Christmas family traditions
“What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!”
Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas
We can create so much pressure to make the “best” food and create the “best” of times that we lose sight of what can be such a special time to connect with our children, and ourselves. I read an article in Juno magazine recently by Lou Harvey-Zahra where she said how we feel about Christmas reflects in our children’s experience . Let’s try and make that a time of joy and connection, not a busy, stressed time where we are racing to the finish line that is Christmas day.
A great way of grounding ourselves in this period is around food rituals.
I don’t recall how good my mum’s cakes were from childhood but I do have fond memories of the baking process and licking the bowl clean. I truly believe it is the traditions and customs surrounding the food, and particularly the Christmas cake, that our children will hold dear as they remember their childhood.
We have started a tradition this year of always mixing the Christmas cake with Nanny (my mother in law) who comes to visit, just before Christmas - each of us takes a turn to have one stir of the mixture. In November, we go shopping for the dried fruit for the cake then soak it for 2 days in Brandy. We then each take a turn at stirring the cake mixture before putting it into the oven for the long, slow cook.
I love doing any activities with my daughter which do not involve instant gratification. This process of making the cake is a beautiful ritual to do together, as a family, ideally in November. The process begins with going shopping for the ingredients, slowly soaking the fruit on the kitchen bench and then waiting for the 4 hours of cooking time to pass. Then the cake becomes nurtured with little measures of Brandy leading up to Christmas before the cake is iced and finally eaten.
Nigel Slater writes about his memories of childhood through food in his book, Toast. He has a lovely description of his mother cooking their Christmas cake - worth a read.
I love this Yogi Christmas tea blend in my favourite Christmas mug (I just adore robins). - it is caffeine free and rich in spices which evoke the flavours and memories of Christmas, such as cinnamon, ginger, orange and cloves. The company is sponsoring the LiBerataur Prize this year. This is awarded every year within the scope of the Frankfurt Book Fair to female authors from the developing and emerging countries.
Often advent calendars revolve around chocolate offerings, or other gifts. I am drawn to the original card calendars with little windows to open. It sets the right tone for moving away from the commerciality of Christmas, I feel.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
We are also going to do 2 other styles of advent activity this year:
One is an act of kindness for each day of Christmas, based on the Action for Happiness pdf which can be found here - print it and stick it on your fridge.
We are also going to do a reverse Advent Calendar where we buy a food item each day in December to put in the ‘calendar’ ready to be delivered to the local food bank on Christmas Eve. It is worth getting in contact with your local Food Bank to see what they may need in advance.
Starting this year, we have bought a Christmas jigsaw which we will start on 1 December and complete a little bit each night with the final pieces to be assembled on Christmas Eve. We have bought a jigsaw mat so it can be rolled up each evening after doing our puzzle (away from little hands of our baby who will try to eat it!).
We always go to the same street in our local area which has such a fantastic display of lights in a cul-de-sac of houses. They put on a special display and ask people to donate to a different charity each year. We take a little thank you note with us each year and ask our daughter to post it through the door of the house she liked the best.
Choose a bauble each year
We ask my daughter to pick a bauble each year to add to the tree - the idea being she can have a little box of baubles for when she leaves home and has her own tree (sob!).
We love making these for the Christmas table each year. It is an activity which keeps little hands busy for a short while with a mug of hot chocolate or hot milk infused with cinnamon. This is a good blog to explain how to make them.
New pyjamas on Christmas Eve
We always give new PJs to my daughter to open on Christmas Eve which are then warmed on the radiator ready for the annual reading of The Night Before Christmas.
I would love to hear of any of your Christmas family traditions. Please let me know in the comments. Wishing you and your family a relaxing and heart-centred festive season.