How to Celebrate a Public Domain Christmas

Public domain refers to information and materials that are considered to be "public property". Nobody owns or controls public domain information, leaving you free to use it as you'd like.[1] What this can mean for your Christmas celebrations depends on your interests but there is a lot of public domain information for you to use. This article draws together some of the public domain information that might be useful for your Christmas celebrations, and suggests how you might use it.


  1. Image titled Celebrate a Public Domain Christmas Step 1
    Decorate using public domain Christmas art. Look for public domain artwork, clip art, images, and photos using your usual search engine. There are many old-fashioned styles of artwork available for use and increasingly more artists are sharing their Christmas themed art for free use.
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    Play or sing public domain Christmas music (songs, hymns, and instrumental). A quick search online will reveal numerous pieces of Christmas music available in the public domain that can be played in public spaces without any copyright repercussions.[2]
    • Use public domain Christmas songs for school, church, community groups, college, or work. Go caroling.
    • Examples of public domain Christmas songs include: Angels We Have Heard on High, Away in a Manger, Deck the Halls, Here We Come A-Caroling, The First Noel, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, Jingle Bells, Jolly Old St. Nicholas, Joy to the World, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Silent Night, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and What Child is This?[3]
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    Cook public domain Christmas or holiday recipes. The beauty of the internet is the easy availability of many recipes from times past. There are a lot of public domain Christmas recipes. Start with cookbooks on Project Gutenberg, looking under the seasonal or holiday cooking sections of the books.
    • Look for free recipe ebooks given away on blogs and websites as well as old publications of recipes. Many of the ebooks take older public domain information and update it to modern standards.
    • Be careful with measurements in older recipes; they can be a lot less precise than what we're used to nowadays!
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    Make art and crafts with public domain art and patterns. There are many amazing crafts and gift ideas that are possible using public domain art and ideas. Look for old craft books on sites such as Gutenberg, or do searches online with such terms as "public domain Christmas craft". Once you've located the public domain information, use the ideas, images, or patterns creatively, such as in the following ideas:
    • Make your own wrapping paper and cards with public domain images.
    • Make Christmas gifts using public domain designs and images. For example, you could decoupage an old box with public domain images, frame a self-colored public domain image, or base a totally updated, modern design on an older public domain design.
    • Play public domain games. Get free print-and-play boards for cards, chess, checkers, chinese checkers, tripakus (public domain blokus clone).
    • Sew, knit, crochet, hammer, glue, etc., public domain Christmas craft projects.
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    Watch public domain Christmas movies. Classic Christmas movies and cartoons are still enjoyable to this day, even though many of them are many decades old.
    • Download them to your computer, iPod, or iPhone. Public domain movies can be found on such sites as Babelgum, TV4u, PublicDomainTorrents, Google Video, In2TV, etc.
    • Examples of Christmas movies in the public domain include "Scrooge" (1935), and the like. Do an online search and be certain that it is public domain if you're giving a public showing in a place such as a local park, etc.
    • Another fun use for public domain Christmas movies is to do amusing voice-overs. Post the voiced over public domain Christmas movie to YouTube for other people's entertainment; just make sure it is clever or funny!
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    Read public domain Christmas stories. Lots of Christmas stories are in the public domain and are suitable for public readings or for enjoying at home because they're easy to access online. Project Gutenberg is a great place to begin,[4] using the search term "Christmas" and "Christmas stories (or tales)".
    • Some stories to look for include O. Henry, The Gift of the Magi; Henry Van Dyke, The Otherwise Man; Charles Dickens, "A Christmas Carol", Chimes, and "The Cricket on the Hearth; Clement C Moore, Twas the Night Before Christmas; Asa Don Dickinson and Ada M Skinner, The Children's Book of Christmas Stories.
    • Don't forget to look for public domain Christmas poems too!


  • Please consider making donations to people who take the time to collate and maintain public domain resources, should they ask. They're providing a free service for your benefit and a small token of appreciation is a lovely gesture during the holiday season.
  • If you love what you find, consider sharing it around by way of photos online for others to see what you've made, or even by way of making your own ebook for free distribution.
  • Not all items in the public domain are old. Some people choose to release things they're creating now into the public domain. And the US government has many public domain items that you might be able to put to use for Christmas, such as food or tree or plant images (for example, poinsettias, pines), etc.[5]


  • It is a common misconception that It's a Wonderful Life is in the public domain. Though it was in the public domain for a period, it no longer is, anywhere.
  • Always check the applicability of the public domain status in the country you're in. It may not apply or it may be varied in some way.
  • If something is not in the public domain and you download it without paying and/or give public screenings of it, you can be served with a hefty fine and even get jail time. "Everyone does it" will not work with the Judge. And that's not the point of having a Public Domain Christmas in any case!

Things You'll Need

  • Internet access
  • Confirmation that materials are in the public domain (check the site's or source's copyright notice)

Sources and Citations

  1. Wikipedia, Public Domain,
  2. See, for example, Douglas D Anderson, The Hymns and Carols of Christmas,
  3. Love to Know, Public Domain Christmas Songs,
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