Expecting a Raspberry Pi for Christmas? Got one (or more) laying around, waiting for some action? Perhaps something a bit Christmas-themed? How about a dozen Raspberry Pi projects that you can make in a day. But not just any day — each of the 12 days of Christmas!
That’s right: it’s time to show your true love (your Raspberry Pi, that is!) exactly what it means to you. Say thank you to your Raspberry Pi with these twelve top seasonal projects.
1. Start Early for Advent
Start off with some LED candles for Advent. But when does it begin? Interestingly, Advent starts on a different date each year. So why not combine a digital dating system with some LED candles and have them automatically start up on the correct date each year?
Here’s the solution: a bit of code from GitHub and the full steps at the Element14 website. Any model of Raspberry Pi is suitable for this, so if you have an old Model A or Model B cluttering up a drawer, this might be the way to finally get it out of retirement!
2. Christmas Tree Light Show
It’s always good to get the Christmas tree sorted out in good time, too. This Raspberry Pi Christmas Sequencer project uses a Pi to drive Christmas tree lights. A Pi is used rather than an Arduino in order to sync music to the lights.
Full instructions can be found in this Instructable by Osprey22, and it’s best set up for use with a fake tree, as opposed to a farmed one. This is because the equipment is mounted below the tree, where the water would typically be feeding a natural tree.
Meanwhile, if you want Christmas tree lights powered by your Raspberry Pi but don’t have the skills to construct a light show, consider a budget alternative. The Pi Hut sells a compact 3D Christmas Tree for the Raspberry Pi that simply sits in the GPIO slot!
3. Christmas-Themed Magic Mirror From an Old Laptop
There are many uses for an old laptop, and extracting the display to reuse it for a futuristic “magic” mirror is one of the best. The idea is simple: you build a mirror that not only reflects back at you, but also shares information.
We recently built such a device, noting that the toughest part wasn’t with the hardware or the programming, but the frame. As such, our instructions will give you everything you need to get this up and running.
While our version of the project isn’t in the slightest bit seasonal, it shouldn’t take much work to adapt. On top of the obligatory Christmas decorations, you could add information such as the NORAD Santa Tracker to the display. It might even count down the number of shopping days until Christmas!
4. Christmas Gift: A RetroPie Game Center!
The 12 days of Christmas has always been about delivering a gift to a loved one. On the fourth day, the old song goes, it was “four calling birds” — we don’t have that, but reckon a Raspberry Pi-based gaming center should be more than adequate as a replacement.
There are so many options available to you here, from building a full cabinet with a Raspberry Pi 3 inside playing MAME titles, to sticking a Raspberry Pi Zero inside an existing (but disused) TV. At the heart of this, you’ll need RetroPie or RecalBox (although there are plenty of alternatives available). For a genuine Christmas feel, you might decorate the machine seasonally.
Of course, if you own any Christmas themed retro games (a few were produced back in the day, often printed in the back of magazines for you to type up at home) then packaging these into the finished game center would make a great gift!
Alternatively, you could produce your own variant of a popular reissued games console, using a Raspberry Pi and a suitable case. The NESPi Raspberry Pi enclosure is one such example.
5. Control Your Exterior Christmas Lights
It’s not a real Christmas until you’ve illuminated the neighborhood with your own holiday lights. But what’s the best way of controlling them? Well, a Raspberry Pi comes high on the list, and if teamed up with the necessary relays, the GPIO array can be used.
You’ll agree that the instructions and video above yield some pretty stunning results. The use of a display seems wise, as does a waterproof box. However, there is plenty to learn from the preamble: you might not want to make your lights accessible to strangers.
However, this is a pretty muted collection of Christmas lights, we think. Could you do better, and control the snowman in the garden, and the Santa on the roof, from your Raspberry Pi?
6. Digital Photo Frame Tree Decoration
Most Christmas decorations are pretty bling. Golds, reds, perhaps blues and silvers, depending on preference. Having a color scheme is a great idea… but is it enough? Surely there’s some way to “tech up” the Christmas tree decorations?
As you can see, the answer is “yes” thanks to a digital photo frame approach. This build uses a compact Raspberry Pi display, specifically a TFT from Adafruit, hooked up to a Pi running digital photo frame software.
Now, while we like the application displayed above, it makes sense to include not just standard photos, but Christmas and other seasonal snaps.
7. Raspberry Pi Fireplace
Live in a flat, or some other property without a chimney? Worried about St Nicholas getting stuck in your boiler or radiator? What you need is a DIY fireplace, powered by a Raspberry Pi and some Neopixel LED strips!
This LED fireplace is a great example of how you can use a Raspberry Pi to completely change your circumstances. While it requires some woodwork, setting up the Pi with the LED strips is relatively straightforward. You might even add a sound loop of some burning logs to complete the effect — just don’t expect your home to get any warmer.
8. Christmas Songs When You Enter the Room
Nothing says Christmas more in the 21st century than a collection of seasonal music dating back to the 1950s. Whether you prefer Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree or All I Want for Christmas Is You, your Raspberry Pi can be the herald of seasons greetings. We previously showed how to build a music player that activates as soon as you enter the room.
So, why not adapt this? Instead of playing your own theme tune, use the Raspberry Pi to play a favorite Christmas song? It could be a popular hit, or a Christmas carol, or it might simply be Jingle Bells. Just make sure your choice sets the season mood!
9. Smart Gingerbread House
YouTuber Estafannie De la Garza has hit a home run with this project, which although complex, looks fantastic. Combining a Raspberry Pi and Arduino with servos, lights, buzzers and a lot of soldering, the smart gingerbread house is controlled via a web page hosted on the Pi. Take a look.
What you get here is a solar powered lights and music extravaganza, complete with dancing gingerbread men! Note, however, that however much you might like gingerbread, this house is secured using a glue gun, rather than icing. Also, the sensors in the build take up some key positions inside and out, so you need to be careful with your candy.
10. Home Automate Your Christmas Tree
Who’s the most useful member of your household? We’re willing to bet it’s Alexa, and with the right software you can team Amazon’s home assistant up with your Raspberry Pi. When it comes to Christmas decorations, all you need are some NeoPixels (enough to decorate your full tree) and jumper wires. Neopixels are a great DIY project staple, as useful building a giant pixel display as they are for home automation lighting.
Ordering Alexa to switch on or alter the brightness of your lights is a great bit of home automation. Better still this project will run with a Raspberry Pi Zero W. Find out more by checking the full instructions on Alex Ellis’s site.
As the builds go on this page, this is probably the simplest.
11. Santa Detector
Need to catch a benevolent old man delivering presents? Rather you weren’t caught out of bed when he turns up? Whatever the reason, it makes sense to have a Santa Clause detector to hand. But where might you find such a thing…?
Using motion sensors (passive IR), a Raspberry Pi 2 (or Raspberry Pi 3), and speakers or headphones, this build — available from the official Raspberry Pi website — can spot Santa approaching. It features an alarm, a Santa sprite, and the challenge to add more effects and notifications for when “the fat man” arrives.
12. Christmas Photo Booth
Christmas is here, and it’s party time! One way to retain the wonderful memories that you’re about to make is to construct a photo booth. Forget about smartphone cameras, and use your Raspberry Pi!
Perhaps the most complicated build on this page, you’ll need to prepare in advance. 3D printed components are required for this, and you might like to construct a temporary background for your photo booth. Spice things up with some Christmas masks and accessories, or a snazzy jumper. You’ll find the full details for this build at Makezine.com However, you might combine it with this, which produces printed photos via a thermal printer:
All Together Now!
With so many builds you can make in a day, it makes sense to start from the first day of Christmas and work through to the twelfth, building one at a time. At the very least, it will be a challenge. But will you accept? Make sure you learn how to solder first though!
While you think about it, perhaps now is the time to have a singalong:
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me:
- A Christmas photo booth
- One Santa detector
- An automated Christmas tree
- One smart gingerbread house
- Christmas songs when I enter
- A sizzling Raspberry Pi fireplace
- Custom digital photo frame tree decorations
- And control your exterior Christmas lights with a Raspberry Pi
- RetroPie gaming station
- Christmas magic mirror
- Christmas tree light show
- And some automated advent candles
What do you think? Are you ready to start, or do you have your own Raspberry Pi Christmas project lined up? Tell us about it below!
Image Credit: sjhuls/Depositphotos