Family Christmas Traditions


christmas activitiesWhether you’re a super-organised-did-my-shopping-in-July or a last minute scrambler, we’ve Christmas activities and traditions for you.

My initial disclaimer is that I love Christmas. Christmas is my favourite time of the year. I love a month of family Christmas activities, from cooking and craft to carols and get togethers. So, I asked my friends and family to give me a list of their favourite Christmas traditions and I present it here for you to adapt and purloin at will.

  1. Homemade Christmas cake.

I do this in late November/early December. I get out a trusty Nigella recipe (removing all the glace fruit and adding figs and apricots), generously soak the fruit in masala for a few days, then have a stir up evening whilst watching Love Actually.

  1. Creating your own Santa sacks.

One of my friend’s gets a couple of pillow cases and has her kids paint their own pictures and names on it, for Santa.

  1. Elf on the Shelf.

A lot of families now do this. We jumped on the Elf wagon last year. While it is undeniably a bit of work (particularly remembering it after a few boozy Christmas parties), it is one of my kids’ favourite things about Christmas. Make Pinterest your friend to garner ideas.

  1. Christmas tree shopping.

Lots of people have a family tradition centred around THE TREE. I love the idea of trekking out to a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm and hauling it back to decorate. After years of an enforced month of hay fever for my afflicted husband, we now have a fake tree, so I’ll live vicariously through the real trees of my friends.

  1. Santa photos.

I do wish I was organised and disciplined enough to do this. So many friends do a family Santa pic each year. My advice would be: do your research to work out what times Santa is where, then bring something to occupy the kids whilst in line . . . it can be a long wait. It also makes a good keepsake for the grandparents.

  1. Kids’ bedroom clean out.

We always do a pre-Christmas toy and book clear out before the Santa haul arrives. There’s always a few enormous plastic presents that arrive (generally from a childless uncle) and need to be kept somewhere. It’s also a good message to send to the kids: giving to those less fortunate and not to be obsessed with the ongoing accumulation of ‘stuff’.

  1. Create a Christmas playlist.

iTunes makes this pretty easy now. We tend to do this as I’m baking and my husband is online, playing bits and pieces of music and we all vote on what to add. It’s handy to have if you’re travelling by car to Christmas lunches/dinners and if you’re entertaining at home. Teach the kids something other than Jingle Bells!

  1. Kris Kringle.

Loads of family and friends now do a Kris Kringle for the extended family gifts. We do it on both sides of our family – although most of us still buy presents for all of the kids, as well. Most of the kids are still quite young, so they’re still fun to shop for. The 18 year olds . . . . not so much.

  1. Road to Bethlehem.

My sister has gone to this extravaganza for the last 14 years. It is organized by the Seventh Day Adventist church (she’s not a member of their community), but attracts thousands of people for its sheer spectacle for the kids. I’ve been a couple of times and they set up the entire story of Christmas with actors and tableaus, around a park. There’s also rides, face painting, balloons, food, etc.

  1. Neighbourhood street party.

I’m really envious of a few friends who do an awesome street party. The one year we tried it, we had flash floods. As you do, in Melbourne, on 22nd December. I love the idea of closing the street and getting to know neighbours over a Christmas prosecco or five, kids playing cricket in the street . . . maybe we’ll try again this year.

  1. Carols by candlelight.

There’s plenty of local carols on around the place. Lots of families near us go to a large, council-run one in a park. I have very evocative childhood memories of carols at the local footy oval, complete with Santa on the back of a fire truck. That was back when each kid was responsible for their own drippy candle on a paper plate . . . fortunate that the fire truck was there, really.

  1. Christmas lights.

Do your research online first, to find the best Christmas light locations. Then be prepared to park 1 kilometre away and walk! We wait until around 22nd/23rd December, as we know it’s going to be a late night for our kids. I’m thankful there are other people willing to spend the time and electricity on this, because I’m never going all Griswold on our house.

  1. Christmas cocktail.

Before we had kids, we used to have a rather enormous Dan Murphy’s shop up for Christmas parties. Nowadays, it’s a mad rush at the last minute. However, one thing we do like is to decide on our signature ‘Christmas cocktail’ and stock up for it, each year. If you can’t drink cocktails at Christmas, when can you? It’s the rare time (outside, perhaps, of the horse racing season) when it’s perfectly acceptable to sip your way through negroni’s at 11am while chatting to distant cousins.

  1. Market trip.

We love cooking and preserving at our place, so we make big lists of special occasion dishes to cook for Christmas, then head out to the markets to forage. The kids love this. My husband has a huge aversion to crowds, so we generally get the kids out of bed at dawn and go early. They get to sample their way through food stall after food stall and we all get to pick what we want. Such a fun morning and great way to involve kids in the whole food preparation thing that can be stressful.

  1. Christmas Eve pyjamas.

I’ve completely stolen this idea from my best friend – she gives her kids one present on Christmas Eve each year: new pyjamas. They wear them that night. You know all those Christmas morning photos? This is a pretty good way of styling them. My mum also gives my kids a new book each Christmas Eve, so they get to snuggle up in new PJs and we read their book, before trying to get them to sleep.

  1. Christmas breakfast.

I know it’s lunch that gets all the attention, but lots of families have lovely breakfast traditions. One friends buys all the mini jars of jam and mini cereal packets for her kids; another does biscotti and hot chocolate; there’s also ‘Santa’ pancakes or a full egg cook-up. We always do toasted panettone at my in-law’s house.

So: there’s a round up. Do you have any brilliant Christmas traditions? We’d love to hear about them!

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