25 lovely family traditions to start with your kids during the month of December
December is a busy, busy month.
Really, it is. We all know – especially us mums. But being a parent at Christmas time is also, despite the never-ending gift list and the choc-a-block schedule between parties and carol services and end-of-term ballet shows, pretty much as good as it gets.
This month is what family memories are made of. Or will be, if you are a brand new parent this holiday season. So let yourself be swept up in the magic and the glittering lights and the festive feeling of it all – and get started on creating family traditions and memories your children will remember forever.
The ultimate family December bucket list? Here it is:
1. Invite little friends around for some Christmas crafts
In Norway, where I am from, most families will, at some point in December, host an evening of "juleverksted." Translated, this means something like "Christmas workshop" and what it entails, basically, is having friends and family over for an afternoon of making something Christmas-related.
This can be whatever you want it to be, from baking to making your own Christmas cards or even decorating a wreath or making ornaments for your tree. You can even host different ones, which people often do at home, somewhere the activities are geared towards children and others with slightly more advanced craft activities, suitable for just you and your girlfriends, mamas.
To me, and to most, I think, these evenings are a chance of slowing down in what is often a very busy time, especially for families. It is a way of taking a step back from all the buying and instead, focus on making, which, I think we can all agree, is a nice change.
The best bit about these gatherings is, of course, the company and the setting, with Christmas music playing and seasonal nibbles at hand while you all craft away. And once you have hosted one of these, believe me, you are going to want to turn it into an annual event.
2. Deck your halls
Nothing says festive home like fresh greenery adorning surfaces in your home, from your front door to your mantel and even the banisters. Let the kids help pick out and hang the decor, and don't let anyone tell you it is too much. 'Tis the season and all that jazz.
3. Give back
Ever since having children, Christmas suddenly also became the season for taking a moment to be grateful for all that I have – and think about those who are less fortunate.
I want my children to see the joy in giving as much as they do getting, and since my eldest became old enough to understand, I find different ways of making sure we do something to give back during the holiday season. This year, we cleared out both wardrobes and toy-boxes and donated items that were still in good, working order to a couple of different charities, and I actually saw the joy my children felt from knowing that other children would be so happy for things they really didn't need anymore.
There are so many ways to teach children about giving back, many dependent on where you live, what causes are close to your heart and what age your children are. Do some research and do some good – it will quickly become one of the most treasured parts of your December traditions.
4. Go see Santa
Because getting to chat to Santa and tell him all about your wishes this year is what childhood memories are made from.
5. Pick out your Christmas tree
Whether you go to an actual Christmas tree farm or the Christmas tree seller down at the local hardware store or supermarket car-park, it doesn't really matter – just make sure you make an event of it. Let the kids help pick the best one – and allow yourself to feel the same excitement they do.
6. Make a gingerbread house
This is what Pinterest was made for. And if you are feeling a little overwhelmed; just nip out to Ikea and pick up a DIY gingerbread house for less than €3 – and go to town decorating it with the kids.
7. Go ice skating
No, you don't have to be an expert – you are doing it for the memories. And it's all worth it for the sparkle in your children's eyes when you do it with them.
8. Write and post a letter to Santa
Mum hack: Take a sneaky picture of the letters before the kids post them – so you have a visual memory of what they were asking Santa for every year.
9. Make homemade hot chocolate
Even better? Do up a hot chocolate bar with lots of festive add-ons, like marshmallows, candy canes (for stirring), sprinkles, etc. and invite everyone to assemble their very own perfect hot chocolate.
10. Send out personal Christmas cards
Yet another very Norwegian tradition (and American, it would seem) that I am keeping alive, despite now living in Ireland. Ever since my little girl was born seven years ago, we send out photo holiday cards – at first, they only had a picture of her, then when her little brother came along, he was naturally included in the annual family picture.
I know we now share pictures of our growing families on Instagram and Snapchat, and have the e-mail addresses of all our nearest and dearest handy if we want to e-mail them a picture, but nothing beats getting an actual card you can hold in your hand, with a picture of someone you care about on it, if you ask me. And so every Christmas, as the cards from all my friends and family start coming in, we stick them up on the mantel or on the fridge and you can spend the entire holiday season looking at these lovely pictures.
11. Watch a classic Christmas movie together
There are so many amazing ones to pick from, but here is a little suggestion: Home Alone (1 and 2), Miracle on 34th Street, The Polar Express, Arthur Christmas, Elf, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Mickey's Magical Christmas – and many more.
12. Visit a local Christmas- or crafts market
Even if you don't go to buy something, the atmosphere alone is worth the trip.
13. Read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
Or, as your children get older, take turns reading this to each other at night before bed every December.
14. Take a drive (or walk) around your town or neighbourhood to look at the lights
Make this even more magical by letting the kids be in their pyjamas for the drive.
15. Do a random act of kindness
And encourage the kids to do it too. Make an advent calendar for someone who needs a little cheering up, offer to help someone with something, dish out a compliment, write something nice about someone online, leave a wrapped present in a public place; no matter how small, random acts of kindness are what the world needs more of.
16. Go see a classic Christmas play or concert
The Nutcracker is beautiful, or how about Handel's Messiah?
17. Make a Christmas music playlist
Fill your home with festive cheer and watch everyone get on board with the merriment of it all.
18. Go visit someone who might be feeling a little lonely this time a year
A friend, a relative, a neighbour; it is amazing how much your time means to someone who might not have many friends or relatives nearby.
19. Don't make it all about presents
In Scandinavia, advent is a big deal, and most people will look as much forward to these four weeks as they do the actual Christmas holiday. Spend the month of December creating memories, making things, baking, visiting friends and family, decorating, watching movies, lighting candles and just generally enjoy this magical time for all it's worth.
20. Spend an afternoon baking
Gingerbread men, sugar cookies, cinnamon buns – it doesn't really matter what you bake, just pick something and get the kids into the kitchen – they will love it.
21. Wear family Christmas pyjamas
Because nothing says festive like every member of the household wearing matching pj's!
22. Make a winter village (and add to it every year)
I came across this gorgeous winter village DIY over on Lauren Conrad's beautiful website, and have now started making one with my little girl. The idea is that we can add to it every year, painting more houses, adding animals or decor as we go.
23. Buy one special tree ornament every year (or let the kids pick one each)
We started doing this tradition of, as soon as our local M&S gets their Christmas stuff in every year, we bring the kids to the store and let them pick out one bauble each for this year's tree. (Obviously; the M&S thing is a personal choice – I just happen to really like most of their festive decor, you can, of course, pick yours from wherever you prefer).
24. Make "reindeer food" for Christmas Eve
This is such a lovely tradition, mamas, and one your kids will love doing with you. Because while we all know that reindeer love carrots, did you know that this magical reindeer food will actually help them find your house on Christmas Eve...? All you need is oats and glitter (add other bits as you wish, but oats and glitter will do the job, just to be clear).
Mix and put into little bags that you can bring out into the garden (or onto your balcony or street or wherever) on Christmas Eve, when you will sprinkle it on the ground, making sure the reindeer spot the glitter from up high and come land at your house.
25. Lower your shoulders and soak in this magical season
December is pure family magic. It is traditions and memories and magic, real, live magic, and do try to remember that – and to stop stressing and fussing and making Christmas about all the things it doesn't need to be about. As my mum always said: "Christmas will come around regardless of whether you have stressed yourself into oblivion getting ready for it or not."
And it's true. Your kids won't care that you didn't get a chance to clean the inside of all the kitchen presses or that you had to buy the mince pies for the neighbours coming by and not make them yourself. They will care that you are as excited as they are about this time. That you have time to sit down and watch Christmas movies and bake gingerbread cookies and wrap presents and wear matching Christmas pj's with them. Because after all; that's what it is all about.