Christmas craft bags (advent count down)

25 days of Christmas crafts

In December we finish up our normal school routine and get right into the Christmas spirit. Along with our daily Jesse tree readings, traditions we are continuing from past years and special outings, I like to prepare a stack of craft activities ahead of time.

I find my ideas, (Pinterest is an awesome source for this) do all the prep needed for 6 children to make one each and place everything into large paper bags. When we want to do a craft I simply plop the bag on the table with nothing to do other than gather some glue, textas or other basic items that we are using every day and can’t be assigned to a single bag. In the past, the children didn’t know what was in each bag but this time I will be attaching a photo to the front so that I can decide which one I can cope with at the time. Some are much more involved than others.

I would love to post photos here, but as they are other people’s ideas you will need to follow the links to see them or have a look at my Pinterest Christmas board where there is a pinned picture for almost all of the crafts, plus quite a few more! I also prepared some simple colouring pages with stickers for the younger children to work on while the older ones are doing the more difficult crafts or pre-prepared crafts ahead with only the decorating left for the little ones so they feel like they made it themselves. Three older children wielding hot glue guns at once means I am not always able to supervise the little ones at the same time! Oh, and if you don’t own a glue gun now is the time to invest. I just got 2 more for $7 each and they are awesome. Don’t try to craft without one! Trust me; I was sure I didn’t need one for quite a while but once you have one there is no going back!

jesse tree jewels finished IMG_8790

  1. Paper strip Christmas tree for Jesse tree
  2. Christmas activity books for quiet times. Most of the pages for these came from here (scroll down) here (scroll down to Christmas) and here (type nativity and Christmas into the search bar for heaps of results.)
  3. Electric tea-light covers – cone shaped Christmas trees. Inspired by a picture that turned out to be papier-mache with holes drilled in and sanded off. Far too much work I say! I am tracing a cone template onto glittered card stock and using a hole punch plus a scrapbooking tool to punch a variety of hole sizes to let the light through.
  4. Paper chains. No explanation needed here! The children plan to make enough to go around the entire house. Needless to say, I cut my own strips rather than purchasing prepared ones.
  5. Clove decorated oranges. Some beautiful examples here and here. Use a zester that makes strips of peel for the patterns before adding cloves.
  6. Wooden dolly peg Mary Joseph and Jesus
  7. Giant popstick snowflake decorations. We hung these outside our front door last year. Must have a hot glue gun to make drying fast or lots of patience with white glue.
  8. Ribbon Christmas tree card
  9.  Jewel decorated line drawing Christmas trees. I have bought sticky jewels so this will be very simple. A quick drawing following the style of the example and some jewels on the branches for baubles.
  10. Felt Christmas tree with decorations All the children will cut out decorations for the large felt tree backing which will then be left out for them to play with and redecorate as they wish.
  11. Delicate string Christmas trees I have pre-made the cardboard cones and covered them with plastic kitchen wrap. Paint the plastic covered cones with white glue and wrap with string. Ensure that the strings cross over each other for a strong result. Once well-covered, paint over the top of the string with white glue and allow to dry thoroughly overnight before removing the cone and plastic carefully from underneath.
  12. Natural branch Christmas trees We will have to go on a nature walk to collect sticks for this.
  13. Sequin decorated foam baubles I have a variety of plain, flower and star sequins for this activity. I purchased a packet of shirt pins with tiny coloured round ball ends but any pin with an end that won’t pull through the sequins will do.
  14. Pasta noodle angel choir These are so cute. We will experiment with different facial features. I can see a whole village developing!
  15. Split pin and string Christmas tree cards This wall sized version gave me the idea but I shrunk it and used split pins to make the outline of a Christmas tree on the front of a card. The children will wind glitter string back and forth. The split pins need to be placed into the card loosely so there is enough room underneath then to fit several turns of string.
  16. Popstick stable and silhouettes I copied the silhouettes into Word and chose format picture – adjust picture, black and white 75% to get a strong black and white silhouette to cut out. Hot glue gun popsticks or coffee stirrers {same thing but cheaper because they are not a craft supply!} together to make the stables and add some card backing with sticker stars.  I am going to show the older children the example and let them go nuts creating their own stables. May turn into mansions…. we’ll see!
  17. Variety of nativity scene colouring pages. (Search google images for nativity colouring pages, they are everywhere.)
  18. Bauble Christmas cards An easy card requiring nothing but a little patterned paper and ribbon.
  19. Strings of fingerprinted Christmas lights Controlled finger-painting experience! Could use ink stamp pads rather than paint or even bingo dotter markers.
  20. Wooden peg stars These look very effective. We added glitter last year and made some beautiful ornaments. Even the natural wood alone is pretty.
  21. Popstick tree Last year I bought some foam popsticks which we will use instead of wood because they can be easily cut with scissors to make the various sizes required for this tree.
  22. 3 wise men popsicle ornament Oversized popsticks (or paint stirrers) are used for these with a couple of scraps to decorate. We will use felt off-cuts for beards and dot stickers for the faces rather than painting the popsicle sticks.)
  23. Paper strip flower decoration A good use for left over paper chain strips – if there are any!
  24. toilet roll flower wreath Collecting lots of toilet rolls in a household of 8 is never a problem 😉 These do look very pretty and are so easy to make – IF you have a hot glue gun. Get one!!
  25. Jesus in a toilet roll manger We will wrapping felt pieces around a wooden dolly peg for Jesus and laying him in the toilet roll mangers filled with shredded gold tinsel. (Upmarket hay for our baby Jesus!)

 What crafts are you doing this Christmas?

Other posts you may find helpful:

Mummy’s Christmas shop – how to organise gift giving with lots of siblings

Receiving gifts, thankfulness and good manners

Christmas “to do” list; making sure those traditions happen

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Masking tape vehicle tracks – quick, cheap and lots of fun

tracks no kids IMG_8614

I saw the idea of using masking tape to make vehicle tracks a while ago and have since seen many people’s examples. Some have the tape going up and over chairs, mats, couches and all through the house. All you need is a roll of masking tape and some cars to drive on it. Let your imagination go wild as you design roads all over the place or in a more civilised fashion in just the one room.

s with teddies IMG_8618

We added our wooden construction blocks for houses, bridges and buildings but you really don’t need to have anything like this, the tape alone is interesting. Allow your budding builders to design the layout with you and they will be hooked. Apart from the visual display, there is nothing to trip over so the roads can be left out indefinitely. Having said that, after a long time masking tape does get a bit trickier to get off. We played it safe and pulled ours off in under a week but I’m sure it would have been fine for longer than that. j car under bridge IMG_8617

This is a great activity for a rainy day or during quiet time when younger siblings are napping, or perhaps younger children could play while older siblings are being homeschooled. We did it as a family activity with all the children together and constructed a whole city. The younger children returned to it over and over again in the next couple of days and were disappointed that we had to take it off. We will definitely use this again another day.

(I have also seen a role of masking tape with a small car attached and instructions for this activity as a birthday party gift. It would make an inexpensive gift that any young boy would love. Or put it on your stocking stuffer list!)

Other posts you may like:

rainy day activity: balls and stockings

101 mostly stay at home family night ideas

sensory tub ideas for toddlers and preschoolers

homeschooling with toddlers and preschoolers

Advent and Christmas Traditions 2012

3 decorating tree

This year, like every year, Christmas time has been hectic but filled with fun. We have endeavoured to keep up the many traditions started in past years and even added a couple of new ones I have gathered from other Mums to add to our family repertoire. Here is a mega list of all of the ideas, including those we do ourselves and some we like but simply cannot fit it in just now.

Jesse tree readings

This pretty tree is made from toilet rolls covered in contact paper and hot glued together. We use it to keep the scrolls with our daily bible readings to go along with the Jesse tree symbols.

  • This year our Jesse tree is focussing on the many names of Jesus, rather than the more traditional Jesse tree readings we did last year. Each morning I read the bible reading from the scrolls while the children listen carefully to hear the name of Jesus contained within the reading. They then try to guess what the symbol will be and take turns to open the wrapped symbols to add to the Jesse tree. (Last year’s symbols.)
  • Each morning the children take turns to open a door on our wooden advent calendar. Each little box holds a character from the nativity and occasionally there is a surprise treat to share. The characters are magnetic and are added to the scene above the boxes to eventually complete the nativity story. The child opening the box that day is allowed to arrange the characters however they wish, which leads to some interesting nativity set-ups!

Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent

  • Every evening the advent wreath and candles are lit while we read our advent story. This year it is Jotham’s Journey. It is written in small instalments with the story of Jesus’ birth as a background to fictional events and includes a short life lesson following each day’s reading. Each evening finishes on a cliff-hanger that leaves the children begging for more.
advent candles and nativity

Our advent wreath and one of the nativity sets.

  • We have several nativity scenes set out for little ones to play with; a china set for the older children and fabric and wooden sets for the little ones. We plan to add to these each year in the after Christmas sales. In the after dinner rush to get PJ’s on and teeth brushed and be ready for our Advent story, those who are done play quietly with the nativity sets or browse through the Christmas books until the whole family is together. The advent candles are lit and tree lights turned on while we cuddle up and read together.
  • Christmas worship music and carols are playing in the house often throughout December, especially during craft activities.
  • We attend a Carols in the Park each year with candles, animal rides, picnic dinner, snacks, deck chairs & blankets. Singing songs about the birth of Jesus under the stars with family and friends is one of the highlights of the season for the children.

rd to bethlehem camels

  • The Road to Bethlehem is another evening event we now attend yearly. Put on by one of the local churches, it is a walking tour/play/production depicting the biblical Christmas story. It is extremely well done and it never ceases to amaze us that they have a brand new baby in it every year. The camel rides are a highlight too.
  • I am gradually building up our set of Christmas books and now have quite a stack wrapped and under the tree for our Christmas picture book advent. The children take turns choosing one story to unwrap and read each day. We also have a couple of Christmas videos for those afternoons following late night activities when more down-time than usual is called for.
  • Each year we look for ways to give “gifts for Jesus” by blessing others. Church Christmas hampers, shoe boxes for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child, choosing a Compassion gift of a water well etc. or giving gifts to local charities for underprivileged children are some of the ways we have done this.
  • Friends of ours like to get a group together (friends/neighbours, Mothers and daughters etc) to make gingerbread houses. They buy kits from large department stores/Ikea etc plus bulk lolly decorations. This year we are experimenting with making our gingerbread house kit into a nativity scene instead. It remains to be seen whether it will be a success or not!
gingerbread house

Last year’s gingerbread house. We are given a lot of lollies around Christmas and in an effort to avoid the sugar, we saved them up and used them to decorate the gingerbread house we were given as a gift. We took it with us to contribute to Christmas day lunch and share with extended family. It didn’t come home again!

  • Perhaps the children (of one family or extended family) could rehearse and put on a nativity play for Daddy and extended family. Jesus’ Christmas Party by Nicholas Allan lends itself well to a simple yet humorous retelling. Those who play instruments could perform or any other talent (serious or humorous) could be showcased for the family’s enjoyment.
  • Take a drive around your city to look at Christmas lights. Wear PJ’s, play carols on the stereo and take the Grandparents along. If 2 cars are needed, change combinations after each stop and talk to each other through walkie-talkies. Stop for a treat on the way or take hot chocolate in a thermos for the road. Buy disposable coffee cups with fitted lids for this purpose.
  • Send out Christmas cards. Perhaps involve the children in making these.  Maybe a photographic record of the years’ highlights with descriptions could be included, along with a hand-written note to personalise each one.
  • Make something for the neighbours; perhaps Christmas puddings, crafts, jam, rocky road or whatever your speciality. We like to include a flyer of Christmas day service times from our church and a small tract explaining the Christmas message and walk up and down the length of our street delivering them. This year we are making bead angel decorations.
  • Knock & run nativity. The characters from the nativity set are delivered to a neighbour one at a time anonymously in the lead up to Christmas day with baby Jesus arriving on Christmas morning.
decorating the tree 2012

The group effort turned out a surprisingly even tree. Only one or two branches had massive overloading and they were surreptitiously corrected by the eldest while little ones were busy collecting the next handful of decorations.

  • The tree is decorated on the 1st of December, with the children arranging it as they please while Mum and Dad take video and photograph the event. We also take individual and group photos of the Children in front of the tree for their own photo album memories and also for gifts, cards and other crafts. Christmas carols play in the background and the topping of the tree is saved for the youngest child who is able. Dad lifts them up while Mum takes the pics.
J star on tree

Being a twin had us wondering if the “older” brother would miss out. His sister was technically the youngest last year and topped the tree. Luckily for him, the baby is not quite up to decorating just yet so he had his turn after all.

  • Some families purchase 1 new decoration for each child every Christmas and eventually give them to the children when they leave home to start their own Christmas traditions. The decorations may also symbolise something of significance from the year such as an accomplishment, interest or character trait.
  • Christmas photos of the children can also be used for mini picture ornament frames or printed in black and white on clear vellum and placed inside hollow glass or plastic baubles.
25 days of Christmas crafts

25 crafts of Christmas

  • Craft advent activities mean that I get around to doing all those cute Christmas crafts the kids love.This year I prepared everything needed for each craft and placed it inside a brown paper bag with the instructions on the top. When craft time rolls around, all we need to do is pull down a bag and gather a couple of extra items like scissors and tape and we are ready to go. 25 activities was perhaps a little ambitious as we are a couple behind, but the kids are loving it. Next year I plan to link the crafts to the Jesse tree readings.
blowing candles

One of our helpful “staff” members.

  • For the second year, we held a high tea for older ladies from church just to bless them and thank them. All the fancy finger-food is prepared ahead and frozen to make it manageable on the day. The older children act as greeters and wait staff on the day and love every minute of it. Of course they get a lot of attention and fuss made of them so why wouldn’t they!
  • When we were younger, our Grandparents slept over on Christmas eve so that they are there for the early morning festivities. Some families like to open one gift on Christmas eve or one gift only on Christmas morning before heading off to church. A new pair of PJ’s is a nice Christmas eve gift and means that the children all look good for Christmas morning photos. Family traditions have been built around particular videos being watched on Christmas eve or perhaps a games night with hot chocolate is something your family would enjoy. Our church now holds services on Christmas eve so that families who have very busy Christmas days can attend the night before.
  • As Christmas cards arrive throughout December, place them in a little basket on the table and read them out before praying for the senders of the latest arrival that night after dinner.
  • If you know of people with nowhere to go, you could invite them to participate on your Christmas celebrations. If you don’t have much planned, why not volunteer at a soup kitchen or one of the charity run Christmas lunches held around the city.
  • In the past we have lucky dipped a name of a family member to make a Christmas gift for, rather than purchasing. Other years we have purchased only for the children, rather than the adults. Choosing one family gift for each family is another idea. (Tickets to a water playground with toys and snacks to share together, icecream Sunday or hot chocolate packs, adults & kids DVD with snacks etc.) This year we gave some families a set of our craft advent bags before Christmas as their gift.
  • The Mummy & Daddy shop is open for business during December for sibling gifts. (Full explanation here.)
  • On Christmas day itself, we start the morning with our final advent reading and prayer. Later in the day we may have a birthday cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus.
  • We try to spend some time in the lead-up to Christmas day role-playing & discussing gift receiving etiquette. (See “Receiving Gifts, Thankfulness and Good Manners”.) We discuss and act out scenarios covering what to do if you already have the same item, comments children can say to the gift giver once the present is opened, the importance of being truthful whilst respecting the thought, time, money and effort that the giver has gone to in order to give them their gifts, tactful ways to respond when the gift is not something they like, want or need & guarding their facial expressions when they see the gift for the first time.
  • One side of the family like to give out the gifts at the Christmas day celebrations to one person at a time while everyone else sits and enjoys seeing what has been chosen. One person, often Grandpa,  hands out the gifts to the youngest children first and works up by age. This means that the littlest ones can quietly play with their gifts if watching for the duration is just too much. The children sit on Grandpa’s knee to open the gifts while we all watch.
  • A new idea we have heard this year to help set limits on the amount we buy for our own children is to model our spending on the 3 wise men; gold (bigger/want) myrrh (something to wear), frankincense (spiritual) or perhaps this little poem; Something you need, something you want and something to read.
  • A friend of ours puts tags on the gifts under the tree in code so that the children can’t figure out who’s is who’s or what they are getting ahead of time. That, plus not putting the gifts under the tree until Christmas eve keeps everything a surprise. In the morning, part of the fun is working out who gets what gift.
  • We choose not to include Santa or Father Christmas in our celebrations. Here’s why.
  • The yearly Christmas day family photo is a must with all the extended family.
  • Grandma’s fancy Christmas headgear, earrings and necklaces are becoming legendary and our children have begun to join in the fun at church with flashy headbands during Christmas services.
reindeer dessert

Grandma’s reindeer pudding.

  • The after lunch water pistol fight is great for a cool down on hot Christmas days, following the simple and usually outdoor lunch. Everyone pitches in to bring food and the host family rotates each year to spread the load. Bonbons, paper hats and bad jokes are part of the atmosphere and there is often goodie bags for the kids and/or a fancy treat kiddy dessert (gingerbread houses, rocky road Christmas tree cones etc.)
  • Don’t forget to collect great recipes others serve you while out and about and get family recipes traditional for Christmas time (Nanna’s fruit cake etc.) written down before it is too late. In their own handwriting, laminated or framed is extra special after they are gone.
  • Put aside a little time in the week after Christmas to have your own mini debrief. What did and didn’t work, things you want to do next year, what to change, ideas to remember etc.
  • Through the year perhaps ordering some gifts online or in the after Christmas sales will save time and money for the following year. Maybe hand-made gifts can be planned so they can be made over the course of the coming year.
  • Keep a list in your purse of items you have and a list of those you will be buying for and update it through the year as you see items on sale. Pick up your cards, wrapping and decorations on sale after Christmas.
  • Don’t forget to post thank you cards from you and the children. Home-made cards are more meaningful but do take longer. Young children can dictate for you to write.
  • Check out Pinterest and other online resources for ideas in the lead-up to next year. (My Pinterest Christmas ideas page is here.)

Father’s Day 2012: traditions and home-made gift ideas for children

Father’s Day was loads of fun yesterday and you would have thought it was Christmas by the level of excitement in the days leading up to it! We narrowed down our home-made gifts to a select couple and the children steadily added to the pile throughout the week with their own creations. As family tradition dictates we began the day with gift giving in Mummy and Daddy’s bed. With a little one to feed and church to get to, breakfast in bed wasn’t an option so as you can see, Daddy was already dressed!

Our all together gift was this photo frame with each child holding a letter to spell out Daddy. With a large number of children all needing to give gifts, we look for ways to make that easy. Our Mummy and Daddy shop works well, but for Father’s Day the rule is we have to make something and we usually try to find a project that everyone can do together. This fitted the bill nicely.

All that was involved was making a couple of card letters and taking the photos. The trickiest part was getting a baby and a 9 year old to look good at the same time and making sure that the letters were about the same size in each shot. No need to make three letter D’s though – one will do. It did take me a little while to work that out so thought I’d mention it! I found the idea here.

Everyone wanted to help make Daddy’s special Father’s Day breakfast, even the toddlers. Having kids in the kitchen can be a challenge but it is worthwhile teaching young ones to enjoy cooking. Cutting up bananas is something even my 2 1/2 can do as long as I’m not too particular about how even the slices are! My other 2 1/2 year old was busy putting away the “cutleries” from the dishwasher and setting out spoons on the table.

Our gift to the two Grandparents was a framed message saying Happy Father’s Day with the children spelling out Grandad and Grandpa with their bodies. Here’s “Dad” below to give you the idea. Having done it once, I strongly suggest you use a plain coloured background or just have them lay on the grass. The letters weren’t very straight but I couldn’t straighten them for cropping because of the striped picnic blanket background. Oh well, you live and learn! This idea came from here.

    

Both of these would make great birthday and Christmas gifts for any parent or Grandparent and are an inexpensive way to bless a special person in your life. Have fun building great family memories and showing those close to you how much they mean to you.

Christmas debrief and next year’s plans

Christmas morning - great anticipation!

The dust has almost settled and the Christmas festivities are over for another year. The house has not yet recovered and neither have the children (a big tidy-up and a few early nights are required!) but everyone is enjoying relaxing and exploring their new gifts.

As we sit back and think through how Christmas went this year, I encourage you all to make yourself a few notes for next year. A bit of a Christmas debrief if you like. Perhaps keep them with the decorations or somewhere you know you will remember to check them. As the Christmas decorations first hit the department stores ridiculously early, use this as your reminder to get out that list and plan ahead for all the things that you want to do with your family and won’t get to without some up-front preparation.

Pick any headings that are helpful to you, but some of the things we will be thinking through are:

  • Our traditions (What we love and want to keep doing, new traditions to add to our celebrations next year, traditions we like the idea of but haven’t managed to make happen yet!)

"I know I'm not supposed to touch but...."

  • Gift buying (Planning to buy at Christmas sales for next year, purchasing throughout the year to spread out the cost, starting early and making gifts, planning for on-line purchases in Sept/Oct, buying wrapping paper, gift tags and cards on sale)
  • Christmas cards (Actually getting around to sending some next year!)

Our finished Jesse tree

  • Advent planning and preparations for next December (Making a whole new set of Jesse tree symbols and scrolls in November.)
  • Specific ways you will help your family to put God first throughout this season and focus on the birth of Jesus rather than getting caught up in the commercialism of it all. (Advent readings, Jesse trees, nativity scenes, community service, blessing the neighbours, reading the Christmas story on Christmas morning, singing Happy Birthday to Jesus etc.)
  • Special Christmas books (Each year we add to our Christmas book collection by purchasing online or at sales after Christmas for up to 90% off the original price. We then have beautiful Christmas stories, advent books, Christmas devotionals and picture books to read throughout December for a fraction of the regular retail price. We also purchase some for Christmas gifts the following year.)

  • Food (How did the planning, preparation, serving on the day and any other food related matters go? Great new recipes to collect from friends or family members we have tasted during the festivities.)

  • Travel arrangements (How did the Christmas period run and would we do it the same next year? This year we had two family celebrations as we always do, but they were spread out – one on Christmas day, one on boxing day, plus a smaller breakfast on Christmas morning and church. We felt much more relaxed than in the past when we have had church plus a lunch at one side of the family and then a dinner for the other side.
  • Any other ideas or notes that will help you to be more organised and stress-free next year. Christmas need not be a hurried and harried season, it really can be relaxing, joy filled and focussed on the birth of Jesus.

  • Even “the bump” received gifts. Wow! Presents in the womb!

Receiving Gifts, Thankfulness and Good Manners

With Christmas in just 2 days I thought it was timely to remind the children about thankfulness and gratefulness for what they are given. We spend a lot of time in the lead up to Christmas focusing on Jesus and the true meaning of the season, discussing how we can bless others and think of others first etc. but we are realistic and know that if there are presents involved, they are usually where the focus and excitement of the young (and not so young!) children will be.

Like many families, our children are very blessed to receive gifts from close and extended family on Christmas day and we want them to enjoy these, but at the same time remember the preciousness of the giver and the importance of showing thankfulness for what they receive.

A friend of mine (thanks Cherub) gave a group of Mothers and I some excellent suggestions a while ago about receiving gifts and how she has taught her children to show good manners and thankfulness when they receive their gifts. She has the child say thank you as they receive their present and take it to sit next to the gift giver to open it. The children know that it is considered good manners to open the card first and read it (or have it read to you) before opening the gift. Once open, they spend a little time looking at and playing with the item as well as thanking the giver with some specific comments before moving on.

I think this is a brilliant idea and we will be endeavouring to encourage our children to go through this process this year. We have talked about what to do and say (or not say!) in a variety of situations including:

  • when they already have the same item at home
  • the kinds of comments they can say to the gift giver once the present is opened
  • the importance of being truthful whilst respecting the thought, time, money and effort that the giver has gone to in order to give them their gifts
  • some tactful ways to respond when the gift is not something they like, want or need. Let’s face it, that happens at times.
  • guarding their facial expressions when they see the gift for the first time
We have perhaps not spent enough time on it to get perfect results, but we are hoping that our family members can take pleasure in the reactions of our children to the gifts they receive and the character that is displayed during this wonderfully exciting season.


Christmas Traditions: Memories for a lifetime

Christmas is a special time for most families and it is such a great time to deliberately focus on creating family traditions that will be remembered and treasured for a lifetime by our children, grandchildren and perhaps on through the generations. Traditions help to knit families together; they are part of the glue that keeps families whole, fostering interdependence as a family rather than independence from the family.

Each year we add a few more traditions and carry on with those we like that we have already started. Here are some of the many things we do together as a family and extended family that help make Christmas special for us:

  • The children decorate the Christmas tree on December the 1st while the grown-ups take video and photos. Christmas carols play in the background and the kids have a wonderful time handling all those sparkling decorations and arranging them any way they please.
  • The youngest child (who is able) tops the tree with the Christmas star.
  • The Christmas books that only come out at this time of year are placed in a basket under the tree for reading in the evening after dinner. The tree lights are turned on and I read aloud from one of the  stories. I try to purchase a couple of new books each year in the after Christmas sales so that there is something new for me to read. There are some wonderful stories that are designed to be read piece by piece across advent and other beautiful Christmas tales that we read a chapter a night from.
  • A selection of carols and Christmas worship music is available, as are a stack of Christmas videos for those days when everyone is way too tired to get along. (Usually the day after “Carols in the Park” for example when we stay up way past the kids’ bedtimes.)
  • We read daily bible readings from our Jesse tree scrolls and each child takes turns to unwrap the related symbol for the tree.
  • Every morning one child takes their turn to open the little wooden doors of our advent calendar and add the next character to the nativity story display. On a few surprise days there are little treats hidden in with the characters.
  • The advent wreath and candles are set up and we light them during our daily Jesse tree devotion or at another time such as the evening meal.
  • The nativity scenes are set out and available for little ones to play with; a sturdy china set for the older children and a fabric set for the little ones.
  • We make Christmas crafts together. Nothing super tricky or spectacular and often the same ones each year such as paper chains, recycled greeting card sewing cards and a multitude of home-made Christmas cards using different craft techniques (the more glitter and sparkly glue the better according to the girls!)
  • The Mummy and Daddy shop opens for business. The children use their hard-earned pocket-money to purchase small gifts for their siblings from a selection I purchase for this purpose.
  • We visit a local carols service with activities for the children, wonderful colour changing candles that they can all safely hold (the days of burning patches in the grass with real candles are long gone, sigh..) and yummy snacks. We set the kids up in their little camping chairs wrapped in blankets and we all have a ball staying up late and soaking up the festive atmosphere. Sometimes we meet up with other families and usually at least one set of Grandparents is able to come along and enjoy the evening.

    Grandma has her own tradition of fancy Christmas headgear, flashy Christmas light earings and necklaces or similar. The church congregation look forward each year to seeing what she will be wearing to the Christmas service!

  • We are taking a break this year, but for the past several years my husband’s side of the family have made gifts for each other, instead of purchasing. Each name is drawn out of a hat and each adult hand-makes something for that person. Some of the resulting gifts have been quite spectacular and always involve much love and care. And yes, even the men do it and they have been just as creative as the women.

    Last year I hand painted a chicken hutch that we had been given for my brother-in-law who keeps chooks.

  • To cut down the number of gifts we all need to buy, we have long since instigated the plan that we only buy for the children in each family, rather than the adults as well. (Excepting families who had no children.) To keep it fair, now that we have so many children in our family we will be suggesting that perhaps a family gift will be better for next year. Other families we know do this and they have some wonderful ideas for inexpensive gifts that the whole family can enjoy together. One family we know is giving tickets to a water playground (entry is not expensive) along with a couple of toys to play with in the mini river while they are there and a few special snacks to share together. Sounds good to me!
  • We haven’t pulled this together this year, but our suggestion for next year on the Pascoe side is that all the children prepare an item (song, musical instrument piece, short play etc.) to perform for the whole family. We think this will be fun and add to the day.
  • I’m not going to get into the rights and wrongs of guns here (I know people feel very strongly about that!) but the water pistol fight is turning into a yearly tradition that is enjoyed by all. Christmas day is almost always hot and some cooling yet boisterous activity to burn off all that dessert and surplus child energy is needed.
  • The meal itself is always simple. We are usually outdoors, so the BBQ is fired up and a range of cold meats and seafoods or BBQ meat is prepared with delectable salads and accompaniments. Everyone pitches in to bring food and the host family rotates each year so the load doesn’t always fall on the same person. What food is served is never a big issue but it is seldom the traditional turkey and roast.
  • The Christmas table is usually set with bonbons and we all read out the obligatory bad jokes and wear the paper hats while we eat.
  • The Pascoes take a yearly family photo which provides a nice keepsake for everyone. Traditionally it is done at the last-minute when we are all looking our worst and wondering if we have food stuck in our teeth.
  • On Christmas morning we begin the day with the final advent reading. Our hope is that throughout this day and the entire Christmas season we can keep the focus as much as possible on Jesus’ birth and the real meaning of Christmas. (See Christian Families and Father Christmas.) We give our own children their gifts and they give their gifts to each other. We all take turns to open the presents, with only one child at a time unwrapping gifts so we can all see and appreciate what has been chosen for them. We then share a light breakfast together before getting dressed and heading out to church.
  • At the Pascoe celebration, the children’s gifts are given out before the meal. Grandpa or another family member hands out the gifts to one child at a time, starting with the youngest. They sit on his knee to open them and again we all have a chance to admire the gifts and to see what the child receives. We all spend a long time choosing special gifts and like to take the time to really enjoy each one as it is given. 
  • The McEwan side of the family has a very similar celebration with a large family get together, feast table and lots of gifts, however the gift giving is much more spontaneous and the deafening roar of crackling paper is heard as everyone rips into gifts at the same time and we race around afterwards trying to work out who gave which child what! Lots of fun but much more chaotic!

However you choose to celebrate this year, remember to focus on the birth of Jesus and the amazing salvation that we can all have as a result of this sacrifice from God.