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Christmas is a time for family, friends, festive spirit, and if you’re a tech geek, avoiding all these things as much as possible. Even with all the commitments that comes with the holidays, with no work and lots of things closed you still get plenty of free time. And what’s the best way to fill that free time? A DIY project or two.

Even better, if you take on a Christmas themed project you can legitimately claim to be getting into the holiday spirit all while locking yourself away with your favorite soldering iron and an Arduino. If you need to fulfil some family commitments you can just let the kids help. The holidays really are a perfect time to do some DIY.

Let’s look at seven awesome project ideas you can do over the Christmas holidays.

Christmas Snowball Lights

Regret buying those tacky Christmas lights? It doesn’t take much to turn them into something a lot more special: a box of ping pong balls and a drill can be enough. Instructables user hboom does just that in this super simple Christmas themed project. Sometimes you don’t need to go all in with Arduinos and Raspberry Pis to make something cool.

By putting each bad LED inside a ping pong ball, you can turn the worst Christmas lights into beautiful glowing orbs. For half an hour of your time and a few dollars it’s easy to dress up your decorations this Christmas.

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Control Your Christmas Lights With an Arduino

If you do want to get a bit more involved, it’s possible to use an Arduino and Raspberry Pi to get total control over your Christmas lights. You can create static or dynamic patterns like in the video above. Osprey22, another Instructables user, has made a tutorial that shows how to do just that. This setup is far more capable than anything you can buy in a store.

Combine this with the previously mentioned snowball lights, you’ll have the coolest Christmas tree going.

A Tiny Arduino Powered Christmas Tree

An Arduino powered Christmas tree doesn’t have to be a huge space hog. This awesome little Christmas mini tree from Instructables user Imperkins, is built just using LEDs and copper wire. It will fit in even the tiniest apartment and would make a cool Christmas table center piece.

If you’ve got the few hours you need to build it, it’s a great little project for putting your soldering skills Learn How to Solder, with These Simple Tips and Projects Learn How to Solder, with These Simple Tips and Projects Are you a little intimidated by the thought of a hot iron and molten metal? If you want to start working with electronics, you're going to need to learn to solder. Let us help. Read More to the test, and learning how to control lots of LEDs with a limited number of IO channels.

The World’s Cheesiest Christmas Sweater

In Ireland there’s a tradition of awful Christmas sweaters (we call them “jumpers”). The cheesier it is, the better. Around Christmas time people try to outdo each other with how bad a sweater they can find. This year, I know I’m going to win by breaking out some simple DIY skills.

This tutorial from Instructables user librarianjd shows how to use a LilyPad Development Board to add flashing lights to an (already awful) Christmas sweater.

It doesn’t matter if you want to show off your (lack of) festive dress sense or just start experimenting with e-textiles, adding some lights to a Christmas jumper is a quick and easy project to do over the holidays. You could even make one as a present.

Make Your Own Christmas Cards

I already showed how to design your own Christmas card in Photoshop How to Make Your Own Christmas Card in Photoshop How to Make Your Own Christmas Card in Photoshop It's never been easier to make your own Christmas card on Photoshop. In this article, we walk you through making one. Read More but if you’re not comfortable with software or want something a little more hands on you can break out your DIY skills. With a few sheets of card, a couple of pens, glue, and a bit of creativity you can make some stunning, personalized Christmas cards that will impress anyone — even the most demanding mother-in-law.

Whether you’re on a budget or just want to show people you care, a DIY Christmas card is one of the best ways to spread some holiday cheer (and show off your skills at the same time).

Of course it’s too late to send them now, but with all this free time you can be sure you’ll have a set of beautifully unique cards for next year.

Build Anything With Children

Perhaps even better than building something for yourself is to take the time to build something with children. These could be your children, your sibling’s kids, or even just a family friend’s, but Christmas is a great time to share your DIY skills.

A Raspberry Pi makes a great stocking filler, so why not give one to the kids you’ll be seeing over Christmas (here are some reasons why 5 Reasons to Give Your Kids a Raspberry Pi 5 Reasons to Give Your Kids a Raspberry Pi If you don't own a Raspberry Pi and you have children of a suitable age, you need to seriously think about bringing one home. It could transform your child's life – here's why. Read More ) and spend a few hours teaching them how to use it? Getting children started early with DIY DIY Dad & Mom: Raise Your Kid to Be a Tinkerer with Cool Home Projects DIY Dad & Mom: Raise Your Kid to Be a Tinkerer with Cool Home Projects Do you and your kids tinker together? If not, start today. Teach them to create things and you teach them to take control of their world. Read More is one of the best things you can do. It gives them an understanding of how the world around them works.

Here at MakeUseOf we’ve covered some great Minecraft DIY projects you can do with children 7 DIY Minecraft Projects Your Kids Will Go Mad For 7 DIY Minecraft Projects Your Kids Will Go Mad For With a bit of elbow grease, you can turn the wonder of Minecraft into reality. Whether they're made for your kids or with your kids, these DIY projects will deliver. Read More . Most of them can be done in just a few hours; perfect for a lazy day after Christmas.

Whatever DIY Project You’ve Been Putting Off

Any DIY project you do over the holidays doesn’t have to be holiday themed. While Christmas day itself tends to be very busy with family commitments, the few days after are often a lot quieter. It’s the perfect opportunity to put some real time into whatever DIY project you’ve been putting off.

It doesn’t matter whether the project is big or small, whether it’s to learn a new DIY skill Learn Basic DIY Skills Online With YouTube Learn Basic DIY Skills Online With YouTube While DIY falls in and out of fashion depending on the state of the economy, individual styles, and the availability of professionals and materials, there will always be someone, somewhere keen to learn basic DIY... Read More or build something awesome, the holidays are a great time to do it.

Wrapping Up

Christmas is a time for family, friends and festive spirit, but it’s also the perfect time to grab a soldering iron and do some DIY. You can even combine all your Christmas commitments with DIY by making something Christmassy like snowball lights or an Arduino powered Christmas tree, or you can just get your family and friends involved by sharing your skills with them. Some of my happiest childhood memories are when my brother, my dad and I would spend the day after Christmas building things.

If you build something over Christmas we’d love to see it. Share any projects or ideas in the comments below.

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