Discussing Christmas with friends about 10 years ago, we started telling stories about the traditions of our families at Christmas, the ones we loved and the ones we hated. The disgusting ones were dreaded cabbages and rigid socialization with elderly parents and "strange children" at the rigid benches at midnight mass.
Then we realized with horror that we had taken some of these traditions as obligatory for Christmas, and began to impose them on our little ones. While we had learned to love some of the traditions as we became adults, we agreed that it was not a good reason to force our children to love them. After all, the Christmas mantra is not for kids.
So we discussed how we could make changes. We would keep the Christmas traditions we loved (or loved) but did not expect children to join them if they did not want to. Instead, we would create new Christmas traditions especially for our families, adults and children. By using feast days as a starting point, here are some Christmas ideas that our friends and we made our traditions.
December 6, Feast of Saint Nicolas Widely celebrated in Europe, we made the Saint-Nicolas a special moment by having one of our friends like Saint Nicolas dressed and, in the early evening, make visit to each family of the group. St Nick asks each child three questions:
What do you hope to get this Christmas? Depending on the answer, this may be a good opportunity to handle expectations about Christmas gifts with sensitivity
What would you like to eat for the big Christmas Day meal? Asking this question gives us ample time to plan ahead and make sure the meal is not a battleground! Our point of view is why not go with what is asked? After all, it's a special day and once a year, so what does it matter if kids want to eat coconut and ice cream, spaghetti hoops and pizza? Last year we sat down to a mixture of cheese on toast, ham pizza, bacon sandwich (kids) and roast duck and all the side dishes (adults) followed by ice cream for all. It was a happy table!
Which Christmas games would you like us all to play at Christmas? We found it helpful to suggest ideas to make sure the suggestions are practical and include the older parents who will be with us on Christmas. Our favorites include Pass the Parcel with Challenges, Balloon Goal, Treasure Hunts, Image Consequences and, of course, Charades.
December 24, Christmas Eve Whenever you and the kids choose to decorate the tree, hide an important decoration: the Christmas fairy or a favorite bauble or a Christmas ornament. Point out that it's missing but do not make much noise about it. Reassure the children that it will happen. During tea, on Christmas Eve, raise your head and ask, "What's that noise, it comes from the room with the Christmas tree in it."
Ask the children to go see. They will find a slightly open window, fairy glitter on the ledge and / or the floor of the window, the missing ornament on the tree and, below, small gifts each with their own name. The Christmas fairy visited you!
December 25, Christmas Day Pose a trail of wool, string or ribbon from each child's bed to their Christmas stockings – if you like to watch them open it can lead to your room. This is a great way to reassure little ones who are wary of having Santa in their room!
A very good way to avoid the frenzy of current unpacking is to hide the gifts in a treasure hunt. We start with a note from Santa Claus (FC) saying that he feels a bit mischievous this year (our children's chorus: "AGAIN!") And so he hid their presents. To find them, they must solve the clues in the envelope that he left behind. (When our children were younger, we used to place streaks of stars on the presents rather than using clues.)
We usually let children solve three clues, open and enjoy them before moving on to the next batch. For starters, we put a gift for each adult to discover next to the cache for the kids as they solve a clue. Now that they are older (15, 12, 10 and 6 years old), the three elders spend hours writing clues for us in the days leading up to Christmas: the youngest still believes that it is all the work of FC. We tend to have about half a dozen clues before lunch.
Lunch is what was chosen with St. Nicholas on December 6th, followed by Picture Consequences around the table, before starting the "current hunt" again.
We like to go for a walk on Christmas day if it does not run, but we found our children less enthusiastic before presenting the Christmas Fairy Trail. All this consists of chocolates wrapped in a glossy sheet to be discovered at intervals along the way. If you like this idea, and your walk is popular, do not forget to take enough sweets for other kids coming and going. They will flock to see what happens as a band of curious sparrows!
As the light fades, it is time for our tradition of Christmas Games with those chosen for St Nicks Day. Animated favorites (especially if the weather has prevented a walk) are the balloon goal, the balloon challenges and the snowballs of wrapping paper. Who am I? Charades and pass the package with challenges are also very popular with the whole family, young and old. We always end with Name That Carol, which involves someone who hums a song, everyone guesses what it is and, inevitably, sings it.
December 26, Boxing Day It is while we hold our traditional "Come As your shoe size is not your age party for the family and friends, and have more lively Christmas games that are best played with 12 or more people. Star of the show must be the treasure hunt (yes, another!), But also played with enthusiasm are ladders, murder in the dark with a Twist and Relay Races (spoon on a rope, ball batting, and good of Others: devote a room to eat, drink and party and make it a game. Children love adults to drop their hair and join them
January 6th, Epiphany or 12th Night To end the Christmas festivities, the 12th night is celebrated as a day of bad administration, we adapted the French tradition of making a cake with a bean, the amount of cake to be eaten, and whose turn is to find the bean every year can be managed! I am also flexible with the date (a practical tradition!) so that it falls a day or two before the school starts
The cakes are served for breakfast, e Whatever the child finds the bean in their cake is king or queen for the day. They choose what they want the family to do together for the day and we all fall into their plans. It's a nice way to end the Christmas holidays.
My philosophy is that a tradition should only be followed because it is loved. No one needs to put themselves or their children under stress to follow what others (and even the media) think you should do or eat. You know your children better: do what they love and create your traditions that they will cherish forever.