The 12 Dates of Christmas

Christmas is the most romantic time of the year, so take full advantage of the season with these twelve festive (and often inexpensive!) date ideas.

And don’t forget — you can find someone to go with by posting a date idea on HowAboutWe! “On the first day of Christmas, my date said, ‘How about we….’ ”

1. The Christmas Market Date

Christmas markets, which originated in Germany, are street markets centered around the celebration of — you guessed it — Christmas. There are usually stalls of Christmas ornaments, artisan gifts for sale, hot cider, sausages, live music, and general Christmas cheer.

Most major cities have Christmas Markets, especially on the East Coast. (See: Union Square Christmas Market in New York, the Christmas Village in Philadelphia, Boston Christmas Festival, etc.) Many smaller towns or German community centers will also host variations.

That Extra Something: Challenge each other to pick out a perfect (or cheesy, or grotesque) ornament for each other, with a $10 budget. One day, you may be hanging those ornaments with your kids and telling them about your first date…

Time Commitment: You can speed through a Christmas market pretty quickly, so this is the ideal weeknight date if you can spare half an hour after work, before dinner. Even if you get food, stop and listen to the music, and look at every single booth, you probably won’t want to stay for more than an hour and a half, so plan a second activity in case the date goes well.

Price: Free to walk around! Cup of cider or cocoa shouldn’t set you back more than $4 each.

2. The Christmas Music Date

It’s the one month of the year when you’re allowed to listen to Holiday music, so might as well make the most of it. Most churches invite the public in for holiday concerts, so check the local schedules. If you live in a bigger city, you can attend a performance of Handel’s Messiah or The Nutcracker Suite as performed by your local symphony, or maybe a Pops Concert of some sort playing more modern Christmas music.

That Extra Something: Pre- or post-concert champagne at a hotel bar that’s all decked out for Christmas.

Time Commitment: Concerts won’t be more than 2 hours long, including intermission.

Price: The cheapest seats for a professional symphony usually start around $30. Church concerts are free (but it’s nice to put in a few dollars when they pass the basket around for offerings).

3. The Light-Peeping Date

In the fall, it’s fun to pile into a car and go leaf-peeping. The winter equivalent is to take a nighttime drive to look the display of Christmas lights.

This is one date that’s more fun to do in the suburbs, so head out of town for an evening and drive around residential neighborhoods, looking for the most impressive displays. Most towns and cities have one street where for whatever reason, neighbors really go all out, and a quick Google search should tell you where to look. If you’re carless in the city, a walk to look at the city lights can suffice, though renting or using ZipCar and heading out of town would really bring things to the next level.

That Extra Something: Have a cup of hot chocolate waiting for your date in the cupholder when you pick them up.

Time Commitment: An hour, minimum, if you live in the suburbs, longer if you have to drive out to them. As long as the music and the conversation is good, a nice night drive can easily last a good four hours!

Price: If you have a car, then just the price of gas and hot chocolate. If you have to rent a car, then, that’s another story…

4. The Movie Marathon Date

There’s the holiday movie you love (Gremlins), the holiday movie your date loves (Love, Actually), the holiday movie you have to watch every year because it’s a classic (White Christmas), and the holiday movie that sort of scarred you both as children (Prancer). If the weather outside is frightful, watch all of these movies back to back in a holiday movie marathon. Swap the traditional movie popcorn for Reindeer Crunch, make some hot buttered rum, don your snuggies, and settle down for a night of Christmas magic.

That Extra Something: If possible, take it outdoors! Sure, it’s cold, but it’s December, not January. Head to the roof of your building or the backyard, and project your movie onto the wall, the snow, or one of these amazing inflatable movie screens. Then bundle up, fill up the thermos, and enjoy camping in the snow. (You can always go inside if it gets too cold.)

Time Commitment: Approximately the length of your average snowed-in weekend, depending on how many movies you queue up. (Easily adjustable.)

Price: Projectors and movie screens, if you don’t already have access to one, can be expensive. Otherwise, cost of video rental and popcorn!

5. The Cliched-But-Still-Fun Ice Skating Date

If you’ve ever seen a romantic comedy, you know that holding hands while skating around an ice rink is de rigueur during the holiday season. Don’t try to escape it: embrace it. Pack a flask with some spiked cocoa (for courage, and, ehrm, balance!), head to the cheesiest, most overcrowded rink of all, and pledge not to leave til you’ve done a full loop, or heard “Jingle Bell Rock” played three times, whichever comes first.

That Extra Something: If you’re confident on your skates, a figure-eight or two never hurt anyone when it comes to impressing a date…

Time Commitment: An hour, at least.

Price: At Rockefeller Center, an adult ticket will cost around $20, and skate rental will be about $10. Assuming every other rink in America will be comparable, or less expensive.

6. The Toy Store Date

As long as you pick a time when it’s not too crowded, like late on a weeknight, toy stores are the best at Christmastime. Even if you don’t have a kid in your life, charitable organizations such as Toys for Tots or Salvation Army’s Angel Program let you buy toys for children in need. Perfect excuse to check out all the awesome toys kids get to have now, under the guise of being philanthropic. Ch-ching!

That Extra Something: Some Adopt-A-Family programs lets you deliver your gifts in person, an experience that’s sure to make the heart of any grinch grow three sizes that day.

Time Commitment: Two hours total for shopping and delivering.

Price: $20-$60 for gifts, depending on how many children, what types of gifts, etc.
7. The Christmas Tree Date

This is an adventure not for the faint of heart, but if you really want to make yourself appealing to a date, show of your outdoorsy, woodchopping skills. Most places in the United States, with the exception of like, Arizona maybe, have Christmas tree farms within a two hour drive or so, (and often much closer). At the farm, you’ll be able to choose a tree that’s still growing and then, yes, chop it down! It’s a lot of work, but you can reward yourself with hot chocolate and apple cider donuts which most farms sell. If you simply aren’t in a position to go to a tree farm, going out to pick out a pre-cut Christmas tree can still be a pretty fun, if not quite as engaging, experience.

That Extra Something: Bring the tree home and trim it together!

Time Commitment: An entire afternoon/early evening, at least. But worth it!

Price: Not cheap! On top of gas, snacks, etc, Christmas Trees usually cost around $50 and up, depending on the size.

8. The Anti-Christmas Date

Some days, some years, you’re just not into Christmas. If you’re feeling a little Holiday’d-out, escape the madness with an Anti-Christmas date. Some people do Christmas in July, so you and your date can celebrate July during Christmas. Head to a Mexican restaurant for ice-cold margaritas, chips, and guac. Go to a bar, preferably one not decked out with Christmas lights, and request all your favorite summer anthems on the juke box. Clear off the snow from your BBQ and grill up some burgers. Forget about Christmas altogether.

That Extra Something: Find a heated outdoor swimming pool or hottub and go swimming in the cold!

Time Commitment: An evening.

Price: Moderately inexpensive, depending on how many margaritas you throw back.

9. The Christmas Gluttony Date

There’s a ton of food mentioned in Christmas music: pumpkin pie, figgy pudding, corn for popping, etc. Make a scavenger hunt and try to find and sample all the food and drink mentioned in your favorite carols. Roasted Chestnuts will probably be pretty easy, but Figgy Pudding might take a while…

That Extra Something: Find a recipe and make your own!

Time Commitment: A full evening.

Price: Probably around $40 for both of you, if you sample a variety of food and drink.

10. The SantaCon Date

Santacon is the one day a year where hundreds of people dress up in Santa outfits and go on a huge pub crawl. It gets pretty rowdy, but the event’s ever-increasing popularity is a testament to how fun it actually is to play Santa for a day. You can go all out and rent a costume, or fashion something yourself using what you already have. A Santa Hat is a must, however. The original Santacon is in New York City, but there are similar versions throughout the US.

If Santacon is a little too intense for you, you can go wassailing (yep, like the song), which basically means drunken Christmas caroling. Whatever floats your boat.

That Extra Something: Show up to your date wearing a mistletoe headband.

Time Commitment: A full day and a half (including the morning you’ll spend sleeping in, hungover, on Sunday).

Price: If you go all out and rent or purchase a Santa costume, and buy drinks, this date can cost upwards of $100.

11. The Window Shopping Date

Some people think that Christmas has become too much of a capitalist enterprise in the last 50 years or so, and maybe this is true, but at least stores make up for it by providing mind-blowing window displays, right? Take a stroll through the main shopping district of your town or city and check out the windows at major department stores. (Some have Christmas traditions that are unique to that particular location: the Macy’s in Philadelphia, for instance, has had a light show since 1956.) Stores plan their Christmas displays months and months in advance, and the results are usually pretty spectacular.

That Extra Something: A hot toddy at the end of the night at a pub with a roaring fire place, or a hotel with a piano player singing Christmas songs.

Time Commitment: An hour and a half to two hours.

Price: It’s window shopping — free!

12. The Day AFTER Christmas Date

It’s known as Boxing Day in the UK, and Return All Your Presents Day in the US. Head to the mall with your date and figure out how to maximize your Christmas haul. Did you get duplicate Gift Certificates? Maybe you can trade or exchange one with your date. Check out the sales, return the ugly sweaters, and rejoice in the fact that the Christmas frenzy is over until next year.

That Extra Something: Spend the day rest of the day indoors, eating leftovers and playing with the Christmas gifts you didn’t end up exchanging (new DVDs, a Wii, etc.).

Time Commitment: Hours of standing in line….

Price: Free! You’re cashing in on this one.

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