but for many more to come. 

Images: iStock / Pinterest / Instagram 

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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