Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas Traditions - Our Family Way

I love traditions and particularly the fun of building family traditions around Christmas time. Not necessarily traditional traditions mind you! But just finding little routines, ideas and activities that work for our family and bring us together, or help us focus outwards and so on.

My Christmas motto however, is the most effect for the least effort! I hear people all around me talk about how stressful Christmas is, they hate it and can't wait for it to be over - usually they are mothers. I thought I would understand this sentiment when I 'grew up' and started being burdened with all this Christmas stress that seems to be out there, but I guess with almost three kids and all that, I am pretty much classified as a grown up (though I don't feel it!) but I still don't hate Christmas?! In fact I love it more and more each year as my family grows.

I know of course this stress and such must come from various different circumstances or complicated family relations, but for me, I am committed to keeping Christmas enjoyable by keeping it simple. I would rather a very basic and quiet Christmas enjoyed with my family, than an elaborate affair that exhausted me and made me resentful and stressed. Without doubt, these feelings would be absorbed by my family, so how does it benefit them, let alone me? I figure by keeping the expectations simple and manageable, if I as 'Chief Christmas Coordinator' enjoy it, that helps everyone else enjoy it too. I know without doubt my family would rather a happy ham sandwich on Christmas day than a gourmet degustation menu with four styles of baked ham and three different home-made stuffings, served with a side of a cranky, worn out Mama!

Is there anything more traditional than a Daddy and Grandpa staying up till midnight, assembling one very special
Christmas gift!? Thankfully it wasn't on Christmas Eve so not too much pressure!

Aw - so cute, these two working away together on something for the kids!

Hmmm, yes, complex instructions and a whole lotta screws!

I guess because of changing family circumstances and locations as I grew up, I don't really have a lot of high standards or expectations about what Christmas 'should' be. I am grateful for this because it enables me to not feel compelled to maintain some kind of compulsory Christmas standard (even if it means killing myself in the process!), and it also means we get the joy of creating 'our family way' of doing Christmas. So we do the things we want to do, welcome activities and traditions that suit and seem enjoyable or meaningful to us and simply avoid, decline or choose not to do things that seem too burdensome or stressful.

All this means thus far is that Christmas is flexible, fun, relaxed, and family-focused. And  also has the ability to change year on year depending on... you know... life. Yes, I would have loved to do a bunch of baking this year with the kids to gift to friends and neighbours, but due to being 8 months pregnant, sick and in the midst of renos, it just was not going to happen. That's ok. We do what we can do! There are several new traditions and activities I would have loved to start this year that just have not been able to due to life's current situation and while yes, I did feel a little disappointed  I know the kids are perfectly happily with the Christmas experience before them.... really, it would only be myself putting pressure on myself to do more!

Although as I said, I am a sentimental softie for family traditions, I also try to be conscious about not being so bound by them that they become burdensome. If I have time, energy and enthusiasm for things like baking Christmas cookies or making Christmas cards one year, then we will do it - with love and joy. If it feels just like a 'must-do' burden, then we will skip it without guilt! I try to keep gift buying meaningful but not overboard, for close family only and aim to have it all completed by December 1st so there is no frantic last minute rush.

All that said, I like to have a flexible goal of little yearly happenings to incorporate. Here are some of the traditions we have developed so far - 

  • Decorating the tree together with Christmas carols playing
  • Christmas Book Advent read in front of the tree each night, with lights on, and followed by singing carols together
  • Giving gifts to less fortunate children
  • New pyjamas and a book given on Christmas Eve
  • Going to see the lights on Christmas Eve with  kids in PJs
  • Home made cinnamon scrolls to nibble on Christmas morning while we unwrap presents
  • Helping the siblings make gifts for each other
  • On the years we are home and hosting, we have a big Christmas brunch after the gift opening is done - home made waffles, pastries, croissants, fruit platter, bacon and eggs, fresh juices and so on. Usually followed by a Christmas movie, naps and relaxing, and a mid-afternoon easy lunch. Yes, it probably seems scandalous to not do the whole turkey/ham/seafood thing but it's not a big deal to us and makes the catering stress-free and easy while still yummy!
I had planned this year to incorporate some more service/community-giving activities for the family to do together but it just was out of my abilities so it's something to try again for next year. I can see things continuing to change and grow as our family does and this is something I look forward to! Our Christmas, our family, our way... 

Would love to hear what Christmas is like for your family, and what traditions you grew up with or have developed in your own family that you love - always looking for new ideas to incorporate!


  1. Well this is another one of your "Christmas posts" I like a lot :) I love your confidence in your parenting decisions and how you are carving out your own family traditions as your family grows.
    It's funny, we do a lot of the same things (book advent, decorating the tree to music, pjs and book (a new Christmas book that can be added to next year's book advent), gift giving to the less fortunate, lights night the week before Christmas).
    Some others that we do:
    - The kids get to buy one new christmas tree decoration for the tree in the first week of Dec. You know something a little special to go on the tree. This year Harper choice was a ballerina/fairy and Finn's was a silver bell.
    - We make cookie cutter salt dough decorations together. We add a few to the tree and give others as presents :) Each year I am perfecting the recipe!
    -I take each child out for a special shopping trip to buy the other sibling a new book to give on Christmas Day. This year was the first year they both independently chose the book for the other sibling. Harper is giving Finn a Fireman Sam book and Finn is giving Harper 'Olivia the Fairy' :) - noticing a fairy theme here?

    I would like to do a few more of our own special family traditions on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day but seeing that we are usually away from hme it doesn't always work out (hence its not a cemented tradition!)
    Tomorrow night we will be in our home on Christmas Eve (for the first time in many years). We are planning to have abackyard picnic of fresh prawns and salad and ice-cream sundaes for dessert. That's a tradition I will like to continue!

    Merry Christmas lovely Kate. I know it will be a special day for you and your family. xxx

    1. oh these are great ideas and thoughts Amber! I love the idea of the kids choosing out an ornament each year, might have to steal that one :) Have you heard the tradition of giving the kids an ornament each year then when they leave home they get to take their little collection w them? (may already be your plan) - love the idea of combining these two rather than parents choosing as knowing you picked that ornament when you were 3 is pretty darn cute!
      Those salt dough ornaments are awesome and ours is hanging proudly on the tree :) might have to try it out next year w your recipe!
      Xmas eve BBQ sounds DIVINE... and yes its tricky to work around family commitments but glad you are making it work where you can. Enjoy your BBQ (hope its yearly) and have an absolutely wonderful xmas, dearest friend! xx

  2. Love Daddy and Grandad working together. I wish I could 'co-ordinate' Xmas to be stressless - however with up to 4 families that need to be visited... can be exhausting!

  3. Wow, I love your Christmas traditions. And totally agree that low key and stress free is the best way. Merry Christmas to you all and I pray you have a peaceful and family fun filled Christmas as we celebrate Jesus' birthday.

  4. My Husband and I have two traditions we have done together for over 12 years now on any budget in any living traveling situation (and there has been a few)
    One is my husband and I makes fruit cake together (I don't even eat or like fruit cake but I love the meaning behind them as the recipes were passed down by people that mean a lot to us both ) we soak the fruit for a few weeks and then make a cake. We have 2 recipes depending on our situation one for a traditional cake and the other for a quick one that doesn't keep as well.
    The other one is we make ginger bread houses. We have gotten so much better over the years our first one was so bad we had to glue it together with toffee and it ended up being karate chopped open by a friend. It has been so tempting over the years to buy a kit but I am so glad we persevere.
    This year is the first year we have been able to enjoy these with our toddler helping and we are loving it. We have decided that Xmas eve is the best time to decorate the houses due to the risk of ants in QLD summers. We also do the PJ swapping on Xmas eve as we all love new PJ's!

  5. I just love posts about Christmas traditions! You have some that are similar to our family's. :)


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