Non-commercial and minimalist Christmas traditions to start with your kids [Christmas series]
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Sad to say but those are the only lyrics that I know. For the rest of the song I just mumble gibberish. But even if I do not know the rest of the words, I do agree. It is the most wonderful time of the year. Never during the rest of the year do you have the opportunity as well as the excuse to spend long amounts of time together as a family. “It’s Christmas” is my go-to reason/excuse/plea for many an activity or get-together that Husband is not keen on doing. And then we have to do it because it’s Christmas!
December marks the season of giving and receiving. Unfortunately, most of that receiving is what we dread – piles of paper and cards and wrapping that we must sort and recycle or donate. Toys that the kids play with for a day or two and then they end up at the back of their closet. Again waiting to be donated or recycled. And for most people, spending family time together means shopping. So many of the more well-known Christmas activities end up as a zero-waster’s nightmare. This year, as part of our less-waste, more minimalist, journey, we have decided to focus on time spent together, not money spent. Memories made, not goods accumulated. So far it’s been going great, we are already 12 days in. You have most probably read my post about our new 5 gift rule, [if not read it here] and that kind of extends to things to do as well. Because I have to keep the kids busy and entertained over December (school is closed and because I work from home, I am the designated child-keeper) while building the anticipation for Christmas day, and keeping in the Christmas spirit, I have started a few traditions of my own. They are mostly activity-based, designed to keep the kids busy as well as giving them an incentive to behave. That doesn’t mean we skip some of the traditional traditions, such as going to a Christmas concert or listening to carols, it just means that we have a few extra things to do during December.
My list grows each year. As the kids grow older they need more to stimulate them, and since I really need to also work during the day I need to think of things to keep them busy with. This year, the traditions we are doing are as follows:
1. Tree decorating
We decorate the tree together, and we do it early Dec, even mid-Nov. The kids get to choose where the decorations go, and they put the star at the top. We make a whole night of it, playing Christmas music and singing. They love it!
2. Cookie Baking
I do this with the kids every year. When they were smaller I would do everything up to the decorating, then they would decorate the cookies and then they are baked. These cookies are then distributed to the family so that everyone can join in on the Christmas fun. Now that the kids are bigger, they help with the mixing, rolling out, cutting and decorating.
3. Edible gifts and tags
Every year we make an edible hamper for each family. These hampers differ from year to year but usually consist out of some type of chocolate truffle or bar, another sweet treat, cookies, and something savoury. This year we are doing pineapple ketchup (Thank you Matt Preston!), marshmallows, cookies and maybe caramel truffles. I make a batch of salt dough and the kids then make our gift tags. These are decorated and painted by them. If we do have to wrap something, the kids paint and draw on a newspaper which I then use to wrap the presents in.
4. Advent calendar
This is the first year that we have tried this. I made them an advent calendar using toilet paper rolls. I filled the rolls with small gifts, one for each day. I made it in such a way that we can put the calendar away for use next year. Just refill the gifts! For more info on the calendar, go to this post
Our house is usually full of lights – not just for the festive season! I love fairy lights, so we have them up in the garden, at the pool, in our room, and in the trees in front of our room. We also have a string of battery operated lights in each of the rooms, for when we have load-shedding. But for Christmas, we put up even more lights! And we make a special occasion on Sundays when we sit in the glow of the Christmas tree lights and watch a Christmas family movie.
6. Make décor for tree and house
Every year we make one thing for the house or Christmas tree. This year we made the popsicle stick stars, and we will most probably also make snow globes. Getting the kids involved makes them proud of their handiwork, even more excited, and again – busy! Plus, you get to reuse things you would normally throw away, and it costs you a fraction of the price than if you went out to buy these décor items. Win win win!
7. Santa’s letter
We get the kids to write a letter to Santa beginning of Dec. This letter is then mailed to Santa, and hopefully, he will mail back. In the letter, they must explain how good they were during the year, give a small list of things they would like, and ask Santa to give something specific to someone else in need.
8. Milk and cookies
Milk and cookies are put out on Christmas Eve, and luckily so far Santa drinks and eat them every year! The kids cannot wait to run into the living room on Christmas morning to check if the milk and cookies are gone. Maybe this year there will be hoof marks next to the empty plate…
9. Santa’s key
This is a new one I want to try. The house we lived in before this house had a fireplace, so it was easy explaining to the kids that Santa came in the same way as he does in the movies – through the chimney. Now we live in a house without a fireplace, so how will Santa get it? With his special key off course! The plan is to take a normal key and then make it a bit ornamental using my glue gun and some spray paint. The key will then be put out on Christmas Eve, for Santa to use. I think the kids will love this!
10. White stocking
Also a new tradition I want to start. When you put out the stockings for the family, add one more. This stocking must preferably be white, or as plain as possible. It is Jesus’ stocking, and throughout the festive season whenever you do something good for someone else, or think good thoughts, or are thankful for something, you write it down on a piece of paper and place it in the white stocking. All of these letters are then read aloud on Christmas Eve in tribute of Jesus, who did the ultimate good deed. This is a very cute way of ensuring Christ remains part of Christmas
These are the few things we do with the kids every Christmas. Do you have a cute family tradition that you would like to share? Please do!