The beauty of the festive season lies in building traditions, says one Christmas-mad mum-of-three…
Words Emily Beckloff
I adore Christmas and everything about it (yes, even Brussels sprouts). I always have. But this time of year is always so much more magical as a parent; to see children bursting with anticipation and excitement for weeks before December 25th is wonderful! Like most celebrators, I want my children to have that same Christmassy feeling I used to have when I was a child, and for them to treasure their own seasonal family traditions. Yet, as a new family, it’s hard to know where and when to start.
I’ve come across some people who think Christmas traditions might be wasted on babies. That’s not true at all. Our children – no matter their age – love looking back at photos of themselves and family life at Christmas time. It strengthens that all-important sense of feeling loved and belonging to a tribe. But it’s fair to say we all have our own favourite childhood customs, which we often cling on to tighter than Father Christmas stuck up a chimney. So, when we create our own families, is it okay to ditch some of our own time-honoured traditions? Or even (gasp) make up new ones? The truth is – anything goes!
When our eldest was born, my husband and I each had our own ideas about Christmas traditions as a new family. It can be a tricky thing to navigate, but (sidestepping a divorce!) we managed to come up with a democratic amalgamation of our favourites. One popular one with our children is us arguing over choosing and decorating our Christmas tree together as a family. Another is one I came up with when our eldest was four – I decided to surprise our three kids with a candle-lit bath on Christmas Eve. When they first saw the bathroom, their faces were a picture – and it’s something I’ll never forget. Now aged 11, our daughter says it’s still one of her favourites.
It’s the small things that trigger that amazing Christmassy feeling. And it starts young. Think back to your own childhood and your fondest Christmas memories. What as an adult can plunge you straight into that warm cosy feeling of Christmas? For us, it’s the smell of oranges, cinnamon and cloves. Our kids say it reminds them of us baking cookies together in a warm kitchen. Another one is playing board games as a family in front of the fire, the Christmas tree lights twinkling in the background.
Physiologically, our senses are hard-wired in the memory-making part of our brain, so anything we “feel” is likely to become part of a treasured memory for life (or so we hope!). So, turn on the festive tunes, get baking, drive around the neighbourhood to look at all the winter lights, snuggle up and watch a Christmas movie together, and definitely pop some marshmallows into that hot chocolate. Whatever you decide to do, just make it yours and make it magical.
Emily’s top tips and tricks on making your own traditions:
• Remember it’s about enjoying doing things together.
• Make sure these are things you only do around Christmas time.
• Don’t go overboard with lots of traditions. Less can be more.
• Do choose things you actually love doing yourself.
• Buy a new bauble or decoration for each child each year.
• Take a photo of you all together on Christmas Day every year. The less formal the better!
• Visit a Christmas market together or see Father Christmas in his grotto as a family.
• Turn on Christmas music and have a dance around.
• Take a short video of family members on Boxing Day, allowing each of them to say what they loved most about this Christmas.