It’s the Little Things: How We Find Happiness, for Free

Libby Kane

If you’ve been following our Guerrilla Guide to the Holidays, you know the holidays are in our crosshairs.

By following our guides, you’ve saved time and money. Now the work is over, and it’s time to kick back, enjoy and remember what all that work was for—happy holidays filled with fun, family and bliss.

Forget snowdrifts: Sometimes the holidays can get buried in the pursuit of perfection.

We get so focused on finding the perfect gift or making our homes perfect replicas of the North Pole, that we forget to celebrate the little moments.

The ones in between the shopping and buying and wrapping and cooking that make this time of year one we look forward to for months.

This year we’re not letting them go by without noticing. So we a made a different sort of holiday list: One that captures all the times we find joy this season …  for absolutely free.

Here are a few of our favorites:

The first few snowflakes of the first snowfall.

Taking more than your share of salmon puffs at the office cocktail party.

Setting the “out of office” message before you leave for the holidays.

Watching families greet each other at the airport.

Seeing the neighbors go for broke with their Christmas lights.

The taste of hot chocolate … with peppermint Schnapps.

A long overdue catchup session with your college roommate.

Ugly Christmas sweaters.

The smell of evergreens as you walk by trees for sale.

Streetlights wrapped in twinkling lights.

Seeing everyone you love in the same room.

Choosing who gets to lick the spoon.

Tying a perfect bow!

Finding the perfect gift.

Chinese food and a movie on Christmas Eve.

Realizing your mittens are warm enough while playing in the snow.

Passing off a store-wrapped present as your own handiwork.

Donning sequins and not worrying that it’s “too much.”

Having someone to kiss as the clock strikes twelve.

A genuine compliment on that New Year’s Eve dress you got for half off.

Making a resolution—and meaning it.

Those are our favorite free moments–now share yours below.

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If you can’t savor these moments often enough, check out these 13 signs you’re too busy.

  • LJ

    Finding an orange and a toothbrush in my stocking.

  • Joyjonesok

    Wearing matching Christmas sweaters on Christmas morning……for our family’s eyes only. :)

  • Lorinury

    Waiting for my children to wake up and open their presents…they are teenagers you know!

  • Kalamazookim

    I get to work at the information desk at the airport. I was just so filled with happiness last night, telling people statuses of the flights that their loved ones were traveling on – and watching their faces light up when I could tell them that the flight was in the air and only a few miles out. Watching the hugs of the reunions and seeing people cling to each other while they waited for their luggage. It brought tears to my eyes.

    • Hopelongpanda

      Just reading this is bringing tears to my eyes!

  • Elizabethpanpan

    Seeing the joy and pride in my parent’s faces when their kids come home and gather together as a family.

  • Amy Wilson

    Watching the sky for Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve.

    • Avashy

      truly my favorite memory from childhood christmas : )

  • Ginalee

    Having some older folks over last night, so we could sample fresh baked  cookies and admire vintage Christmas decorations together.

  • 11suon

    Resigning from 6 years at my current prestigous job to start a new avenue in my career in the new year.

    • Lya348

      Good for you!! Wishing you the best of luck – sure you’ll do terrific!

    • Flor Ruiz

      That’s great!  Wishing you the best!

  • DrowsyZot

    My sisters and I going back home and waking each other–and our parents–up before dawn to open presents together by the Christmas tree light.

  • Anonymous

    Hiding the last Christmas tree ornament to be the one to place it on the tree

  • Kelly

    Listening to my 4th grade clarinet player’s first concert of “Hot Cross Buns”, “Hot Cross Buns variation” (ooohh it was nice) and “Up on the rooftop”.  Also  her schoolmate’s flute playing solo of little drummer boy was great. Now I’m in the Christmas mood! :) (Even though I haven’t gotten any shopping done! :(


    Watching my childs face light up as she enters the room and sees all the presents and stuffed stockings-priceless

  • Emily Rohrs

    Christmas Movies, Christmas songs on the radio the whole month, being with family on Christmas day. Finding that Perfect gift for that someone special and seeing there face light up when they open it CHristmas Day. Just the whole month of December is awesome. Its the end of one year and the beginning of a New Year! Merry Christmas everyone!

  • Jessica Brodsky

    Thanks for including Chinese Food and a Movie on Christmas Eve! I also LOVE lighting the Chanukah Candles with my family  and picking out a different gift every night  :)

  • Isarey82

    Getting together with my brothers and sister on a marathon-like cooking (and drinking) day for Xmas Eve, we usually celebrate on the eve.

  • Rmmcgs

    Seeing the excitement in children’s eyes when they see Santa, enjoying the gleaming of Christmas lights, listening to the joy and laughter of family and friends!! Enjoy the holidays everyone…this is a wonderful time of the year!!!

  • Susanna Porter

    The family Christmas Eve service at Stanford Memorial Church–beautiful!

  • Bella

    Watching little kids play with the wrapping paper and boxes instead of their gifts.

    • Hopelongpanda

      One of the gifts we’re giving our two-year-old grandson this year is a gift bag full of all the bubble wrap that came in over the last few weeks.  I expect it to be his favorite of all the things we have for him beneath the tree…

  • mynewlife2011

    The best gifts in life are priceless. True happiness comes from within. There are people who are just happy to be living. Life is more precious than anything one can buy. Happy holidays and remember to appreciate people for who they are.

  • Kathy

    Just being with our Grandchildren!!!

  • RochelleT

    Everyone gets new pajamas at Christmas. We open our new pajamas on Christmas Eve, and then we all wear them to bed. The next morning, we wake up early, in our new pajamas (good for pictures!), eat breakfast, open presents and get ready for church.

  • Phmaurer

    Baking cookies with my granddaughter

  • Kkreilin

    Picking a new country (or region) for our x-mas eve theme every year!  This year is the Caribbean.  We go all out: food, drinks, decor, music, etc.  It’s pretty awesome.

  • Karen

    Hot chocolate (or coffee) with Bailey’s Irish cream is great too.  Getting Christmas songs stuck in your head (though I know not EVERYONE would agree with that). 

  • E60lenny

    I do Christmas Themes also – i’ve done Moose (my husbands favorite animal) Snowmen, Santa Claus, White, Christmas Under the Big Top (used Bubble lights)…I usually do a theme the kids will enjoy…this theme carries thru the food, the decorations for the house (inside & out) and crafts for the kids to work on….I buy rubber stamps etc for them to do some decorating on an item (shower curtain or just a pair of curtains I picked up). Everyones gift
    adults & kids are within the Theme…and then I usually have a mug with hot cocoa & candy cane with everyone to go home with.  It’s lots of fun & never hard to come up with an idea
    for a new theme…anything goes..

  • Hhjansen

    Seeing the holiday lights when driving home in the evening.  Being with friends and family on  Christmas day. Those once a year baked treats. Glitter.

  • Dtales9

    Taking in all the good things in life and knowing that Life is not perfect… we try to make it that way but it’s not. Realizing that sometimes it is ok to say NO and to move on to make things better. .. Rising up from mistakes and looking down the road to better days.

  • vbosch

    Having my broken oven replaced by my landlord after 3 months of improvised meals JUST before Christmas Eve.  Tonight…I’m baking cookies:)

    I love reading all of these!  Thanks for the smile!

  • Anonymous

    Playing in the snow until you’re cold, sopping wet, and smell like old socks, and grandma calls you in and has the hot cocoa waiting and grandpa has the fire stoking with marshmallows to toast and put on the cocoa. you warm from the inside and out, and feel loved, and accomplished at all the tunnels and snowmen you managed to make that day :) Even though you’re STILL soggy and smelly, lol.

  • Cmustian

    An unexpected surprise!!!

  • Amira

    spending time with my family. . . something my job can never buy.

  • Customcartoons

    This was the first year our kids (ages 8 and 10) decided to decorate the Christmas tree all by themselves, while I kicked back with a cup of coffee and watched. In my quest to put perfectionism in its place, I didn’t even straighten the ornaments or “even out” the rough spots, just left their creation as is. All the “breakables” went back into the closet for next year for minimum fuss. It was a beautiful tree!

  • Valarie DuprieFan

    one thing that makes me smile-watching your know it all neighbor trip and fall on her fase,and walking right past the annoying bitch.