My husband, David, recently had to travel out of town for several days. The first night he was gone, I was sad as I drove home from work thinking about shopping and putting up Christmas decorations by myself.

As I walked toward the house from the garage, I noticed a sticky note on the door. "Goodbye, Sweetheart, I hope you have a wonderful week!" It was from David. My heart warmed thinking about his thoughtfulness.

I was still smiling when I walked into the kitchen. I opened a cabinet and found another note stuck on a glass pitcher, "I miss you!" In the refrigerator there was one hanging from the shelf, "Your husband loves you." Later, I found seven others, including one on the headboard of our bed wishing me sweet dreams and one on the bathroom mirror that told me to "look in the mirror to see something beautiful."

It probably took David less than 10 minutes to write those messages and put them in places where I would see them. But that little gesture made me feel cared for, appreciated, and loved. So much so that I kept the notes up around the house all week to keep me company while he was away.

It really takes very little to bring some romance into your marriage, especially during the holidays. The warm colors and twinkling lights set up a perfect scenario for romantic memories. Not only will these ideas keep your marriage warm and healthy, but they will also teach your children (and others who are watching) that a Christian's priority during the holidays is not getting gifts and attending activities, but loving one another and honoring Christ, who showed us the greatest love of all.

To help you get started, here's a list of romantic holiday ideas:

1. Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas. For each of the 12 days before Christmas, give your spouse a gift to celebrate your love. This could be done several different ways. First, you could give him or her 12 different gifts. They don't have to be expensive, just thoughtful. Another idea is to give your spouse a love note each of the 12 days. You could also try to create a special memory each day, like a snow fight, a special dinner, or staying up late to look at the stars.

2. Spend some time alone together. One night, clear the calendar and take the kids to grandma's house. Before your spouse comes home, turn on some Christmas music and rearrange the couch so that you can snuggle in front of the fireplace. If you don't have a fireplace, turn the lights down and sit in front of the Christmas tree so you can watch the lights twinkle.

3. Surprise your spouse with a candlelight dinner. Have the house picked up, the food prepared, and candles lit. Don't forget to turn on some Christmas music so you can dance together when you've finished eating. If you're not able to send the kids away, have dinner in your bedroom with the door locked (or after young children have gone to sleep). Or, if they are old enough, ask them to play the part of waiters by serving the dinner to you.

4. Give your husband or wife a day of pampering. The holidays can be hectic — cleaning, shopping, cooking, preparing for guests, and attending events. Sometimes the most romantic thing you can do for your sweetheart is to help tone down the stress of the season. You may want to rub his or her feet, give a massage, or just put on your spouse's favorite Christmas movie. Get the kids in on it by telling them what you plan to do. Then have them help you bring drinks, blankets, chocolates, or whatever your spouse needs to feel relaxed.

5. Give the gift of appreciation. On a piece of plain white paper, make a list of all the reasons you love your spouse. Fill up the page, and if you can, fill out another sheet. Cut out each item on the list, fold them, and put them in a small jewelry box or jar. Wrap up the gift and present it on Christmas with an explanation of how much you love your spouse. Then he or she can place the box on a desk, table, or counter, where it can be accessed all year.

6. Take your spouse to a play or Christmas concert. If you have extra money, go to a local playhouse, theater, or symphony. However, during the Christmas season, funds for extra activities can be low. If that's the case, there are many church, high school, and community events that are free to the public. It just takes a little extra planning and research to find an affordable place to go.

7. Go somewhere nice for dessert. Most cities have at least one very nice (and often expensive) restaurant. You can enjoy the beautiful Christmas decorations and romantic atmosphere without the high prices when you just have dessert. This is a fun way to end the night after a show or an evening of looking at Christmas lights.

8. Build a snow couple together. If you live in a part of the country that has snow, have fun together building a snow man and woman — one for each of you! Dress the snowmen in your clothes and paint a sign for the yard that says, "Merry Christmas from Mr. and Mrs. Smith." If possible, have someone take your picture with the snow couple you created.

9. Hang some mistletoe and take advantage of it! Suspend sprigs of mistletoe over doorways that you use often, such as the bedroom, hallway, kitchen, dining room, family room, etc. Several times during the season, purposely stand under the mistletoe and ask your sweetheart to join you. Wives can surprise their husbands by giving them sincere soft kisses on the lips, cheeks, ears, and neck — all the places that make him feel loved.

10. Write a poem or letter explaining how your spouse has been a gift to you this year. Make sure you include specific memories and terms with special meaning as you express your heart. You could choose to present it to your spouse alone on a romantic date or in front of the family as a way of honoring your spouse.