Have a Raspberry Pi that you want to spend some time tinkering with this Christmas? If you’re thinking that might not be a great idea when you have presents to wrap, you would be right.
But what if you found a way to incorporate the Raspberry Pi into Christmas? Would that feel better?
If you want to enjoy a Raspberry Pi Christmas, we’ve got 12 great seasonal-themed projects for you to build.
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. You’ll need an RTC module and a board like the Adafruit Pi Plate, we well as a small breadboard.
Any model of Raspberry Pi is suitable for this. If you have an old first-generation Raspberry Pi try this 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. Full instructions can be found in this Instructable by Osprey22.
Because the equipment is mounted below the tree, where water would typically be fed in, it’s a good idea to use a fake tree for this project.
3. Twitter-Powered Raspberry Pi Christmas Tree Lights
This is quite the project, with a video accompanied by music and poetry.
Created by YouTuber System Anomaly, it features not just a small pine Christmas tree with Raspberry Pi-powered light decorations, but also PCB design and Twitter API integration.
Basically, a tweet will trigger lights on the tree, controlled by the Raspberry Pi using a Perl script.
This is not a project for the faint-hearted, but given the results it is definitely worth attempting. You can learn more from viewing the video and grabbing the GitHub script.
4. 3D Printed Christmas House
Seasonal scenes are one of the most magical things about Christmas.
This video shows how you can use a Raspberry Pi with such a project. The 3D printed house has been designed in TinkerCAD, along with the Neopixel-illuminated snowman. The house hides a Raspberry Pi and basic wiring to bring the project to life. Code for the project is written in Python and controls the lights and color of the snowman.
5. Control Your Exterior Christmas Lights With Raspberry Pi
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? A Raspberry Pi comes high on the list; if teamed up with the necessary relays, the GPIO can be used.
You’ll agree that the instructions and video above yield some stunning results. This is the first in a four-part series, which you should follow if you want to enjoy similarly accomplished results. So don’t miss Raspberry Pi Christmas Light Control Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
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.
Live in an apartment 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 construction work (wood or plastic should do) 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. Projection Map Your House for Christmas
This project by YouTuber Break It Yourself was “inspired by Disney’s Happily Ever After fireworks and projection show.” The results are, frankly, outstanding.
Requiring some projection mapping knowledge (tutorials can be found on YouTube), the project requires a Raspberry Pi 4, micro HDMI to HDMI cable, a USB to RS232 adapter, and a Pi power supply with on/off switch. It relies on the Falcon Player tool for sequencing and scheduling projections. Learn more by watching the video and checking the Falcon Player GitHub.
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 an Arduino, the smart gingerbread house is controlled via a webpage hosted on the Pi. Inside, you’ll find servos, lights, and buzzers, so a bit of soldering is required.
What you get 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 built using a glue gun, rather than icing. A cardboard frame might be a smart enhancement, although this depends on whether you’re intending to eat the house.
Note that sensors take up some key positions inside and out, so be careful with your candy.
10. Home Automate Your Christmas Tree
Who’s the most useful member of your household? If it’s Alexa, with the right software you can connect the service to your Raspberry Pi.
With enough NeoPixels to decorate your tree and jumper wires, you can instruct Alexa to activate your tree lights.
This home automation project will run with a Raspberry Pi Zero W. Find out more by checking the full instructions on Alex Ellis’s site.
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 Claus detector to hand.
This project by the official Raspberry Pi website can spot Santa approaching. It requires passive IR motion sensors, a Raspberry Pi 2 (or later), and speakers or headphones.
12. Christmas Tree PCB
This Raspberry Pi Pico-powered Christmas tree started life as a Kickstarter project by Geeky Alpacas. Sadly at the time of publishing it is not currently available, but we’ve included to illustrate the potential of the RP2040-based microcontroller.
Available as a kit or pre-assembled, this Christmas tree PCB for the Raspberry Pi Pico is a great learning experience. As using any type of Raspberry Pi can present some form of education, it’s ideal. Sadly we don’t know if the Geeky Alpacas will make their PCB available in the future.
For a Raspberry Pi Christmas tree PCB that you can buy, try the Pi Hut’s compact 3D Christmas Tree. It simply sits in the GPIO! Of a standard Raspberry Pi Model B board.
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?
While you think about it, perhaps now is the time to have a singalong:
On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love sent to me:
- A Christmas Tree PCB
- One Santa detector
- An automated Christmas tree
- One smart gingerbread house
- Projection mapped decorations
- A sizzling Raspberry Pi fireplace
- Custom digital photo frame tree decorations
- And control your exterior Christmas lights with a Raspberry Pi
- RetroPie gaming station
- Raspberry Pi Christmas tree lights
- Christmas tree projection
- And some automated advent candles
What do you think? Are you ready to start your 12 days of Raspberry Pi Christmas?
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