At this time of the year my newsfeed is full of blogging friends describing their planned Christmas celebrations; their visits to Santa, Elf on the Shelf antics, school nativity plays. Last year I was one of those people. But children grow up, quickly, and in no time at all they’re ‘too old’ for the Christmases we’ve become accustomed to. It’s important to make the most of your time, because time stops for no one. Make lifelong memories now, while you can. So, here’s how we have found the last 12 years of our Christmas celebrations.
Before the children came along, our Christmases were ones of driving between parents, in-laws and friends. Very repetitious year after year, but really enjoyable and comforting. Unwrapping presents while lunch was cooking, then lunch, then a lazy afternoon in front of the TV. Then we’d get up early the next morning, drive across the country to the other set of parents, and do the same again!
Christmas with the Babies
Once Millie-Mae was born (the first grandchild on both sides of the family) everything changed. It was now all about the baby; everyone focused on her. Personalised tree decorations, stockings, custom-made plates for Santa’s visit. When Toby came along, two years later, we started to visit Santa, went visiting garden centres to look at all the decorated trees and light tunnels … Christmas morning was full of huge wrapped boxes that Millie-Mae couldn’t wait to rip open. It was a lot more chaotic, but the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ we remembered as children ourselves had returned and our focus was on making the Christmas Dream come true for them.
Christmas with Pre-Schoolers
With two willing participants who wanted to watch Christmas movies and visit Santa every December weekend, we were living the Christmas Dream. So much so we took them to Lapland for 3 days to see the real Santa. For us adults, looking back, it was stressful (delayed flights, rushed experiences once in Lapland), but to them it was magical. Riding a snowmobile, visiting an ice house, being pulled by huskies, kick sledging, building snowmen, and meeting Mr Claus – they still talk about the trip now. We always said we’d take them again …
Christmas with Primary and Nursery-aged Children
Now Christmases became very busy. The all-important school nativities, teacher cards and presents, group Santa visits with school friends, even their first Christmas parties!
We researched the best Santa, took them to the pantomime, or to watch ‘The Snowman’ at the theatre. Christmas lights switch-on became an annual trip into town.
The children helped us bake cakes and biscuits, and they scanned the ‘Laminated Book of Dreams’ (aka the Argos catalogue) to draw rings round the toys they wanted Santa to bring.
You live in this Christmas ‘bubble’ for a good few years – these are the Christmases you remember as a child if you were lucky enough to be spoilt like I was!
(Look out for toby, the fed-up boy in a turkey hat … This was first aired on ITV between the Christmas Day Coronation Street – 2015)
Christmas with Middle Schoolers/young Teens
Both our children are now in Middle School (it starts in Year 5, and is basically going up to Secondary school two years early). No more school nativity plays. Santa is starting to be questioned. Do they believe? They desperately want to, but doubts are creeping in. Visiting Santa is for babies though, according to them (that’s not to say I won’t take them!) The loss of a much-loved Nana meant that our family Christmases changed a year ago; the missing person at the dining table leaves everyone sad. Our children have grown up.
Those frantic but lovely Christmases of previous years are now behind us, and a new kind of Christmas is replacing it. But how do we make them magical? How do we make their Christmases special, and not just about receiving presents? It’s difficult, when deep down we still want to take them to see Santa … we still want to attend their school nativity …
Our children are only 10 and 12; but with their new-found independence since starting Middle School they’ve grown up so quickly. We are lucky, being travel bloggers, in that we make the most of every school holiday – including Christmas – by travelling. The last few years we’ve gone to the French Alps to find snow; we’ve been to the Black Forest in Germany to seek out a genuine gateau; we’ve been to Grenoble, France, to shop at non-touristy Christmas Markets. The children love travelling, and although our Christmas trips may no longer include Santa, we will continue to adapt to make it as special for the children as possible, for as long as possible. This year we’ve visited Christmas markets, watched Christmas movies and visited London to see the Christmas lights. We’re staying in the UK and are in the Isle of Wight for our pre-Christmas trip. We’ve already taken some alpaca for a walk, and we’re going to visit some monkeys and real reindeer too! And yes, I’m even going to take them on a steam train ride to see Santa (maybe for the last time?) …
What the last 12 years has taught me is that life flashes by so very quickly. Life changes, and you can’t stop progress. Loved ones sadly pass away. For us, it’s all about making lifelong memories for our children, and for us. Live for today. Going by the last few years, in a blink of an eye both children will be off to college/university, taking their own steps independent of mum and dad. This we will deal with when it happens, but for now we’ll cram in as many exciting things as we can. The magic of Christmas will never die, if I have anything to do with it x