• Strutting your stuff on the dancefloor is just one way to take a different approach to Christmas Day
1. GO TO THE ZOO: for the residents of Edinburgh Zoo, 25 December is just like any other day. Keepers need to be on hand to feed and water the animals so the zoo stays open 365 days a year. Visitors can enjoy Christmas lunch at Mansion House, or they can watch the critters eating their Christmas meal instead. And if you're sofa-bound, you can check out all the action online instead, via the "penguin cam" on the zoo's website, www.edinburghzoo.org.uk
2. VOLUNTEER: there are plenty of volunteering opportunities around at Christmas time, from wrapping presents to helping with fundraising. However, a number of charities need help on the big day itself, whether it's serving Christmas dinner to homeless people who might otherwise go without, or helping out at a care home. Visit www.volunteerscotland.org.uk for information on volunteering opportunities.
3. GO SURFING: the waves don't stop on Christmas Day, so check the surf report on MagicSeaweed.com for a rundown of the best surf spots near you. Water temperatures aren't too bad at the moment, but air temperature is an issue, so you'll need the full kit including a winter wetsuit, gloves, boots, a hood and thermal layers. Coast to Coast Surf School in Dunbar (c2csurfschool.com) are still hiring if you're short. In terms of sites, Pease Bay and Coldingham are both good bets as both have a short walk to the beach – essential for getting back to your car quickly in the chilly weather.
4. HIT THE SLOPES: there's nothing quite like a white Christmas so why not make the most of it? The ski centres may be closed on Christmas Day, but there's nothing to stop you taking to the hills armed with skis, a snowboard or a sledge. Check the Mountain Weather Information Service (Mwis.org.uk) for information on the snow conditions near you.
5. GO TO CHURCH: while museums, restaurants, cinemas and galleries are closed, Christmas Day is the busiest time of the year for most churches, with four million worshippers attending a service on the 25th. Don't worry if you're not a regular – you'll be made very welcome.
6. CATCH SOME LIVE MUSIC: as part of his Winter Cycle project, guitarist Jer Reid is undertaking a series of improvised duets with a different collaborator every day for 31 days, including Christmas Day. He'll be playing with Lisa Fannen at the Flying Duck in Glasgow at 12pm tomorrow. Call 0141-564 1450 or visit wintercycle.wordpress.com for details.
7. HAVE A HISTORY LESSON: historic properties tend to be closed on Christmas Day, but why not go online for virtual tours of ten of the National Trust for Scotland's (nts.org.uk) most fascinating projects, including St Kilda, Falkland Palace and the Hill House in Helensburgh? The Trust also looks after landscapes, which are of course open to everyone all day every day. You could enjoy a bracing walk along the cliff tops of St Abb's Head Nature Reserve near Eyemouth, or take a stroll through the cobbled streets of the Royal Borough of Culross, much of which is preserved as it was in the 16th and 17th centuries.
8. HIT THE DANCEFLOOR: while most people, come the evening on Christmas Day, are lying prostrate on the sofa, paper hat askew, watching bad telly, some are, inexplicably, hitting the clubs. If you feel like dancing tomorrow night, try the North Pole Party at the Garage in Glasgow (garageglasgow.co.uk) which promises fake snow, or alternatively, head to the annual Taste Escape Christmas Party at the Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh, where Fisher & Price will be playing a selection of Christmas dance hits (tel: 0131-225 2564).
9. BUY NOTHING: hate the commercial side of Christmas? Fed up with the emphasis on spending? Have a great Christmas Day without parting with a single penny. Buy Nothing Christmas (buynothingchristmas.org) is an initiative which believes that the best things come in no packages. Visit their site for tips on how to have a great day without getting into debt in January.
10. GO TO WORK: for many people, Christmas Day is just another day at the office. Firefighters, police officers, chefs, doctors, nurses, carers, restaurant staff and shift workers have to head into work on the 25th. But you can still wear a party hat and eat a mince pie on your break.
11. EAT OUT: ditch the Marigolds, as you'll be surprised at how many restaurants are still serving on Christmas Day. "Why cook when there are great choices in town, and you won't have to do any washing up after your meal?" says Alison Dean, foodie and co-owner of the Edinburgh Spotlight (www.edinburghspotlight.com) website. "In the capital, eateries like Pierre Victoire, 21212, the Roseleaf, Calistoga and, my favourite, Indian restaurant The Spice Pavilion – who are doing a 20 set menu on Christmas Day – are all open."
12. CLIMB A MUNRO: the mountains don't know it's Christmas, so they tend to remain open on the 25th – good news for anyone who feels the need to do some exercise before consuming several thousand calories and crashing out in front of the TV. If you live in the Glasgow area, Ben Lomond's always a good bet for a quick blast of fresh air – only a short drive away and you can be up and down it in 3-4 hours. Those based towards the other end of the M8 don't have anything over 3,000 feet quite as close to hand, but an hour's drive to Callandar will put you within striking distance of Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorlich. And if you live in the Highlands... well... chances are you'll have a decent hill right around the corner.
13. PADDLE A CANOE, OR A KAYAK: like the mountains, Scotland's lakes and rivers also display a flagrant disregard for public holidays, so if you feel the need to go for a paddle today there's nothing stopping you. Well, nothing apart from the ice, and perhaps the disapproval of your nearest and dearest. If it's shaping up to be really cold in the area you're planning to paddle, you might want to consider bringing a selection of board games to pass the time in case you get iced up, Shackleton-style. Alternatively, you could aim to stick to fast-flowing water which is less likely to freeze. If you don't own your own boat, you'll need to beg, borrow or steal one, as all the nation's rental and retail operations will be closed today. Could be worth the effort though – nothing like a few festive dunkings for working up an appetite.
14. VISIT A BUDDHIST CENTRE: Samye Ling Buddhist centre (Eskdalemuir, Langholm, Dumfriesshire, 013873 73232, www.samyeling.org) is open all year round, including Christmas Day. The temple is open from 6am until 9pm. Or you could stroll around the peace garden and grounds, chanting the mantra 'om mani padma hum', until your angry thoughts about Only Fools and Horses reruns on TV AGAIN have dissipated.
15. DON'T EXCHANGE SHOP-BOUGHT GIFTS: so maybe you like the tradition of seeing your family and eating a big meal together, but why should you and everyone else have to stress out about finding the perfect present? Mark the day with home-made offerings. Gardeners can celebrate their successes this year with jams, pickles and chutneys, while fashionistas can make jewellery or knit a woolly jumper.
16. GUERILLA CURLING: chances are your street is looking a bit wintry at the moment, probably covered in black ice with a layer of slush on top. A nightmare for getting the car out, perhaps, but a perfect venue for a sneaky bit of guerilla curling. First scrape the slush off a portion of the street to create an even playing surface. (If you can, aim for regulation dimensions: 146-150ft in length by 14.5-16.5ft in width.) Then paint a red blob with a blue ring around it to create a target or "house" and hey presto – you have a makeshift curling "sheet". Get yourself a few stones (tins of Quality Street filled with sand?), a couple of old brushes and you're away. For more information, see www.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org
17. GO FOR AN URBAN BIKE RIDE: the best thing about Christmas Day, from a cyclist's point of view, anyway, is that there's virtually no traffic on the roads. So if you're planning to head out on two wheels tomorrow, why not have a blast around your nearest large town or city? Just think: no buses pulling out in front of you, no white van men cutting you up and no idiot motorists who don't seem to be able to register the existence of cycle lanes. For one day only, urban cycling might actually be fun.
18. GO STARGAZING: if it's a cloudless and crisp night, make for one of Dark Sky Scotland's (www.darkskyscotland.org.uk) ideal star-spotting locations, far from any light pollution. According to the experts, at Christmas we should be looking out for the bright stars of Altair, Vega and Deneb.
19. LOOK AT SCULPTURE: public artworks can be better appreciated when everyone else is indoors. Take a walk to look at Antony Gormley's new 6 Times sculptures, at the Water of Leith, Bell's Mill, Stockbridge, Powderhall and Bonnington. In Dundee, look out for Tony and Susie Morrow's bronze statue of Desperate Dan, or in Irvine, hunt out the Stone Dragon by Roy Fitzsimmons, at the Beach Park.
20. TAKE A GENTLE STROLL: if you can't face slogging up a mountain, it's still a good idea to get some sort of leg-stretch on Christmas Day, otherwise the whole experience can start to feel a bit like a long-haul flight, what with the films, food and the worrying pains in your legs. Your local park will do, and it will more than likely be full of starving birds so remember to bring plenty of (bird-friendly) leftovers from your Christmas meal.
• Additional reporting by Roger Cox and Gaby Soutar