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10 alternative things to do on Christmas Day

30 November 2020

2020 has been an unusual year, so perhaps it's time to swap a traditional Christmas for something a little more unusual? Here are 10 alternative ways to spend Christmas Day.

Christmas doggy
Get fresh air and help a busy friend or neighbour by walking their dog

Take a dip in the sea

Are you brave enough to get wet this year? On Christmas Day, up and down the country, people in seaside towns and villages don Santa hats, fancy dress costumes and, more sensibly, wetsuits, and race into the sea – all to raise money for charity. Each year The Outdoor Swimming Society compiles a list of events taking place and provides safety information for new swimmers, so do check their safety advice. Some of these events might be a little different this year - some, such as Swim Serpentine, are already cancelled, while others are holding their events spread out throughout the day or throughout the month to avoid large crowds gathering.

Lend a helping hand

Charities need volunteers all year round, but especially so at Christmas, and 2020 is no different (although safety precautions mean that the running of events will be different this year) so why not offer to lend a hand? Perhaps by helping Crisis at Christmas serve lunch on the 25th to homeless people in Birmingham, Edinburgh, London, Newcastle and Oxford. Or spend a few hours with an elderly person who otherwise would be alone on Christmas Day, and while things might be a bit different due to Covid-19 restrictions this year there are still a lot of grass roots events happening across the country, such as Christmas meal deliveries and 'street drinks'. Find out what events are already happening or register your own at Community Christmas. Other volunteering opportunities are available at the Royal Voluntary Service, including plenty of virtual volunteering options.

Find out about online volunteering opportunities.

Find a four-legged friend

If on Christmas Day you always like to head outdoors for a bit of fresh air, don’t set off alone - offer to walk a friend or neighbour’s dog. Routine can go out the window at Christmas time, so dog owners will eagerly hand over the lead. And you can bet the dog will be keen to escape excitable children, loud crackers and a bustling house too.

Get on your bike

Whether Father Christmas has been generous and delivered a new shiny bicycle to you on Christmas morning, or there’s an old rusty boneshaker sitting in your shed, get on your bike on the 25th. Either enjoy deserted cycle tracks alone, or invite sporty members of your friends and family bubble to join you.

Enjoy outdoor tourist attractions

World Heritage Sites such as the stone circle at Avebury and Lulworth Cove on Dorset’s Jurassic coast are often busy all year round, but not on Christmas Day. Spend time exploring an area and marvel that you can actually take photos of these spectacular sights without anyone else being in them. The National Trust have said that although many of their facilities will be closed there will be outdoor light displays around Christmas at many of their sites, check their website for more details. North of the border, Edinburgh Zoo stays open on 25th December so pop along and wish the residents a merry Christmas at one of their socially distanced VIP events.

Do check opening times with venue or tourist board websites and social media before setting off as restrictions will vary across the country. Remember to check what facilities might be shut, such as car parks and loos.

Attend a Christmas concert

If you usually spend most of Christmas Day in the kitchen, a couple of hours’ reprieve at a Christmas concert will boost festive spirits, especially if you love a singalong. Check out local newspapers to see if any local churches are holding virtual carol services or socially distanced events on the 25th, or join one of the many events happening across the country, including live streams from Canterbury Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral.

Dish up Christmas dinner to a dog or two

There are thousands of abandoned dogs and cats in animal rescue centres around the country, cared for 365 days of the year by dedicated staff and volunteers. Join a team this Christmas Day and help to serve up doggy (and cat) dinners to some furry friends who are waiting to find their forever homes, so contact your local animal shelters to find out whether there is anything you can help them with. You may even be tempted to give a dog or cat another chance.

Find out more about rehoming a rescue dog

Do some gardening

Garlic is best planted in late autumn or early winter, so if you haven’t already put some cloves in the ground, Christmas Day is the ideal time to be in the garden. Rhubarb crowns can also be planted in well-prepared soil, as can strawberry plants. If you’re more of a flower lover, then pop some tulip bulbs in pots – they can be planted right up until Christmas and still flower well in the spring.

Read our list of December garden jobs

Go on a walking tour

Cities and towns can be eerily quiet on Christmas morning, but it’s a perfect time to wander around the city’s streets. One option is to pick up a guide book and go on a walking tour - books are available for London, St Andrews, Oxford and many others, so find a nearby location and pick out a book that interests you, whether that's general history, literary history, canal routes or art and architecture walks. EBook versions can often be picked up for just a few pounds.

Read our guide to the best romantic literary walks in the UK

Spoil yourself at home

Don’t want to risk leaving the house? Then enjoy an alternative Christmas Day in the comfort of your own home. Indulge and celebrate doing whatever you choose – pamper yourself in the bath, read a bestseller from cover to cover, catch up on all those Netflix or Amazon Prime boxsets, or simply relax and enjoy this year's Christmas television and have fun. Merry Christmas!

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.