I do love Christmas although I’m fighting against the OH who’s a bah humbug and would happily work all day given the chance. The rest of his family don’t get that excited either. Maybe it’s a farming thing? We probably had more family traditions growing up than we do now, but I do try and make it a bit special each year. With Christmas being a working day, it’s a case of fitting in the Christmas family traditions with other things and making less of a big fuss about them.
Building on Christmas family traditions
I find we build on traditions each year. And they flex. So some years timings will work, other years they won’t. Some activities happen by default (ie the majority of the family get together at some point on Christmas day), the others are organised. But over the years we discover new things we enjoy, we switch around locations or activity, but we like to fit in lots in the run up to make us feel Christmassy.
Christmas events and visits
Going to see Christmas lights are an essential, and I try and drag persuade N to go to see a Christmas show as well, at least once. Our visits through the seasons usually include
1, Garden centre visits. I don’t do gardening, but garden centres usually have great Christmas displays and quite often have lovely decorations to admire. We usually see them when out and about or visiting for other things (this year, when we were out for pumpkin picking in October!). They’re free, an opportunity to pick up different gifts, and get you into the Christmas spirit
2, National Trust displays: Waddesdon Manor for stunning house displays, light shows on the building itself, and outside art installations. It’s stunning, but they now charge even members for it. This doesn’t seem to put off everyone going, which means the car park is insane and you need to arrive early and then spend all day mooching around trying to find stuff to do. Not good if it’s raining. We also try and head somewhere more locally to see how they’ve decorated the house, although sometimes that ends up being me on my own.
3, Stately home Christmas displays We do the Blenheim Palace light display. I loved seeing the first one last year despite the extortionate cost, and have booked again this year. It’s exciting because it’s evening, there’s usually fire, fairground rides, hotdogs and hot chocolate, and speaking to Father Christmas by his house. But if you’re in big cities, there now seem to be lots of lantern
4, Theatre or music shows. The last few years we’ve been to Warwick Arts Centre to enjoy various immersive experiences and shows (The Lost Gift, Gruffalo’s Child and Paddington’s concert), but we’ve also done the Christmas Cinderella show locally last year, and went to Coventry Cathedral to see the Snowman concert and film which was wonderful. This year we’ve just opted for the pantomime for the first time. We’ll see how that goes (N is already moaning that he doesn’t want to go), although I’m looking out for anything else to go to. So far, there’s not much I’ve seen of interest concert or show wise.
5, Church services. In the past I’ve taken N to Christingle services and carol concerts. But now he’s at school it’s easier to just enjoy them through that. School always have a carol singalong on the last day of the term along with mince pies etc, and it’s a lovely event to take part in.
6, Christmas eve meal at the pub. As a child, I always went to midnight mass, but the OH’s family always goes to the pub for a big family meal. It’s a great way to get everyone together, avoids the need for cooking before the big day, and makes you feel like you’re celebrating. Unfortunately this year, our local pub landlords have sold their pub so again we’re in limbo trying to find somewhere nearby and suitable.
Christmas at home
Home is the best way to have annual traditions, because you’re not relying on others, and it’s realistic for your children to then take on board some of those traditions.
7, Advent calendars. Buy them or make your own alternative advent calendars. N has a combination – it’s a fabric one that I just pop chocolate coins in and various activity ideas. Who doesn’t like eating chocolate first thing in the morning?
8, Christmas songs. I love Christmas songs and N enjoys them even more than me so we play them a lot. I frequently can’t find my CDs, so end up buying another version, because he’s wandered off to play them. My favourites are the classic Christmas songs, he prefers the dreary War is Over.
9, Christmas tree and decorations. Despite the fact a couple of the nephews usually sell real Christmas trees, I have an artificial one. I know exactly how it looks, how the ornaments work on there, and it’s ok for the time being. I’d like a fuller bushier one, but I have never managed to get one in the sale so far – I have expensive taste. We only have 2-3 colours on the tree, purple and silver with a touch of peacock blue/teal. I’m struggling to find much of that colour, so I’m gradually working on that. Every year I buy a new bauble, although the tree is pretty full and I really need to stop! The tree is put up usually a week before Christmas depending when the weekend falls. And we have a little nativity set that gets put up too. I keep adding a few fairy lights around the house and the OH keeps removing them again. Sigh.
10, Christmas movies. Yes I’m a Christmas movie fan, and as soon as Channel 5 put them on at weekends I’m there recording and watching the cheesiest movies. I can’t get enough. N isn’t so keen although he has some favourites and I’m working my way up to watching more of them with him. Arthur Christmas went down well, and The Snowman, Father Christmas and The Snowman and the Snowdog are key viewing as far as I’m concerned.
11, Christmas specials. We don’t want much (if any) television on Christmas day, so generally I record and watch on catch up, but I do keep a watch out for the various Christmas tv shows we love. There’s always celebrity chef cooking programmes, a ballet is usually shown, there’s plus a Cbeebies panto to watch with the children, and various comedy shows.
12, Christmas eve traditions. We don’t go to town, but N does have new Christmas pyjamas, and I’ll look out for Christmas books so we can read them in the run up. There’s always the tradition of putting a drink, mince pie (taken from Granny’s house) and carrot out for Father Christmas, and there’ll always be a stocking put out.
13, Christmas lunch. While I love turkey and the accompaniments, I’m not a fan of Christmas pudding or cake, so I always do an alternative pudding. We always have bucks fizz on Christmas day before lunch. And the turkey comes from the farm.
14, Christmas day tea is my favourite time of Christmas. In the morning we’ll always go to the cousins to do a present handover, then quite often we’ll be just on our own for Christmas lunch. The OH always has to go out feeding in the afternoon (last year N and my brother went with him so I was left on my own – boring). But for tea we always get together with the in laws and usually one of the sister and brother-in-laws. The remaining turkey and puddings get taken over, and we all have leftovers for tea, then chat and play games. It’s always a lovely time and the cousins can all play together
Sometimes we go to a Santa’s Grotto, sometimes we go ice skating.
We don’t go over the top but it’s lovely to have those family experiences and activities returning year after year. It makes it something for the children to look forward to as well as including new discoveries.
What family traditions do you have at Christmas?
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