Christmas at Home: Festive Family Traditions.

Wow, we’re into December already! Lockdown has lifted but for many of us now living under tier 2 & 3 restrictions (shout out to my tier 3 massive!) finding the festive fun is proving to be a bit difficult this year.

With every (totally expected) cancellation email I started to feel a tiny bit of my Christmas spirit slip away and I’ve felt….

…as Christmassy as a rotten sprout!

Thanks goes to my sister for introducing me to that particular turn of phrase! But, all is not lost and now that our decorations are up, the advent calendars have been pillaged and I’m starting to look forward to Christmas and the festive period once again.

Over the last few years we have created a few little family traditions that have become a big part of our Christmas celebrations. In this post I’ll share what we’ve loved, some ideas for creating your own traditions and I’ve also asked some of my fellow bloggers to share the little things that help them to create that festive feeling within their own families.

New Decorations

I’m starting simple, each year we buy a new decoration for our main tree. This can be anything from a complete glitter fest that caught our eye or one to help us to remember a moment, year or special person.

Purchased locally from Bowers Bits & Bobs

This year it was a lockdown themed hanger (it had to be really didn’t it?) and was from a local small business Bowers Bits & Bobs and doesn’t contain plastic so it ticked all of the boxes for us.

Return to Sender

I think this is possibly my favourite of all the things we do because of the lessons and values it helps to embed.

Firstly, a little background: we are a large family living in a small house. Our boys are currently aged 2 – 6 years. They have ALL the things! We are always on the verge of full capacity. So this was born out of necessity but has evolved into something really quite beautiful.

In the week before Christmas we encourage the boys to sort out their toys and choose anything that they haven’t played with for a while, that may be broken or ones they have grown out of. It usually takes a few days of deliberation but a good sized box is usually full by Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve the boys leave the box under the tree before they go to bed.

Awaiting collection

Santa will collect the toys and take them back to his elves in their workshop. The toys will then be cleaned, repaired and even upgraded. The elves will store them carefully ready for the following Christmas when they will be given to children who may not get many presents, or are spending Christmas in hospital.

Of course the reality is that we bin the broken ones, but we do donate any working toys to a local hospice charity shop.

As the years have gone on the boys have really taken to this activity and actually choose ‘nice’ toys to give back so that the children get a treat on Christmas Day. I hope it has helped to encourage them to think of others, to be kind, and find the true meaning of Christmas.

Yule Log

We have a log burning stove and so every year we create our own ‘yule log’.

This log will be lovingly decorated with glitter, stickers, glitter, pipe cleaners, glitter, paint, more glitter and anything else the boys can find in the depths of the craft bag.

Yule log

Just before bedtime on Christmas Eve we will burn the yule log, sending Santa a magical glittery smoke signal to let him know that the boys are going to bed and that the coast is clear.

Nearly bed time

Keepsake Decorations

For each of the boy’s first Christmases I’ve made hand and footprint decorations. Salt dough is easy to make and has a play dough consistency that lends itself to modelling and making imprints.

All you’ll need is:

  • 1 cupful of plain flour (approx 250g)
  • 1/2 a cupful of table salt (approx 125g)
  • 1/2 a cupful of water (approx 125ml)

The trick I’ve found is to bake the salt dough low and slow, if it gets too hot it puffs up and loses the shape.

Stanley’s footprint snowman

Once it has been baked and has hardened, you can decorate it in any fashion you like. I’ve used a mixture of paints and pens on mine and then varnished to keep them looking their best.

A word of caution, store your decorations in a dry and reasonably warm area. Mine went up into the loft which although dry gets cold and the saltdough absorbed the damp air which completely ruined a few. Since then I’ve kept them in the kitchen and they’ve been fine.

If making salt dough isn’t your thing you could dry air drying clay instead.

Christmas Lights

Let’s take it back the 80’s this year…drive around and look at Christmas lights or even better walk around your local area.

I remember doing this as a child, and it made me so excited! I’m going to do it with my boys this year, because our annual trip to Chester Zoo’s The Lanterns has been put on hold for us until next year. [The event is still going ahead, Chester is tier 2]

Image Credit: Weston Christmas Lights

Find streets that have lots of lights. Some even do charity based events if you can find them, Facebook is fab for this. We have one near us that serves hot chocolate and has a Santa Claus that the kids can see, for 2020 it is operating as a drive thru. This is something you can do with babies and toddlers that is easy and stimulating for them too! Play Christmas music as you drive to make it a cheap and memorable festive activity.

Becka from Mummy Est 2014 says: Every year we go for a walk around the local houses to see the lights and decorations, it’s fun and free!

Festive Flicks

Watch some of the classics or try some new Christmas films. Some of our favorites are The Snowman, The Christmas Chronicles, Arthur Christmas, The Polar Express and Santa Claus the Movie.

Don your Christmas jumpers, make some hot chocolate and some yummy treats to enjoy while you watch.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve boxes aren’t something we’ve ever done, mainly because our budget is tight and we want the big day to be the main event. I do like to cuddle up in our pj’s on Christmas Eve and watch The Snowman though so I can completely understand why Christmas Eve boxes have become increasingly popular.

The perfect Christmas Eve box should ideally contain something you can use that night. A special pair of Christmas pjs, a movie they would love, a special book to read, or a game to play.

Ella from Typical Mummy says: “Santa” always delivers new pyjamas and a new book to our children on Christmas Eve. The children find them on their pillows just before bedtime and it’s always very exciting for them!

Why stick to Christmas Eve? Chantele from Two Hearts One Roof goes one step further: We have a December box instead of a Christmas Eve box. It’s a large wooden create that arrives on 1st December and has all our Christmas books so we can read them throughout December, a felt Christmas tree to put up for my dude to decorate and play with, wooden nativity scene he can play with and a few Christmas themed crafts to do throughout the month.

Another month long suggestion comes from Terri from The Strawberry Fountain – We do a book advent so that every evening we snuggle on the sofa and read a Christmas story. It’s my favourite tradition and a perfect way to end Christmas Eve and head to bed.

As an outdoorsy bunch we usually head out for a walk locally to get some fresh air and exercise before the Christmas over indulgence. As an added bonus we usually see the Santa steam train passing by in all its tinselled glory too.

Our Christmas Eve route

Mandi from East Anglia Family Fun is a woman after my own heart:

We take seven children and the dog out for a walk on Christmas eve, they all wear a festive top and hat, it keeps their excitement levels, down and hopefully makes them ready to go to sleep earlier, the eldest is now 22 and they all still love going for the walk.

Nikki from Best Things To Do in York suggests checking what time ‘Santa’ is flying over on the International Space Station Sleigh. Wrap up warm and take a hot chocolate with marshmallows into the garden to watch him go by!

Jennifer from Rice Cakes and Raisins says: we make reindeer food on Christmas Eve (oats, pumpkin seeds, with sunflowers seeds for example). The boys then get to sprinkle it in the garden!

Visit a Tree Farm

OK so I’m probably a bit late to recommend going to a tree farm this year as we have seen all rules go out of the window in 2020 and Christmas trees were starting to pop up as soon as Halloween was over.

We are new to this too as we have previously brought in a potted tree. The potted one was chosen by Stanley aged 18 months and was nicknamed ‘the wonky donkey’ it brought us 4 years of Christmas joy but sadly after the ravages of 2020 it is looking a bit worse for wear so this year we have tried something new.

A great day out

We visited a local tree farm and had great fun picking our tree from the huge fields of different species available. The smell was worth it alone! We were given a label to tie to the branches and trunk, this would claim ownership of the chosen tree and we arranged to collect it a few weeks later. As I have mentioned we were newbies but we saw some seasoned professionals who were resplendent in Christmas jumpers and carrying tinsel to add to their tree and make it stand out amongst it’s peers. We had a great time and it became a family day out which in these crazy times is something we treasured.

The chosen one!

I’ve already popped it into the diary for next year!

Create a Hot Chocolate Station

This has become such a ‘thing’ this year and there are some fab examples out there! What’s not to like really? Cosying in with a hot chocolate with all the toppings is perfect for the festive period, plus its a great way to warm up from the inside when you’ve been out in the Winter weather, so why not celebrate the humble hot chocolate and make it even more special?

Image from Pinterest. Credit unknown

Make it Last

The build up and anticipation for Christmas is so wonderful that the main event seems to fly by and before you know it, you’re clearing away and heading to bed again.

Anything to make that Christmas joy stretch gets a thumbs up from us!

Catherine from Travel Around Ireland explains how her family achieve this: We always open Santa’s presents before breakfast and other presents after we are dressed and ready for the day.

Angela from Exploring Dorset recommends this simple trick – We allocate our presents throughout the day, so one present an hour, some small, one main present. It keeps the excitement happening all day!

And fear not if your household has older children, you can still create the magic. Leyla from Motherhood Diaries explains: We used to make cookies and leave some milk out for Santa. But the boys found out he didn’t exist this year (they’re 8 and 9) so now they’re going to help me decorate the house with their Christmas art and create a mega family quiz for our extended international family.

I hope this post has helped to spread a little cheer and given you some inspiration towards creating your own festive family traditions at home this Christmas.

All images are my own unless otherwise credited and must not be reproduced without permission.