Ralene Nelson, REALTOR®
REAL ESTATE NEWS
November housing starts post double-digit gains
After dipping by 0.7% in October, housing starts were back up in November. They rose 11.8% month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.68 million units, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Construction of single-family homes increased 11.3% to 1.17 million units, while the construction of multifamily units increased 12.9% to 506,000 units.
Holiday Gift for Home Buyers:
Big Drop in Mortgage Rates
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage posted a big drop this week, falling to a 3.05% average, Freddie Mac reports.
“The market volatility resulting from the COVID-19 omicron variant is causing mortgage rates to decrease,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “As the year comes to a close, the housing market is proceeding steadily. However, rates are expected to increase in 2022 which will impact home buyer demand as well as refinance activity.”
18 Fun Things to Do on
Christmas Day with Friends & Family
The presents have been torn open, the Nutella pancakes have been devoured and you’ve FaceTimed every family member who’s not at your house, but when you look at your watch, it’s only 9 a.m. Yep, there’s something about this particular holiday that can make you feel like you’ve lived a whole life by noon, so it’s no surprise that you might find yourself searching for some fresh ideas for things to do on Christmas Day. Good news: We’ve got you covered with a round-up full of festive, entertaining ways to pass the hours—from hosting a movie night full of your favorite Christmas movies, to passing the time with some Christmas-themed arts and crafts. Whether you’re spending the holidays with your entire extended family or it’s just you and your boo, these winter activities will have you feeling jolly all day long.
1. TOUR THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Once all the leaves have fallen from the trees and winter sets in, the landscape can look a little drab—especially in the absence of fresh-fallen snow. That’s precisely why the appearance of ornate and enchanting Christmas light displays is a sight for sore eyes. Savor the holiday magic as long as possible by making a point to tour your illuminated neighborhood (or one nearby) on Christmas Day. If it’s too frosty to take a tour on foot, you can always pile the family in the car for a drive-thru Christmas lights event. (Note: Hot chocolate and Christmas cookies are optional, but highly recommended.)
2. WATCH A CHRISTMAS MOVIE
…or several. From black-and-white classics that will leave you misty-eyed under the mistletoe (It’s a Wonderful Life, anyone?) to slapstick holiday favorites that will make the whole family jolly, there are no shortage of excellent Christmas movies for any crowd to enjoy. Gather your buddies or snuggle up solo for a Christmas Day viewing experience that promises plenty of holiday vibes, and pairs well with a hot beverage to boot. Not sure which film to choose? Consult our list of Christmas classics and you’re guaranteed to find a feel-good film for audiences of all ages.
3. CHECK OUT A BALLET PERFORMANCE OF ‘THE NUTCRACKER’
BOSTON BALLET IN MIKKO NISSINEN’S THE NUTCRACKER; PHOTO BY LIZA VOLL; COURTESY OF BOSTON BALLET
Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker’ might have started off as a flop, but this gorgeous classical ballet has evolved into one of the most widely-recognized features of the Christmas season. The music alone is worthy of your Christmas playlist, but nothing beats the experience of hearing it performed as it was intended (i.e., brought to life with ballet). The graceful and gravity-defying movements of professional dancers provide a holiday feast for the eyes—so if you can score some tickets to a live performance, we highly recommend it.
4. CLEAN UP AND DONATE
What better way to get into the holiday spirit on Christmas Day than by giving back? But if you’re suddenly inspired to volunteer, keep in mind that most nonprofits get inundated around the holidays and actually need help at other points in the year. Instead, make room for your new loot by working your best Marie Kondo magic and then donating gently used items to organizations that need it like the Salvation Army, Dress for Success, Goodwill and Soles4Souls. Not only will it feel great to free up some space in the closet, but scientific research shows that kindness makes people happier.
5. MAKE IT A THEMED FAMILY GAME NIGHT
KLAUS VEDFELT/GETTY IMAGES
Not up for a major outing on Christmas Day? We don’t blame you…after all, the fire is so inviting. In fact, the holiday season is a perfect occasion to cozy up and relax—and if you find yourself searching for something more to do, simply make it a game night. To keep things appropriately festive, we suggest you stick to holiday-themed games. Good news: This can be done even if your game closet isn’t already stocked with campy holiday options—just check out our roundup of family-friendly (and a few grown-up) Christmas games, many of which come in free printable form, and let the play begin.
6. GO CAROLING
JAMIE GRILL/GETTY IMAGES
Christmas carols have been playing on a loop in every store, home and head for about a month now, so we get it if you’d rather pull the plug on festive music and put on some death metal instead. That said, if you’re still digging the Christmas tunes, why not gather your brood and go caroling? It’s a great excuse to take a stroll, while also spreading the holiday spirit to your neighbors.
7. COOK A CHRISTMAS DAY FEAST
The holidays are all about being with loved ones, and what better way to bring people together than with a massive amount of mouth-watering food. You’ve had a solid month to recover from Thanksgiving, so get your oven mitts back on and round up your support team for a few hours in the kitchen. The payoff will be an Insta-worthy spread and a delicious, indulgent meal fit for the occasion and made all the better by the company you share it with.
8. GO FOR A NATURE WALK
After consuming your body weight in stuffing, it’s time to go outside for some exercise and fresh air. Put on your winter coat and enjoy a walk in the Great Outdoors (if you don’t have a state park within a reasonable distance, any other natural setting will do the trick). And for the grown-ups in the group, may we suggest using one of these hot cocktails as a tasty hand-warmer?
9. GET CRAFTY WITH THANK YOU CARDS
PETER CADE/GETTY IMAGES
Thank you cards: The one Christmas tradition that has a nasty habit of falling by the wayside if you aren’t vigilant. Avoid that mistake by making it a Christmas Day activity—and be sure to get crafty with it for extra fun in the process. Pull out some scrapbooking supplies and sit down for an art project and an opportunity to express gratitude (before you commit the cardinal sin of forgetting whether it was your grandma or your great aunt who gave you those fuzzy slippers).
10. BUILD A GINGERBREAD HOUSE
ELVA ETIENNE/GETTY IMAGES
This classic holiday activity is an excellent way to spend time with the family, and a particularly kid-friendly craft to boot (just beware the sugar rush). The hands-on project is sure to keep everyone entertained after the frenzied present-opening rush has passed and the future snacking potential promises to keep the holiday spirit alive for at least another couple of days. Hint: For an extra challenge, try your hand at gingerbread houses after you’ve done a Christmas lights tour of your neighborhood so you can try to recreate some of your favorite decorations.
11. HIT THE ICE-SKATING RINK
PETER MULLER/GETTY IMAGES
After the excesses of the holiday season and a big Christmas Day brunch, a little exercise promises to be a refreshing change of pace. That said, it doesn’t get much more depressing than going to a gym on Christmas Day (if you can even find one open) and a jog around the neighborhood doesn’t seem particularly festive either. Enter ice skating: The ideal way to get your body moving and breathe in the fresh winter air, while still being surrounded by the twinkling of Christmas lights, of course. Gather your loved ones and hit a nearby rink for an afternoon outing once the morning festivities are finished.
12. GO ON A CANDY CANE HUNT
ISABEL PAVIA/GETTY IMAGES
Yep, you don’t have to wait for Easter to give your kids a chance to search high and low, home and yard, for candy. Simply hang or otherwise hide some candy canes around and sit back while the young sugar fiends race around trying to find the goods. There is no shortage of good hiding spots when it comes to stashing candy canes, so this activity can last as long as you wish—and if you bring the game outdoors, stir-crazy kids can benefit from some much-needed fresh air, too.
13. HOST A WHITE ELEPHANT GIFT EXCHANGE
MASAFUMI_NAKANISHI/ GETTY IMAGES
Alas, once the wrapping paper has been unceremoniously ripped off the last parcel under the tree, the merriment of giving and receiving gifts will have come to an end. Unless, that is, you planned a white elephant party on Christmas Day. This popular gift exchange game boasts an extra element of surprise—anonymity—and plenty of irreverent fun, since selfishness is the strategy at work.
14. ROCK YOUR UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATERS
You may have to literally beg your loved ones to don the ugly Christmas sweaters you bought them, but don’t give up, they will indeed look smashing on your Instagram feed. If you’re facing some serious resistance, up the ante by turning it into a competition where everyone gets to vote for their favorite ugly sweater at the end of the day. Winner gets first dibs on dinner.
15. HOST A REVENGE CHRISTMAS PARTY
If you spent last year’s Christmas riding solo, you’re fully allowed to host a Christmas bash for your loved ones, as long as—and we cannot stress this enough—you are following COVID protocol. Check temperatures, make sure everyone in attendance is vaccinated and have a blast.
16. PERFORM A CHRISTMAS CLASSIC
Because why simply watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas when you can have way more fun performing the classic tale? (We suggest doing a rendition of the book since the film is an hour and 45 minutes long). Other good picks? Miracle on 34th Street, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer and plenty more. You can even do it over Zoom for the family members who weren’t able to travel.
17. HOST A CHRISTMAS KARAOKE NIGHT
ECLIPSE_IMAGES/GETTY IMAGESShow all the haters that you are indeed the Mariah Carey of your friend group by belting out “All I Want for Christmas is You,” at the end of a joyous Christmas karaoke night. Bonus points if you can remember all the lyrics after several glasses of eggnog.
18. GO TO THE MALL
BETSIE VAN DER MEER/GETTY IMAGES
Nothing cures that post-lunch, we-can’t-wait-till-dinner midday slump like a nice trip to the mall and some retail therapy. Take a picture with Santa, treat yourself to something sweet and, hell, maybe even pick up a nice gift (or two) for yourself because honestly, can you really have too many presents.