At the crack of dawn on Monday morning December 1st, I was greeted by my over excited three year old's cries of "is it Monday today? IS IT MONDAY?!?!! MUMMMMMY, IS.....IT.... MONDAAAAY?!?!" You see, he had been given a chocolate advent calendar by his Nonna (grandmother) and knew he had to wait until Monday to open it. That's two. whole. days. of temptation hanging on the wall in anticipation of being devoured in one fell swoop. That's a lot to ask of a three year old who loves chocolate.
What he didn’t know, was that we also have a fabric advent calendar with pockets into which an elf secretes a chocolate surprise every night in the countdown to Christmas. His reaction was priceless! He keeps checking the pockets throughout the day not quite understanding the concept of the calender. His older sister comprehends far more and is equally excited as she counts the days!
That’s just one of our family Christmas traditions. Whilst working out the intricacies of this Christmas, my husband and I had to decide which festive traditions to maintain and which we should drop in favour of other family comitments. This is our personal shortlist of festive traditions… what are yours going to be?
1. Advent calendar
Our kids LOVE a chocolate advent calendar which is both a tasty treat and helps the children keep track of the days remaining until the big day. There are so many to choose from including activity advent calendars to the basic shop bought chocolate variety that I’m sure you will find inspiration to create your own that’s right for your family.
2. Choosing a Christmas tree
On the first weekend of December we head to our favoured Christmas market for the hazardous task of picking a Christmas tree. Armed with leather gloves and a thick coat, darling Dad is duly required to work his way deep into the pile of 9 foot christmas trees to present each & every prickly specimen to us for close inspection & consideration! To his credit he does so without much complaint! The kids love seeing their chosen tree disappear through the netting machine before being strapped to the roof of the car.
3. Making tree decorations
My daughter takes after me, loving nothing better than drawing or creating something arty crafty. So it's become a tradition every year to make decorations for the tree including felt cakes and pine cone ninja elves. This year we're making driftwood sailboats and shell filled baubles to go along with our nautical beach themed tree. Not to mention the obligatory glitter covered pinecone. (The glitter tub has already exploded all over the table ensuring we find sparkly reminders all over the house for the next three months! )
4. Decorating the tree
After wrestling our giant tree into it’s bucket, we take great pleasure in decorating the tree beside the roaring fire with Christmas tunes playing merrily in the background. Hot chocolate and mince pies help keep up the enthusiasm! Once the kids are in bed we surreptitiously remove any overzealous application of tinsel and redistribute the bottom heavy decorations to headier heights!
5. Meeting Santa
Living where we do, we’re lucky to have a variety of places to meet Santa which we alternate every year - from steam train rides to winter wonderland caves to enchanting woodland. The only question we have to answer to is how Santa can be in so many places at once!
6. T’was the night before Christmas
Just before we tuck our children into bed on Christmas Eve, we help set out a plate with a carrot for the Reindeer and a mince pie with tumbler of Whisky for Santa. Following which we head outside in our slippers and pyjamas to sprinkle glittery oats on the lawn to guide the reindeer to our front door.
As we did in our childhood, the children hang their stockings by the fireplace only to be found laid at the foot of their bed in the morning stuffed with presents. The tradition in our house is for the children to open stockings on the parental bed. Usually around 4am with us wishing we’d remembered just-this-once to plug in the timer operated coffee pot! That said, we rather enjoy peering through sleep deprived vision at our excited pair squealing in delight as they systematically empty the contents of their stockings.
8. Gift giving
Once we’ve opened stockings, we all head to the Christmas tree in our pyjamas to distribute presents to each family member. Bleary eyed and still in search of coffee as the sun rises over the hill, we then proceed to open the presents in quick succession whilst catching a few precious moments on camera.
9. Festive feast
Each year differs as to whether we host Christmas lunch or visit the relatives so it's one tradition we don't fixate on. Instead we like to celebrate with a tasty decadent dinner on Christmas Eve- something that’s easy to prepare but still special - and extend our Sunday tradition of a pancake brunch to Christmas day. That way we can carve out our own Christmassy meal time as a family without getting too hung up on the precise day or necessitating a turkey. The festive table decorations will be all we need to add that special Christmassy touch.
Creating your own traditions
Having discovered a solitary Santa hat in the box of tree decorations and the subsequent sibling squabble over who the rightful owner is, it looks like I may need to add a tradition of buying each family member a Santa hat! And so we naturally add to our festive traditions each year as our children get older…
If this is your first Christmas with a new baby, as a new family, you may want to start implementing a few of your own traditions. Perhaps you'll merge your childhood traditions with something unique to your family but we encourage you to to simply enjoy your time together without adding to the pressure of parenthood by trying to make it 'special' or 'memorable'. Traditions evolve in good time and with good fortune, you will have many more years together to create those special moments that become your family's firm favourites to repeat every year thus becoming tradition.
What traditions do you look forward to? We’d love to hear your about your family Christmas traditions over on our Facebook page.