Tradition is part of the fabric of Christmas and from the moment the lights go up and the adverts appear on TV the sense of what we can expect from the period ahead is tremendously comforting. Our Family Monsters Project research shows 49% of people said they were worried about spending quality time together and in some regards, Christmas is a perfect antidote to these worries as families can settle into well-worn grooves and spend time together – allowing us to relax, replenish our energies and prepare for the year ahead. Here we’ve highlighted some of the traditions you might want to implement with your family, as well as make some suggestions for how to shake up some existing ones.
Express your elf!
Why not try hiding a toy elf somewhere around your house or garden throughout the Christmas season? A hunt for the little pixie can start each day with a sense of fun and investigation. Just ensure that child locks are applied to any doors or cupboards that could present a danger to inquisitive minds and set clear boundaries of where the elf might be – maybe you can tell them the elf is frightened of the world beyond the garden gate so wouldn’t go out there?
The occasional small toy or sweet treat found in the elf’s hiding place can sustain interest in the game. It needn’t be an elf either – if a different toy might be more attractive for your children – just ensure it’s not a soft toy they’ll want to keep with them as otherwise you might struggle to get them back.
If this all sounds like a lot of work you can also perhaps instigate a hunt just once a week, or even just once in the season!
Watch your favourite Christmas film
Sometimes all it takes to set up a tradition is to cuddle up on the sofa with film and family. It doesn’t really matter what you watch as long as it is something that everyone will enjoy and will stand the test of time well – especially if you are planning to make it an annual showing!
If you get this right this can be a tradition lasting dozens of years. We’ve got families who report family screenings that still manage to draw in 40-year-old children (and their children). The classics tend to hold up well – and there’s many a family who treasure “It’s a Wonderful Life” for this very reason.
To make the screening extra special why not prepare a lovely (and large) warm hot chocolate as a treat for you all? For younger children, this can help to “sell” the idea of sitting down to a screening of a slow Christmas movie, and a good way of engaging their imaginations is to give some options for customising it by leaving out cream, chocolate powder, cinnamon and sprinkles. You could also try buying (or making) cinnamon popcorn for additional Christmas movie vibes!
Leaving out a mince pie (and a carrot) for Father Christmas
Many families leave out something for Father Christmas and his reindeer as one of their Christmas Eve traditions. But what treats are set out for him tends to vary from family to family. A YouGov survey showed that a mince pie and carrot tend to be standard, but there several other items that sometimes appear, including:
- a glass of beer, sherry, port, wine or whisky
Traditionally the food is left next to the fireplace but modern homes doesn’t always have one. In this case, some parents and children’s books say Father Christmas has a “magic key” that opens all doors around the world or ask your children where they would leave the treats for Santa?
Tip: your life will be a lot easier if it’s not in their bedroom!
“Many families leave out something for Father Christmas and his reindeer as one of their Christmas Eve traditions.”
Santa is a busy man, however, so if you find that he hasn’t had time to have a nibble while making his rounds, take a bite of the mince pie and carrot… it will delight your children and fire up their imaginations. You can even show where he’s walked by putting on a pair of wellies or boots, stand in some flour and walk across the carpet. The extra vacuuming will be worth it for the look on their faces.
You may also want to follow the RSPCA’s instructions and craft some reindeer food to leave outside, which is also good for local wildlife. (Please don’t use reindeer food that contains glitter. While it looks pretty, isn’t too good for animal’s stomachs).
A decoration for each year
Many families we’ve worked with have mentioned how they add a new special decoration for their house each Christmas, charging these with positive memories from past Christmases. Here are a few suggestions for how to get this particular tradition rolling, with ideas for decorations to make or buy.
Why not incorporate something that has happened during the year such as a dog-shaped decoration to mark when a new puppy joins the family or a trinket bought while on holiday. It doesn’t even matter if it’s not actually that Christmassy – the fact that it gets put up during the festive season means it’ll soon be a tradition!
Make it unique
Shops sell some stunning decorations but these can be very expensive and may cost too much to buy all in one go. If you’ve ever thought that you really liked some particularly arty, design-led or expensive decoration but worried about breaking the bank congratulations – this is also a great way of picking up single decorations that you couldn’t afford as a set. The whole point of this family tradition is to pick up one-offs, so you now have the perfect excuse! Retailers massively reduce the price of decorations after Christmas, which can make a set of lights or a commemorative bauble a lot more affordable.
Make it yourself
What better way to mark the passage of the years and create a tradition than let tiny hands craft decorations? If you’re not particularly crafty don’t despair – many ‘paint your own’ pottery shops allow you to make Christmas baubles or decorations as an activity, often incorporating personal touches like a baby or child’s handprint.
There is a small warning here though… be prepared to shed a tear in years to come when you open a Christmas decoration crafted by a strapping 16–year old’s once-tiny hands! Take a look at our blog [link] for tips on making your own low–cost decorations as a family.
Don’t feel that all decorations have to come from you – younger children often bring back decorations from school which can be a lovely addition to the Christmas tree, and you can always ask guests and family to also bring decorations to contribute to the home, which in itself can become a tradition for future years.
Have a theme
For older children, you could set an annual challenge for everyone to find a decoration for next year’s tree. Decide together what the theme will be – for example snowmen, film-tie ins, a specific colour, Royal Family memorabilia, or even the ugliest decoration you can find. Then everyone can enjoy revealing their contribution when decorating the tree together.
If this article has inspired you to make Christmas special why not also take a look at our blog on getting crafty at Christmas for added inspiration?