It’s been a long year, right? Let’s celebrate the last month of 2020 by doing something special every day as we count down to 2021.

You’ve made it to the last month of 2020, a year that you’ll probably be happy to wave goodbye to. But why not make the most of each day in December? Here’s a list that we put together to inspire you.

Dec. 1: For #GivingTuesday, donate to the local nonprofit of your choice or one of the nonprofits we’ve featured in our new-in-2020 Good Neighbors program. In December, we highlighted the Veterans Community Project in Kansas City, which offers emergency assistance and other services plus transitional housing for homeless vets.

Gift Guide
Midwest Living Gift Guide 2020

Dec. 2: Order a Midwest-made holiday gift; our 2020 gift guide has you covered with thoughtfully chosen favorites shared by our editors and contributors.

Sullivan home West Fargo North Dakota
The feathery fronds on an asymmetrical wreath let light seep into the kitchen.
| Credit: Austin Day with Stylist Lauren Day

Dec. 3: Hang a wreath in your kitchen. You spend a lot of time in there, right? So why keep all the holiday décor somewhere else? Katie and Daren Sullivan decorate the kitchen of their North Dakota home with an asymmetrical wreath, allowing light to seep into the room. The rest of their home will give you some decorating ideas, too!

Credit: Erin Keeffer

Dec. 4: Stocking stuffer alert! Check our Instagram today for a giveaway of three Midwest vinyl stickers to each of 10 lucky winners. That could be you!

Winter cutting garden
Credit: Pete Krumhardt

Dec. 5: Scour your yard for some greens, dried flowers, pine cones or other natural materials to decorate your house. Here are tips for a winter cutting garden + nature-inspired holiday decorations.

Peanut Better Blossoms
Peanut Better Blossoms
| Credit: Blaine Moats

Dec. 6: Try a Christmas cookie recipe swap with a friend. Instead of texting a photo or link, write your favorite recipe on an actual recipe card and mail it. Share a memory about making it on the back for a personal touch.

Dec. 7: Buy a new Midwest cookbook for inspiration during the holidays—and into 2021. Among our picks: 100 Cookies by Minnesotan Sarah Kieffer; Fix It with Food  by star chef and Clevelander Michael Symon;  Love Real Food by Kathryne Taylor of the KC-based blog Cookie and Kate; and Hungry For Harbor Countryby Californian Lindsay Navama about the food of her adopted home of southwest Michigan.

Gold-leaf holiday projects
Gold-leaf holiday decor
| Credit: David Land

Dec. 8: A DIY gold-leaf craft adds sparkle to your surroundings. You could make paper tassels for gift wrap, holly leaves to hang from your tree or flowers to decorate your home.

Dec. 9: Burned out on video calls? Think about a handwritten note—letter writing has been linked to greater contentment, reduced stress and more positive thinking. You might send a postcard to a different friend each week, build a pen-pal relationship with a grandchild or send cards to nursing home residents.

Gold-leaf holiday projects
Masa Madre
| Credit: David Land

Dec. 10: Hanukkah begins today, and Chicago’s Masa Madre—a Jewish-Mexican bakery— is happy to supply the babka. They ship their made-to-order babkas (twisted, brioche-like loaves) nationwide, with options for pick-up or delivery if you live in the Chicago area.

Indianapolis holiday events
Christmas Night of Lights, Indianapolis
| Credit: Courtesy of Visit Indy

Dec. 11: Spend the evening at a drive-through—or, if you feel safe doing so, a walk-through— holiday light show. Not even 2020 can take the shine off holiday lights; here are some of our favorites.

Dec. 12: Treat yourself to take-out from a locally owned restaurant or buy a gift card to tuck in someone’s stocking.

Brown Butter Apricot Bars
Brown Butter Apricot Bars
| Credit: Brie Passano

Dec. 13: Bake some cookies to give to a friend or family member. These Brown Butter Apricot Bars from MWL food writer Leah Eskin ship beautifully—and our senior editor Ginger Crichton says her family loves Midwest Living’s classic Dream Cookies.

Dec. 14: Kick back and watch a favorite movie. Bonus points if it has a Midwest connection. Here are three ideas for making it a complete Midwest movie night, with suggestions for movies, snacks and home accessories.

Dec. 15: Be kind to your skin with the thermostat’s up and humidity’s down. Tackle dry skin and hair with mega-moisturizers like these.

Winter Bean Salad with Fennel and Clementines
Credit: Blaine Moats

Dec. 16: Peel a clementine—and then try it in a recipe! OK, it’s alright if you just peel and eat it, too, but you might be surprised how clementines perk up our winter salad, marinated olives and bourbon smash.

Dec. 17: Follow a new Instagram account. One we recommend: Chicago-based @storiesfromsixfeet. During the pandemic, travel photographer Angela Treimer has turned her lens on Chicagoans—often at home, always at a distance. She captures the city’s vibrancy and vitality, even during tough times.

J Cole Cauliflower Mash
Credit: Adam Albright

Dec. 18: Choose a new recipe to try on Christmas. Even if you’re just cooking for your household members (maybe with other relatives or friends Zoomed in?), it’s always fun to experiment. Featured in our November/December issue: soul food dishes like Juicy J Salmon or J Cole Cauliflower Mash from Gerard Klass and his wife Brittney, co-owners of Minneapolis’ Soul Bowl.

Dec. 19: Make our Double-Hot Drinking Chocolate (a dash of cayenne pepper makes it extra-flavorful) or another warm winter drink.

Poinsettias and crafts
Poinsettia Craft by Kim Hutchison
| Credit: Adam Albright

Dec. 20: Get ready to pretty up your Christmas table with one of our poinsettia decorating ideas—perhaps crafting faux versions from red paper cocktail napkins, or making glittery small vases to hold petite poinsettia displays.

Ice luminaria
Ice luminarias
| Credit: Ackerman + Gruber

Dec. 21: On the darkest day of the year, light up your yard with a DIY ice luminaria. Minnesota ice wrangler Jennifer Shea Hedberg shows you how.

Tiny tannenbaums

Dec. 22: Add last-minute festive touches to your home with any of our ideas for quick and easy holiday decorating, such as assembling ornaments and greenery on a tray or making trees from holiday-theme scrapbooking paper.  

Dec. 23: Take a walk or drive in your neighborhood to look at the holiday lights, with holiday music playing on your phone, of course.

Maple Mascarpone Cheesecake
Credit: Brie Passano

Dec. 24: Prepare a wonderfully decadent dessert like one of our cheesecakes (that Maple Mascarpone, so creamy and rich!) or another of our favorite holiday treats for your Christmas dinner.

Dec. 25: Merry Christmas! Reach out today to someone—a friend, a relative, a neighbor—that you haven’t been in touch with for awhile. Call, send a chatty email, leave a small surprise gift on their porch. We will need to social distance a bit longer, all the more reason to reconnect in other ways.

Dec. 26: Kwanzaa, a celebration of African-American heritage and culture, starts today. Learn more or get recipe and craft ideas here.

Dec. 27: Hand-write a thank-you note to someone who will appreciate the personal touch.

Dec. 28: Get a comfort TV fix either with your own favorite show, or Saved by the Barn, a favorite of MWL writer Kelsey Ogletree. “Watching sheep and goats be nursed back to health is so heartwarming. I’m obsessed,” she says.

Dec. 29: Start brainstorming a trip for 2021. To get you started, check out some of our favorite Midwest resorts or ideas for road trips in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.  

Dec. 30: Make a list of your New Year’s resolutions—or start a new family tradition by filling in predictions for 2021. Print out lists of 5 to 10 questions about your family, your community, the world—it’s your list, you decide—and have all your family members answer them, then seal the answers in an envelope for a year. Enjoy opening them December 30, 2021, and see who correctly predicted the most events.

Champagne Cocktail
Credit: Brie Passano

Dec. 31: Happy New Year’s Eve! For an at-home celebration, bake some Cheesy Rosemary and Pecan Snack Mix—seriously one of the best snack mixes we’ve ever tried—or another great snack mix combo. If you want a new drink to toast in the New Year, we’ve got ideas for those, too. Cheers to 2021!