Christmas traditions – what makes it a tradition?
Christmas traditions are something bandied about a lot at this time of year. I’ve been thinking about what constitutes a tradition… Google defines it as
“the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.”
I can’t say I really remember much in the way of strict traditions from my own childhood other than new pyjamas all round on Christmas Eve so that we could wear them first thing in the morning for present opening! In my house growing up you also knew it was Christmas by the copious amounts of foil decorations and colourful lights with plastic shades on each bulb. And oranges. There was always oranges at Christmas!
What are my traditions?
Although we didn’t really have much in the way of traditions, Christmas was always a family time. We’re all massively over the top Christmassy people and so our level of excitement isn’t always met with agreement! I suppose, in a way, this is the main tradition I bring forward from my childhood Christmases to Sophia’s.
At no point has my love of Christmas diminished and I am still like a big kid in the run up each year – I say run up, it pretty much starts November 1st, driving my husband insane!
While I was, of course, looking forward to Sophia’s first Christmas and our first one as a family, I think I’m looking forward to this one more because she’s older and more aware and so can join in with my excitement all the more! There are so many things I want to do with her and I can’t wait until she can understand and join in with them all!
Book Advent Calendar
This is something we started last year so I can tell Sophia that we have done it her entire life! The idea is you wrap up 24 books and your child can open one each day of advent to count down until Christmas day. I used wintery books such as hibernation, winter and snow-themed books early in December and then increased the Christmas element of the books as the month went on. I also made sure that I saved ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ for Christmas Eve, of course!
As a lover of books myself, I hope that Sophia will love to read just as much and so this is something that I saw on Pinterest and knew I wanted to do! To try and keep the cost down last year I wrapped some wintery books we already owned as Sophia wasn’t going to be aware of the fact and probably purchased maybe 15 books new.
Here are my tips for the easiest way to shop smart and save money while setting up your book advent calendar:
– Last year Aldi had Christmas and Winter themed books for 99p each!
– The Works have an online deal of 10 books for £10 and there are many winter and Christmas themed titles within their selection.
– Charity shops always have a good stock of books, it’s worth spending some time looking through the shelves and bargain bins for some good finds!
– As I previously mentioned, reuse some books you already own! We have the boxset of Mr Men books so wrapped up Mr. Christmas, Mr. Snow etc. and we also have ‘The Jolly Christmas Postman’ so I included that one.
– Of course you can also borrow up to 10 books with a children’s membership in most libraries. There’s no reason you can’t wrap up library books for the advent calendar!
– Swap some with friends! Half way through the month, swap the ones you’ve already opened with a friend and rewrap for the remainder of the month. This means neither of you need to buy the full amount.
I really enjoy wrapping the books and labelling them with the numbers for advent. I then keep them in a personalised box under the tree and each evening before bed Sophia can go under the tree, find the correct number, open a present and we can read the book together! Wonderful!
Elf on the Shelf
This seems to be one of those love it or hate it kind of exercises! However, I have done Elf on the Shelf before, at nursery for a group of 15-20 pre-schoolers and let me tell you, I’ve never seen my entire group so happy to come to nursery in the morning, just so they can find where the Christmas elf was hiding!
I don’t think I’m a fan of the Santa’s spy aspect – I don’t personally like the idea of using the elf as a disciplinarian that will be telling tales to Santa every day. What I do love is the fun of getting up in the morning to find the elf and see what wonderful and hilarious things he’s been up to during the night!
If you haven’t checked Pinterest for ideas for Elf on the Shelf, please do so now, some of them are beautiful, magical and wonderful and some are just damn hilarious! I’ll save you some trouble and you can just click here!
So we are going to do it this year! I’m not going to buy the official elf because he’s expensive! There are plenty of alternatives that are much more reasonably priced! I really cannot wait, make sure you keep an eye on the Mumblebees Instagram to see what our elf gets up to!
Chocolate and the like
As children I remember many years not having a chocolate advent calendar as punishment of my younger sister and I opening all of the doors on day one, eating all of the chocolates and then pushing the doors closed again and being quite proud that no one would ever know!
Nowadays you can get advent calendars of all types! I’ve had a Yankee Candle one that I loved, Husband loves the lego ones, one year we bought 24 £1 scratch cards which was a lot of fun and overall my winnings were £43 so I got my money back!
I think I will get Sophia a chocolate one because why not?! All her friends will have them and it’s exciting counting down!
The Christmas Tree – when does yours go up?
I’m hoping it’s come across well by now just how much I love Christmas. However, I’m not one of these people that has their tree up before their pumpkins have made it to the bin (because let’s be honest, we all walk past them numerous times with plenty on our minds and toddlers shouting at us, before we remember to actually get rid of the softening, slightly less scary looking vegetables!).
The fun of November is the build up; shops are getting their decorations up because they have stock to sell, I can accept that. Christmas songs are beginning to sneak in on the radio, the nights are darker, the days are colder and it’s pretty much hat and scarf weather. We know Christmas is coming and I cannot wait to get my tree up. The anticipation fuels the excitement. So if I turn my house into Santa’s grotto straight away, you lose all of that build up and by Christmas the magic is a little lost on us. So I am not one for early decorating.
December 1st though, that’s fair game!
The first weekend of December we always make sure we have no plans because that is Santa’s Grotto day! We go out and pick up our tree – we’re real tree folk and picking the right tree and getting it home and watching Husband (from the comfort of the sofa of course, we don’t both need to be freezing and frustrated!) fight with it to take some off the bottom so it fits in the house, is a rite of passage all of its own!
Then it’s tree decorating! Last year I got Sophia to paint a bauble for the tree and this year I’m going to make a new ornament with her – I’m thinking shrink plastic, watch this space…
I’m hoping this is a tradition I can encourage her to do with me for at least the first 10 years of her life. After that I accept that it’s not so cool and she may well have outgrown it and also my tree will be starting to fill up with homemade ornaments by then!
Christmas Gift Making
I’m not going to go into much detail here as I’ve decided to do a post all of its own on this topic, in case anyone is looking for some ideas of DIY gift ideas!
But this is a tradition that I started as an adult and one that I plan to continue for, well, forever! I love to make things and I think Christmas can be very commercialised. I think a little homemade gift keeps that personal touch, shows you know your loved ones and also stretches the budget that little further – Christmas can be ridiculously expensive after all!
The making of the gifts is always something I do in the last couple of weeks before Christmas and I thoroughly enjoy it! I’ve made a few different bits in the past – scented teacup candles, maple toffee vodka, cupcake jars, hot chocolate cones, knitted bits and bobs, there are lots of things you can do!
And having a child is an even bigger tool for this escapade because who doesn’t love something lovingly created by a toddler! Easiest, cheapest and cutest gifts ever! You can get your child to paint a mug, paint a canvas, frame drawings, make a calendar of the child’s drawings, keyrings (that shrink plastic again! So versatile!), Christmas tree decorations!
For these ideas and more, look out for my DIY Christmas Gift Guide – coming soon!
Christmas Eve is probably my favourite day of the entire festive period. It’s when everything is most festive and most exciting because work finishes, final touches are made, last minute shopping is done, preparations for the big day are often completed. It’s the pinnacle of the build up; it’s almost down hill from there because in the morning it’s Christmas day and then it’s all over!
So, I like to do lots! Before having a child I would always make sure I had wrapping to do and that would certainly be accompanied by loudly played cheesy Christmas songs (I have created the ultimate playlist of course!) and I would decorate my Christmas cake that would have been soaking in cherry brandy for weeks and then slowly baked the day before.
Now of course, it’s different but just as wonderful! Last year was easy because Sophia was still a baby and so we got to pretty much do what I wanted! I’m fully expecting to have to put up a bit more of a fight this year but ideally, Christmas Eve will consist of a festive film – Arthur Christmas is an absolute favourite! – some baking still, maybe decorating Christmas biscuits and lots of Christmas songs.
Sophia has a special package at the bottom of her advent calendar box, especially for Christmas Eve. As I said previously, it includes ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ (which was one of the books I managed to pick up in Aldi for 99p), new Christmas pyjamas just like I used to get, a Christmas elf soft toy to take to bed with her, her Santa plate to leave out snacks for Santa and the reindeer and a hot chocolate cone so we can snuggle together and enjoy during story time.
(See my DIY Christmas Gift Guide for how to make these!)
After Sophia goes to bed I get to do the best bit! I love making Christmas magical and the older she gets the more I can do! This year we’re going to use flour mixed with white glitter and a pair of Husband’s wellies to make “snowy” Santa footprints from the fireplace to the Christmas tree, and we’ll obviously empty the snack plate too, to make it look like Santa has been!
I also sort the Christmas presents under the tree into piles so we know which presents are for which person in the morning. This will be made so much easier this year as we were very kindly gifted this personalised hessian present sack from the wonderful Cookie Dough Kids! It’s gorgeous and such good quality, I can’t wait to see Sophia’s face when she sees it waiting for her with her gifts inside! They do so many personalised gifts including pyjamas, definitely go and check them out if this is something you’re looking for!
It still amazes me how much Christmas day varies from family to family. At my house we got up at 7am and it was wake up Mum and then straight downstairs in our pyjamas and we’d all open all our presents, taking it in turns person by person so we could see what each other got.
There was never really a belief of Santa in my house, I don’t remember ever believing in him so I imagine I was pretty young! But Mum didn’t bother pretending and trying to encourage the belief either so we didn’t have presents from Santa, we didn’t leave out snacks, there were no Santa footprints made after we’d gone to bed etc.
Once the festive chaos calmed down, we would take our gifts upstairs, get dressed and play with/explore our new stuff as well as being allowed to have one bar of chocolate from the selection box we always got!
Christmas lunch was at 12pm – and what a feast it was! The whole reason we wouldn’t have proper breakfast!
After lunch was family time – usually meaning sister time because Mum was never that interested in doing stuff with us and my brother was the only boy of five children so he got a pass to disappear to his room alone haha! We would eat as much chocolate as we could manage, watch Christmas films, play board games. It was wonderful!
The whole day would just fly by so quickly!
Husband’s family Christmas routine was very different. He is one of three and they would start their day by finding a full stocking from Santa at the end of their beds before promptly gathering in one room to open them together before his Mum and Dad woke up!
They would then all get up and after home cooked ham joint sandwiches all round for breakfast, Husband’s paternal Nanny would be picked up to spend the day with the family. Only after Nanny’s arrival, around 11am, would presents be opened!
And of course, Christmas lunch was also later; nearer 2pm, before playing with toys and some snoozing in front of Christmas TV.
So different! So how do we decide how this will work with Sophia?
Well, I plan on adopting Husband’s family’s tradition of stockings from Santa in bed! For now we’ll open it with her of course because she’s A) only little, and B) an only child so I feel that’s less fun. But going forward she’ll be allowed to open it as soon as she wakes up, without us, if she so wishes.
We’ll do presents as soon as we all go downstairs and afterwards will have home cooked ham sandwiches for breakfast! I’m so excited it’s unreal!
In conclusion, I am a sucker for Christmas and I hope to everything Santa that Sophia will be too! Another Christmas tradition we had as children was the obligatory in front of the Christmas tree photo. Let me tell you, that is definitely one I’ll be continuing! Can’t wait to make a little book of Sophia and the Tree over the years!
I’d love to hear some of your Christmas traditions, please do drop them in the comments below! I’ll be sharing any good ones!