For years I was one of many mothers who would dread the increasing intensity in the lead up to Christmas. When my kids asked how many sleeps until Santa’s visit, I would clench my teeth and say “ages”. If someone said, “only two months until Christmas”, I would wail “Nooo!”.
These days I have a countdown on my phone so I can cheerfully announce how many weeks, days, hours and even seconds until the Big Day. I happily get all the Christmas decorations out on December 1st, decorate the tree with my kids all dressed in the elf costumes I lovingly packed away last year, while joyfully singing Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer. Not quite. But almost.
Like most kids, Christmas, Easter and (annoyingly) Halloween gets my three offspring bouncing off the walls with excitement. After resisting for way too long, I finally decided that if I couldn’t fight the pressure to make an effort with these festivities, I would have to accept it. And maybe even learn to embrace it.
I now realise what a privilege it is to create new traditions for my family. After years of dreading Christmas, it is now enjoyable for me. I have redesigned my rather sedate childhood celebrations and toned down my husband’s turbo-charged, present-overloaded Christmases into new traditions that make my family happy, but mostly that work for me. We still decorate the tree with way too many baubles and leave carrots, cookies and milk for Santa’s crew. I play my favourite Christmas carols and make at least one batch of Nana’s shortbread. We put out stockings with permission for the elves to be generous with the chocolate. And yes, they can eat it before breakfast.
Our Christmas traditions start after Cup weekend. Around this time, we go “Christmas List Shopping”. The kids browse the aisles of shops they like, and we take photos of things that spark joy for them. Then they write their letters to Santa which are posted straight away (after a photo is taken). This way Santa & “his helpers” can get all their shopping done within the following week. This one tradition alone has made Christmas more relaxing. I find when I get the tricky decisions out of the way, I feel like I have more energy and enthusiasm for other festive fun.
When it comes to gatherings in the lead up to Christmas, we keep it to non-negotiable traditions: decorating Granny’s tree with cousins, Christmas carols with family friends and driving around looking at Christmas lights. If there is time, money and energy for more than that, we might say yes. But we are OK with saying “no” too. One of the best gifts for me around the festive season is having no plans.
So, fellow parents, it is in fact less than two months until Santa comes. Do yourself a favour, get the hard stuff out of the way and let yourself get swept up in your kids excitement. You won’t regret it.
By Rachel Hickingbotham, writer for Star News Kids magazines and mother of three.