Make this year the start of these fun annual festive traditions you can do as a family.
SHESAID resident psychologist Kim Chartres answers your most awkward and confronting questions.
What are your best Christmas memories from your childhood? The smell of pine? The presents under the tree? The anticipation? There were always traditions that we loved at Christmas and we want to pass them on to our own kid. And then there were things we weren’t so keen on and we’d rather replace them with something new. Here are a few ideas for fun holiday traditions you could start with your kids.
1. Bake Christmas cookies
We’ve been baking cookies for Santa for some time, but cookie baking doesn’t have to be limited to Christmas Eve. This year we’ve been making Christmas cookies for the fund-raising sale at my kids’ school and parties we need to go to. The kids love spending time in the kitchen, mixing and decorating. Cookies also make lovely small gifts if presented nicely in pretty boxes or decorated jars.
2. Christmas pyjama party
Lots of families get special Christmas pajamas for everyone, but if you wait until Christmas Eve to hand them out, those cute pajamas don’t get enough wear at all! So why not get them early and have a special pajama party leading up to Christmas with fun craft activities and games for the whole family?
3. A night at the lights
Every year we head out to see the Christmas lights in a street near us where the residents are competing for the best decorated house title. There’s a big park nearby, so we get there early, bring a picnic blanket and we spend some time together waiting for the houses to come to light. Then we walk around, take photos of our favourite houses and grab an ice cream from the ice cream truck.
4. Have a Christmas Eve surprise box
You don’t have to save all the fun of opening presents for Christmas day. Make the waiting more joyful with a Christmas Eve surprise box. You can include Christmas craft activities, puzzles, books, a CD with Christmas songs… anything that will add excitement and make Christmas Eve more magical.
5. Perform a Christmas play
If you have kids love to perform, help them put together a Christmas play. You can use a kids’ Christmas book to base your script on (our favourite is Dr Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”) or perform a biblical scene. The kids will have lots of fun picking their costumes, figuring out how to use household items as props and rehearsing their roles. Save a role for yourself, too! You can then perform the play for grandparents or extended family.
What’s important when you’re creating your own holiday traditions is that everyone is enjoying themselves. You don’t need another thing on your to-do list that you’re dreading. Only pick what’s fun and watch those little faces light up with joy.
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Family reunions at Christmas are supposed to be a joyful time, right? Unfortunately, not everyone’s family gets along well. More often than not, there’s the sibling that hasn’t outgrown childhood feuds, the aunt that never stops complaining or the uncle that always dishes out unwanted advice, confident that he’s the expert on how people should live their lives. Add the stress of too much to do and the pressure to get the perfect present for everyone, and you have an explosive mixture on your hands that usually doesn’t fail to blow up at some point. How can we make this year different and move through the family Christmas with joy and grace or at the very least escape unscarred?
Have realistic expectations
When we try pumping ourselves up with positive images and affirmation, saying to ourselves that everything will be different this time, our determination to have a great Christmas crumbles at the first glimpse of reality. The people you’ve known for years will not have changed. Instead of visualising the perfect holiday, know what to expect and accept that there will be challenging situations.
Pretend that everyone has good intentions
Your aunt is telling you how to raise your kids, because she genuinely loves you and she wants the best for you. Your brother always jokes about that event that you’d rather forget, because he has fond memories of you. When you believe (or at least pretend to believe) that people mean well, it’s much easier to just smile, say ‘thank you’ and not let things get to you.
Get busy with the kids
This is my favourite escape plan – when things get too hard, I can always remember that my kids need me and spend some time playing, chatting about Santa and looking at their presents. Even if you don’t have kids of your own, you can always borrow someone else’s. Kids never say ‘no’ to attention, so the plan works without fail every single time.
Focus on each moment as it comes, especially the positive
It’s easy to dismiss the whole family gathering as something horrible that you just have to get through, but don’t let the one argument or the tension you have with a family member ruin the whole event for you. In each family holiday there are also lots of great little moments and if we stop to appreciate them, they add up. Often there’re enough of these moments to outweigh the not-so-great interactions and create an overall fond memories of your family Christmas.
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