This is your first year being a single mama, spending time with your kids over Christmas. You feel like they have gone through enough this year, so you want to make the holiday season extra special without reminding them of what they have “lost”. That means trying to steer clear of previous traditions and working on creating new ones for you and your single-parent family to enjoy year after year.
That is how I am feeling, and if you are sharing this, then read on!
What makes this whole scenario even more challenging, and heartbreaking is the fact that if you share custody, you will be sharing your Christmasses as well. That means your kids will most probably be with your co-parent every other Christmas. So whatever traditions you start, they need to be adaptable, stretched over a longer time period, not time-sensitive, and easy to incorporate no matter where you find yourself. Does not sound easy right? Luckily I am here to reassure you that it is possible!
You can create new Christmas traditions for you and the kids to enjoy, even if they are away every second Christmas. Everything is impossible until someone does it right?
December marks the season of giving and receiving. But when you are a single-parent household, that giving and receiving can look a bit different from what a two-parent household’s look. Most of the time, there are financial constraints that a single mama needs to deal with, as well as sharing of custody and other issues that arise over the holiday season. Since I am in this boat now, I have had to figure out ways around this. My first point of action is to change the focus of Christmas from money spent to time spent together. Memories made, not goods accumulated.
By emphasising time spent together, I get to make new and lasting memories with my kids which they will hopefully treasure forever. Also by doing things together I get to make these memories even during the years when they will be spending Christmas at their dads. During those Decembers, I will only have to start with the activities earlier in the month instead of waiting for later.
The second thing I am starting is having an advent calendar that is based around activities and not gifts (read the post here). Again, the years when they will be at their dad’s, I will simply change the activities around so we get to do most of the nice and important ones on the days leading up to them leaving. These activities can also change as they age, to always have age-appropriate things to keep them busy with while building the anticipation for Christmas day, and keeping in the Christmas spirit.
In addition, I have also worked out other traditions to start with them that are a bit different to the way we used to spend and celebrate Christmas (although there are a few that I have kept from our time as a two-parent family). This year, the traditions we are doing are as follows:
- Tree decorating
We have always decorated the tree together as a family, and since this is not a tradition that you can easily skip, I have changed it a bit. We now put the tree up mid-November (used to have it up 1 December) so that we have an extra 2 weeks of twinkling Christmas lights. Again, this will help if the kids are away for Christmas – they got to enjoy the Christmas cheer for those extra 2 weeks. During this “ceremony” 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!
- Cookie baking
This is something that I have been doing with the kids every year. When they were smaller I would do everything up to the decorating, they would then decorate the cookies and then I would bake them. 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 will help with the mixing, rolling out, cutting and decorating.
- Edible gifts and tags
Every year we make an edible hamper for each family. These hampers differ from year to year but usually consist of some type of chocolate truffle or bar, another sweet treat, cookies, and something savoury. 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 newspaper which I then use to wrap the presents in.
This is the first year that we are doing an advent calendar that consists of only activities as the “gift” for each day. In the past, the kids got small gifts or sweets for the 24 days before Christmas. For more on the calendar, go read the full post here.
I love fairy lights, so we used to have them up in the garden, at the pool, in our room, and in the trees in front of our room. Since moving into our own house, we have not had that many lights all over the place, to my disappointment. So for Christmas, I am putting up lights everywhere! (maybe some of them can even stay after the festive season has passed) The lights will help with a new tradition – spending the Sundays leading up to Christmas sitting in the glow of the Christmas tree lights watching a Christmas family movie.
- Santa’s letter
The kids write a letter to Santa at the beginning of December. 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 for this year going forward, also ask Santa to give something specific to someone else in need.
- 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…
- 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 in? 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!
- 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, which is the ultimate goal.
These are the few things I am planning on doing with the kids for Christmas. This year will be the start of creating our very own traditions, and I am so excited to get started! Do you have a cute family tradition that you would like to share? Please do!