Christmas Traditions - What Are Your Favourites?
What are your Christmas traditions?
Once you have a baby or as they start to get a little older and understand more about Christmas and celebrations you might be starting to think about what traditions you would like to make part of your December.
Maybe there are things that you remember being magical from your own childhood that you really want to do with your children to create that Christmas excitement and magic. There might even be things that you know you really want to avoid!
Of course now we are bombarded with social media showing us what a perfect Christmas looks like which for some increases the pressure to make things perfect, to have everyone smiling and enjoying every minute, probably all at great expense. And we know that really that isn't going to happen!
What I have discovered over the years is that it really isn’t all about the big things and experiences when it comes to Christmas. My children have adopted the strangest little things as being essential to our Christmas. And yes, quite a few of these are around food! We are very much drifting off the Santa thing but a mince pie and carrot are still Christmas Eve essentials (you never know for sure and who wants to take chances!)
So if matching family pyjamas are not for you, what else might you want to do?
Christmas tree – most homes will have a Christmas tree but how to make things special? My children love decorating and they have a little tree upstairs which they can do what they like with. Over time we have gained decorations made in nursery, pre-school and school and they love seeing these come out. Some families buy personalised or meaningful decorations for each year or special occasions so your tree tells the story of your family.
Elf on the shelf – think carefully before you commit to this!! It is an interesting one that is equally loved and hated by families. The idea is that a mischievous elf comes to your house on December 1st and is there to keep an eye on things for Santa to make sure everyone is behaving. Now this may already be feeling a little uncomfortable and some children find it a little unsettling that an elf is in the house and watching them. But the parent commitment – every night when the family are in bed the cheeky elf gets up to mischief which is discovered in the morning. When this first started the elf might just move around and be somewhere new each day but thanks to Pinterest and Instagram that isn’t enough! You need a whole calendar of mischief for your elf so you have something for every night. They might bake cookies and leave a mess, they might build a train track and get all the trains out or maybe they tip jigsaw pieces everywhere or upset some books on the shelf. It can be magical for little ones as the elf arrives and, of course, the excitement of seeing what has happened each morning. I have seen variations on this theme, if you don’t want to feed into the ‘Santa is watching for good behaviour’ then just have fun with your elf and leave that bit out. Maybe your elf leaves notes with ideas of things to do to prepare for Christmas or ways to spread some joy with your neighbours and community.
Lights – there are so many places now doing winter light shows it can be hard to choose! But your choice might be more linked to budget, especially if you are a growing family. Those ticket prices can all add up and if you fancy some drinks or food as well it might feel like an expensive experience. If you decide they are too much for you or you have left it to late (some need booking in January or February!) have a look at the other options around. There might be some free light displays in town centres or local parks and if you are in London there are all the lights of Oxford Street, Regent Street and Carnaby Street to enjoy for free.
Christmas Eve – it feels like Christmas Eve traditions have grown in recent years and Christmas Eve boxes are the new big thing. This can be a really lovely start to a cosy family evening with boxes containing new pyjamas, hot chocolate, a Christmassy book or film and maybe some tasty snacks. You can buy gorgeous personalised boxes for your little ones or get creative and make your own. Lots of churches will have Christmas Eve services for children with carols, a nativity or Christmas crafts which you might enjoy for a festive feeling.
And of course, don’t forget to end Christmas Eve with a mince pie and drink for Santa as well as a carrot for Rudolph! Maybe you could sprinkle some oats on your path to help guide the reindeer to your house as they are sure to be hungry.
Presents – it can be so tempting to buy so many presents and you might also have friends and family buying presents too. As we all become more aware of how much we spend and also not buying unnecessary things or being wasteful it is worth thinking about where to focus your money. You might decide a family treat day or experience presents are a good way to balance things out. Then you throw in the difficulty of what Santa brings (if you do Santa). In some families Santa brings all the presents, in others he fills the stocking, he might bring the ‘big’ present or maybe he just brings an extra something left under the tree. I know it sounds crazy but it is worth thinking about this stuff when they are little because once you start it is hard to change! The little people remember!
Which brings us to Stockings – it is pretty widely accepted Santa does the stocking presents. When I was a child a stocking really was one of my socks! I remember making sure I found the biggest one I could to put out ready to be filled. Now you can get gorgeous personalised stockings and they are large! But what goes in there? Again it is going to vary from house to house, I remember a satsuma and 20p being a yearly part of my stocking. In my house it is usually fairly low value little bits including chocolate coins, little soaps, stationary etc. but I’m not sure anyone would be impressed with a satsuma!
Santa – it can be a really magical experience taking your little one to see Santa. But there are so many options. Good places to check out are the bigger shops or garden centres, local attractions like railways or farms or any local Christmas fairs in schools or community centres. If you want to go to the bigger, popular places you will need to get booked up, quite possibly in the autumn. If you’ve missed out this year get it in your diary to check when bookings open next year.
Don’t worry about the perfect Instagram family photos, I am confident that for every photo of a beautifully co-ordinated family shot with everyone smiling at the camera there are many more photos of angry tantrums and whispered threats.
Whatever you choose to do, do what makes you happy and spend what you can afford. If you want to go all out on a magical Christmas with visits to attractions and lots of presents – go for it. But if the Christmas magic in your house is spending time together and making your own mince pies with your children, then enjoy. There will be magic for you and your children in whatever you do and you might just accidentally start the best new traditions for your house.