Create your own Christmas magic
If you think back to your own childhood Christmases, your fondest memories may be of simple family traditions like leaving a mince pie out for Santa and a carrot for Rudolf, visiting Santa in his grotto, or rushing in to your parents’ bedroom at an unearthly hour in the morning to babble about the sweets and toys in the stocking at the end of your bed.
Small children are often charmingly gullible, so it’s easy to create Christmas traditions that will bring a touch of magic to the season, without bankrupting yourself in the process. Some, such as Elf on the Shelf, are easy to find at local retailers and there are thousands of ideas online for pranks for the elves to play in the run up to Christmas.
Making your own tree decorations keeps the kids occupied and provides another annual tradition. Try rolling out air drying clay and using cookie cutters to make fir tree shapes, stars or use round cutters for festive baubles. Pierce each shape so you can tie it on to the tree and leave it to dry. The shapes can then be painted or taken outside and covered in glue and glitter. If your children are older and artistically gifted, they could paint the baubles to represent each member of the family.
Many neighbourhoods get rather competitive when it comes to festive lighting, so driving round to see who can spot which houses have the most over the top decorations can be fun. If the weather outside is frightful, cosy up each night and watch a Christmas movie before bed time. In a similar vein, there are lots of Christmas stories you can read before bedtime, helping build excitement before Christmas Eve. Adults and older teenagers might prefer a book of Christmas ghost stories or murder mysteries, though it hardly suggests a season of goodwill to all men. A mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows and a big bowl of popcorn adds to the mood. A family tradition of visiting the cinema or attending a Christmas concert or panto is a great way of marking the start of your festive season.
You can also persuade kids to help with baking, whether it’s helping to stir the Christmas pudding in November, or making simple treats to give to friends and relatives. Peppermint creams and truffles are both simple, if a little messy, to make, or you could make cookies or assemble and decorate a gingerbread house.
Christmas Eve boxes are a relatively new tradition in the UK. Most contain new pyjamas, treats and perhaps a family board game to keep everyone amused before Santa comes. You can expand on this by making an advent box filled with 24 tiny treats. Make sure each family member gets a fair distribution of presents.
On Christmas morning, Santa may have left a clue or two to prove he’s been. Floury footprints, a half-eaten mince pie or a pile of sparkly reindeer poop in the garden. It’s also fun to cover the open doorways of children’s rooms with wrapping paper, so they have to break through before getting their gifts. Don’t try this with closed doors unless you fancy spending Christmas morning in A&E.
Christmas is also a time for giving, so allowing the kids a set budget and taking them to the supermarket at the start of December to collate a donation to a local community larder or foodbank might make another good family tradition. Alternatively, they could donate some unwanted toys to a local charity shop or choose a gift for a local toy appeal.
Whatever you choose, the focus should be on making memories and spreading a little bit of joy.