As an adult, I still get caught up in all the magic at Christmas but the season really is made infinitely more special when there are small children around!
I relish pouring over beautiful Christmas magazines full of gorgeous décor, recipes and crafts. The overseas ones from the U.K. or America are particularly inspiring.
In our house, we have the bonus of embracing culture from my heritage which is British and Dutch and my husband’s German roots.
During the festive season, there are a few things that have become family Christmas traditions over the years that we enjoy doing together.
Giving To Help
It’s important for kids to understand how privileged they are compared to others especially in a country like South Africa. At our school, we collect items for the Santa’s Shoebox initiative on a month by month basis throughout the year which are then distributed at Christmas. I’ve had to explain to my 3 why collecting basic items like facecloths or toothbrushes is actually a luxury for some. The kids also clear out their rooms to donate to the Rotary Christmas party we attend. They love scratching for toys or books that others will find new joy in.
My other favourite places to give are Pumpkin Ministries in Durbanville, a safe house for abandoned and abused children who are given the most incredible love and support. Then Raise ‘n Rescue in Bellville who go above and beyond rescuing and rehoming mostly cats but a few dogs. They also do community outreach work. Monetary and appropriate goods donations are very gratefully received by both places. Raise ‘n Rescue also auctions off unwanted items for funds. Our gorgeous tabby, Jinxie is a Raisen girl.
As kids, our Advent calendars were mailed to us by our great aunts living on the Isle of Wight in England. There was much anticipation each morning to see what little image was hidden behind the festive cardboard window. My kids have wooden Advent houses and each year I load a choccie or sweet into each drawer. Questionable parenting exists for 24 days as they wake up to eating candy just gone 0600 but it sure gets them racing out of bed on a school morning. The excitement is huge as they anxiously try to locate the right drawer to open. I do also milk it for good behaviour leverage!
Each year I buy a new Christmas related book to add to our collection. The assortment of books is displayed under the Christmas tree. During this period my hubby reads a bedtime story around the twinkling lights of the tree. Being summer we have to draw the curtains for a more dramatic effect! Three of my current favourites are Slinky Malinki’s Christmas Crackers by Lynley Dodd, Angelina’s Christmas by Katharine Holabird and The Christmas Bear by Ian Whybrow with its delightful popup tabs on each page.
We bake a few different festive-inspired cookies that shout Christmas. These include cranberry studded shortbread, German Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars) and nothing says Christmas quite like gingerbread men! We bake a huge batch of gingerbread dough, use a bunch of cookie cutters to make shapes and then have tonnes of fun decorating with melted chocolate or icing.
The pièce de la résistance when he does it most years is the elaborate gingerbread house my hubby makes! He tries to outdo himself each year by adding detail like candy stained glass windows or a battery-operated string of lights inside the house. The kids go into a frenzy sticking a haphazard assortment of sweets everywhere.
This is mostly the kids’ department as they get stuck into making Christmas cards to hand out to friends and family. I also print off a bunch of Christmas themed colouring-in pages and keep them in a plastic sleeve where they can help themselves. Pinterest is the absolute bomb for ideas. I’ve also downloaded and made a Christmas themed bingo game to play. Click on and follow my Christmas Board to get some ideas.
I’ve got such fond memories attending Noddy’s Christmas Party with Mr Plod and Big Ears and co. as a child and now we take our kids to the local annual Rotary party called Oom Piet’s. There are plenty of these parties around. It’s tonnes of fun with a tractor ride, picnic, little show, hay fights, carol singing, a fire engine talk & tour, a visit from Father Christmas and so much more! The organiser’s collect toys and non-perishable food to distribute to the needy.
After a few weeks of fun and games the excitement PEAKS on Christmas Eve. We go to my parent’s every year for dinner and there is a full routine to follow before we leave as it’s late when we return home for bedtime. A whisky gets poured for Father Christmas and some cookies put out on a plate. The kids leave him letters or their wishlists which get pulled off bedroom windows where his birds have hopefully flown past and observed some of the rational and some of the utterly ridiculous requests. Carrots are left on the patio for the hungry reindeers who tend to leave a bit of a mess each year with half-chewed carrots left lying for mom to clean up in the morning.
The rule on the morning of the 25th is the last kid out of bed opens the first present. Yeah right, who are we kidding? The delight in watching 3 excited little faces bursting with joy as they rush into the lounge to see what has been delivered is priceless!
What are YOUR fun family traditions in the lead up to Christmas? Let me know in the comments!
Follow my Pinterest Christmas Board for loads of inspiring food, décor crafts and more.
One Stop Wanderlust showcases family travel and family-friendly outings in South Africa. Grab a coffee and stay on the blog to find more exciting wanderlust worthy ideas and tips.