Our Family Christmas Bucket List + Ways We Give Back

Welcome back to a new week, friends! How was your weekend? Ours was a chilly one…perfect for fun Christmas activities! Friday night we strolled around a favorite outdoor hotspot, looking at lights and window shopping. And Saturday we made our annual trip to the Dallas Symphony!

It’s our favorite Christmas activity to do as a family…we love dressing up, going into the city, and hearing the gorgeous music in such an amazing venue. Did you know Dallas has the largest Arts District in the nation!? Yes ma’am, if you’re ever in Big D I’d highly recommend checking out an event at the Winspear Opera House (or any of the theaters and museums)!

We’re pretty traditional when it comes to our holidays, especially Christmas. The kids love the annual traditions, and insist on each of them every year. We always sit down at the start of the holiday and everyone lists their favorite activity, and we add it to the calendar.

I’m always looking for new and fresh ideas to add to our list, so today I thought I’d share the family things we love doing most during the Christmas season.

Sugarplum Family Holiday Bucket List

  1. Give Back // Finding ways to give back to our community is a highlight year-round, and especially during the holidays. I’ll share some of our fave ways below.
  2. Attend the Dallas Symphony Pops Concert // This is our family-favorite! The music is so good, and even includes an audience sing-along to 12 Days of Christmas.
  3. Advent Calendar // Little Miss is passionate about the Advent Calendar! Each day is a small treat or one of the activities on our list. She loves for me to hide the treat and leave a clue of where to find it…so it’s part scavenger hunt and part Christmas fun!
  4. Christmas Lights & Cocoa // We pack big mugs of cocoa and cozy blankets, and drive through the most festive neighborhood in the city. Usually wearing Christmas jammies!
  5. Family Movie Night // It’s always a showing of Elf, with a side of s’mores by the fire!
  6. Fancy Christmas Dinner // Every year we choose a new ‘fancy’ restaurant and get dressed up for dinner. We’ve been doing this since they were small to teach them table and restaurant etiquette, and help them feel comfortable in environments outside their comfort zone. We usually do this when they get out of school for Winter Break, so it’s a celebration of their semester, too.
  7. Drive-In Movie Theatre // It’s cold and the screen quality isn’t the best, but it’s fun to bundle up in the back of the SUV together!
  8. Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens // Gorgeous year-round, we especially love to stroll the quiet, beautiful gardens during Winter. It overlooks the lake and the theme and landscape changes for every season. For holiday, they have huge Christmas trees (the site of our family photos this year!), and a life-size 12 Days of Christmas display.

Mens Quilted Puffer Jacket | Girls Fur-Lined Jacket (20% off!) | Women’s Jacket | Mens Rain Pullover

We visited the Arboretum over Thanksgiving Break, and it was the perfect place to get our Christmas spirit going. It was freezing, too, so we all bundled up in our favorite Backcountry outdoor gear.

It’s our go-to spot for all things active and outdoors! Hiking, camping, and even most of our ski clothes have been found there. We also grab Winter gear for the whole family like warm coats, hats, and gloves.

Mens Quilted Puffer Jacket | Hoodie Sweatshirt | Beanie Cap | Girls Hooded Jacket | Fleece Pullover

Little Miss is still in that ‘coat-aversion stage’ (you know what I’m talking about, Moms!)…but admits her Columbia coat is crazy warm. She’s worn it on so many trips, and even skiing. (It’s 20% off right now!) She does, however, live in cozy fleece pullovers! In fact, both kids have them on their Christmas list.

The teen is all about the coats though…even more specifically, all things Patagonia and North Face. He’s a hoodie-junkie like his dad, and his daily uniform usually includes a beanie, too.

Mens Quilted Puffer Jacket | Hoodie Sweatshirt | Beanie Cap (20% off!)

Mens Quilted Puffer Jacket | Hoodie Sweatshirt | Beanie Cap | Girls Hooded Jacket | Fleece Pullover

Her Beanie Cap | Girls Hooded Jacket | Fleece Pullover

Not only is my coat super-warm, but it’s completely waterproof! I love multi-functional jackets like this for travel, too! Two jackets in one, and less space in the suitcase. And you know I’m a huge fan of rainboots for sorts of wet and muddy conditions…and with the addition of fleece boot liners, they’re warm for snow, too!

Womens All-Weather Jacket | Fleece Boot Liners | Rainboots | BeanieMens Pullover Hoodie | Cap | Backpack

I added an extra layer for more warmth, and love the peek of plaid under my pullover.

Fit Tip: I always size up one in these pullovers and jackets for more layering room.

Plaid Shirt (on sale!) | Quilted Pullover | Womens All-Weather JacketMens Pullover Hoodie | Cap | Backpack

But even more than the fun activities, we love finding ways to give back…both year-round, and especially during the holiday. We want our kids to recognize how fortunate they are, and keep focus on the real meaning of the season.

I love seeing the understanding on their faces when they see how much joy giving back brings to others.

Ways to Give Back During the Holiday Season

  1. Angel Tree // Adopt a family or child through a local Angel Tree program. Our church has trees for single moms, kids, and families, and each of us chooses a category we can relate to…then we shop for them together.
  2. Pay It Forward // It doesn’t take much to brighten someone’s day, and you never know how much your small act of kindness will snowball. Our fave thing is to pay for the person behind us in the drive-thru line. It brings a smile to the cashier’s face, and who knows how positively it impacts the person who was treated to a morning coffee or Happy Meal.
  3. Support Food Pantries // Food banks are always in need of non-perishables, but especially during the holiday season. Instead of just rummaging through your pantry, take it one step further and drop off everything a family would need for a Christmas dinner.
  4. Be a Big Tipper // At least once over the holiday season, we’ll visit a local diner and leave a sizable tip. The kids love watching the server’s face when they discover it.
  5. Secret Santa // Leave a tin of cookies, small hand soaps, or some other small gift in a neighbor’s mailbox or co-workers desk. Or assemble small gift packages of toiletries and drop them at a Senior Living Facility.
  6. Spread Cheer // Most of our holiday baking is actually for all the service people who make our lives so much easier…UPS driver, mail person, waste and recycle management, etc. We package them in cute tins thanking them for all they do.
  7. Provide Warmth // Coats, blankets, and hats are always in high-demand this time of year. Churches and local shelters are always looking for donations. Drop off your kid’s outgrown coats, or shop for new ones together.

It’s such a magical time of year, and I cherish the extra family time it brings. What are your family activity traditions every year? How do you incorporate giving back as a family in your holiday season?

You can find all our warm outdoor styles from Backcountry! And code SUGARPLUM15 gets you 15% off your first order!

[Shop My Outdoor Style]

[Shop Mr SP Outdoor Style]

[Shop the Kids Outdoor Style]

*Photos by the darling Audrie Dollins, on location at the Dallas Arboretum. This post is created in collaboration with Backcountry and Shopstyle, but all cold-weather styles and holiday cheer are my own. Thank you for supporting Hi Sugarplum sponsors!*



Leave a Comment


  1. Deborah wrote:

    We recently noticed that a waiter at our small town fast food place needed new glasses. We inquired at the eye doctor and paid for the need anonymously. We were blessed, the doctor and staff were moved, and so was the store manager. Just seeing this person able to see has brought overwhelming blessings to us. We share this to give an idea to your readers. Sometimes we hesitate because we worry that a person with a need “just expects a handout” and will not work yet many workers put in long hours at a low wage. We plan to do this every year from now on.

    Posted 12.10.18 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      That is so sweet!! I love this idea, thank you for sharing!

      Posted 12.10.18 Reply
  2. Sandy wrote:

    We have a soft spot for the military, donate miles so they or family members can fly home, etc.
    Also, love giving big, fat tips to everyone relying on them.
    What IS w/the kids not liking to wear coats in the cold, I don’t think they fit in the lockers at school very well.
    Love the PJ & Christmas lights idea too. One time, we saw a family gathered around the table in candlelight all holding hands and praying. Unforgettable!
    Grrrreat photos, SP!

    Posted 12.10.18 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      I love when I catch a glimpse of families engaged in their faith!! And great idea to donate miles!!

      Posted 12.10.18 Reply
  3. Sheaffer wrote:

    What a wonderful post! So many great ideas, but I love the idea of a massive tip! So much fun!

    Posted 12.10.18 Reply
  4. Sevahn wrote:

    You are such a loving, giving family! The Elf movie still cracks me up every time! We watch It’s a Wonderful Life and there is never a dry eye in the house. I take my mom and her best friend to see the festive Christmas lights, but never thought to get us decked out in Christmas jammies– how cute is that?! We also pay it forward #2, spread cheer #6 and participate in Toys for Tots because my brother is a marine. For #5 I leave a Christmas thank you letter in all of my neighbors’ mailboxes thanking them for being such great neighbors, especially the one right next door who never says hi and blows all the autumn leaves from his yard onto our property haha!

    Posted 12.10.18 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      Haha…I love it!!! Such a great idea to leave notes for neighbors!! And there’s always ‘that neighbor’, right?!?!

      Posted 12.10.18 Reply
  5. Such fun and great pics! We love to pick someone in a restaurant and anonymously pay for their meal..and then see their reaction when they find out! It really is the best to bless others. And yes….I have two with coat aversion!!!

    Posted 12.10.18 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      Oh my gosh!!! I love that idea!!!! I’ll bet the family conversation of deciding who to choose is a fun one, too!

      Posted 12.10.18 Reply
  6. Jenny B wrote:

    I love that you’ve posted about thinking of others at this time of year. One note about food banks (at least in our area) – we went there on a field trip with the kids, and before sorting the food we got a tour and they told us they have connections and if you donate money instead of your own food they can buy so much more, and what they actually need. So I recommend donating money if you can spare it!

    Posted 12.10.18 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      Great tip!! We volunteer there too, and help sort and bag food…it’s a lot to work through all the random donations!

      Posted 12.10.18 Reply
  7. Shelly wrote:

    I love the idea of giving back during the holiday season, and I’m sure you and your family give back a lot. I also understand that sponsorships are a source of income and you work hard for those. However, pairing this blog topic with a sponsored post takes away from that message of giving back and seems disingenuous.

    Posted 12.10.18 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      Thank you for your comment, Shelly, I definitely want this to be a place of circular conversations. The sponsorship was simply to include my favorite outdoor wear for the family…the content is completely authentic. Regardless though, one doesn’t negate the other. In fact, it’s sponsorships like this that allow us to give back financially to others. Much like your job, my work is paid. Happy holiday to you!! xo. C.

      Posted 12.10.18 Reply
      • Jasmine wrote:

        Perfect response. Your heart is in the right place that’s all that matters. I just started following you and absolutely love your posts. Happy Holidays 🎄

        Posted 12.11.18 Reply
  8. April wrote:

    This is one of my favorite Sugarplum posts. I lost my mom and my stepdad 2 years ago (and I’m an only child) and have struggled to regain a sense of tradition and have my usual jolly spirit during the holidays. I appreciate you sharing your family’s traditions and ways you give back — it energizes me to start new traditions with my close friends and remaining family. Thank you!

    Posted 12.10.18 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      Oh my goodness, April…I am terribly sorry for your loss! I lost my dad just before Christmas last year, and it’s a pain that doesn’t seem to let up. But having fun new memories with my family def helps. Lots of love to you! xo

      Posted 12.10.18 Reply
  9. Caroline Rosas wrote:

    Our advent calendar is made up of activities that range from donating to local charities to family walks, games nights and looking at christmas lights. It is such a fun way to share special moments with our boys and forces us to slow down. We also get Christmas pajamas Christmas Eve – they are wrapped and under everyone’s pillows. My mom did that for us so I have carried that on. It’s fun to come home to and discover that packages, get dressed in them and then we read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    Posted 12.11.18 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      I love those ideas!!

      Posted 12.11.18 Reply
      • Julee Lyn Patterson wrote:

        Proverbs 11:25 says…A generous person will prosper;
        whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
        You seem to have had a very successful year with your blog, collaborations, etc. So it is lovely to see how your family is paying it forward and sharing your blessings with others!

        Posted 12.11.18 Reply
  10. patti wrote:

    Thank you for these great ideas – we are definitely going to do some of them this week. I put up a “Christmas Kindness” bucket list on the fridge for our high school teens this year and so far so good. Simple things are on the list for the kids like – chat with someone at school who has less friends than you, let someone else take their turn in front of you in the lunch line today, join a volunteer event at school, etc.

    Oh – and I crossed a coat of my gift list today thanks to you. Have a great week 🙂

    Posted 12.12.18 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      Oh my gosh, I love that!!!! Such an amazing way to get your kids involved!

      Posted 12.12.18 Reply