I wanted to write this week about our Christmas tradition. I’ve been doing this for 5 years now, ever since my eldest was 1. And it’s come to be what Christmas is all about for us. Instead of asking how many days until Christmas Day, my kids ask all year round, “How many days until we start the gold envelopes?” It’s our own version of an advent calendar. Though before you fear for them, they do get their chocolate version too!
It involves quite a bit of planning, quite a bit of pinteresting, and the organising of buying all the materials. But as we’ve been doing it for so long now we often get to re-use bits from the year before. So I can say it’s getting easier and less work each year.
So as of the 1st of December they open a dated golden envelope every morning with a card in containing their Christmas activity for the day. Now this is where the planning really comes in, because once I have my list of activities it does have to be tweaked so I’m not doing some mammoth baking or craft task on a school night where we’re in and out going to after school clubs with very little spare time. Not to mention I want my bigger activities to fall on a weekend when we’re looking for something to fill the day. So this is my list of activities for this year:-
1st December Put up the Christmas tree
This falls on the 1st every year, even if we have to get up at 5am and start it before school and finish it after. We always put ‘The Snowman’ on in the background too, and it just sets us up for the month.
2nd December Make snowflakes for the windows
This looks fantastic. I give them both a piece of cotton on a needle and they thread about 5 pieces of cotton wool or polystyrene on each. Then I space them out randomly and stick the pieces across my living room windows to give the effect of falling snow. Any excuse to play with a sharp object and my kids are on board. But I have to say the look is fantastic and it cheers me up all of December. Which is mad really, as the reality of snow falling sends me into a blind panic that I won’t get my car down the hill that we live on and we’ll be cut off from society for goodness knows how long. Yet I seem to be okay with fake snow!
3rd December Make paper chain decorations
Another must for the living room, and so simple for a 4 and 6 year old.
4th December Write a letter to Santa
This is the one that sends me into a frenzy when their entire list suddenly changes from what they’ve been wanting all year. But it has to be done. And in reality they do just make it up on the spot and forget anything they asked for a couple of weeks later. It’s just part of the magic of Christmas to write that letter.
5th December Make cloved oranges
Now for some reason mine always rot and go mouldy on the Christmas tree, so I’ve not quite mastered it like I did as a child, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without the smell of cloved oranges in the living room.
6th December Make paper snowflakes
This is just a simple craft activity to further decorate the house. In reality this falls on my street fit class night so it had to be something easy so I don’t miss my one guaranteed night of the week to socialise!
7th December Grow candy canes
My absolute favourite activity. We take a tub of sugar, plant tic tacs, and overnight they grow into candy canes. Now worryingly I’ve just had to explain to a 50 year old work colleague that no, tic tacs don’t actually grow into candy canes. So whilst I’m not assuming you are not of the same intelligence as this lady, I will point out, as I had to for her, that I in fact take out the tic tacs whilst they’re asleep and replace them with ‘grown’ candy canes. Just wanted to be crystal clear in case anyone messages me to say their tic tacs haven’t grown!
8th December Buy and deliver food to the food bank
Another of my children’s favourite Christmas activities because it involves them let loose in Aldi with a shopping trolley and the amount of cash contained in the envelope. They know the drill, canned and packet foods only. Nothing fresh. And they get as much as they can and get to pay the till assistant like a proper grown up (much to the annoyance of the growing queue behind us!) Then we take it all to the food bank, where they’re made an absolute fuss of. They sometimes even get a certificate or sweets from the staff. But either way we have lots of conversations on the way there and the way back as to who the food is going to and maybe what circumstances they may be spending Christmas in. We get to discuss what the children think Christmas would be like without any proper food in the house, let alone the full roast and trimmings that we have. And I just think it’s a really good lesson for them to learn. In fact my eldest saved up in the summer time to do the same exercise because it touched her so much. She did sell some of my stuff without me knowing to raise the money, but we’ll let that one go as she’s only 6 and therefore just using her initiative!
9th December Christmas shopping for the boys
The girls have two cousins that they absolutely adore. And again, they will find a small amount of cash in their envelope that day to take to the shops and pick them both a present. It’s a great exercise in teaching them the gift of giving, and they totally get the excitement that we all get in finding that perfect gift. In fact the secret rarely makes it to Christmas Day before they’ve told the boys what they’ve got them! But each year we’re working on that.
10th December Make sparkly icicles
Another Pinterest idea. Basically we’re crafting foil into icicles, painting them in glue and dipping each icicle in glitter before hanging them around the house. This is a new one this year so I’m yet to find out how this one goes down. But anything they can get sticky doing is usually a hit.
11th December Decorate the garden
A nice simple one. A couple of pounds spent in the pound shop on Christmas decorations, then off they’re sent into the garden to hang them all around on anything with a branch or hook. It’s usually mid-summer before we’ve taken them all down, but it does cheer up the garden while it’s looking so colour-less.
12th December Write Christmas cards for your friends
A little pre-planning in the form of a class list, a few boxes of cards, and off they go.
13th December Decorate a gingerbread house
Now this activity has been off the list for a couple of years because my husband is OCD with mess and the whole living room got caked in icing. But I’m bringing it back this year. I got my gingerbread house from Ikea, and although I’ve got to assemble it myself with icing, I managed to get the decorations too. So we’re all set to go.
14th December Deliver cards to the neighbours
Hopefully this year I’ll be there to supervise this activity, as my husband was on his phone last year and they all got posted to any house they found. I’m sure a couple of people re-posted them to the correct house, but everyone else probably just thinks I don’t know their names and it’s been too many years to correct me! Either way, the kids love posting things, so this is always a hit!
15th December Visit Santa
I don’t know where we’re going yet, but I’m thinking the little steam train at the local garden centre. It’s the most random Christmas ride as it’s decorated in very non-Christmasy things like model aliens, and Disney gnomes that are missing heads or limbs. But the kids are oblivious to the scenes and love it. Us grown-ups call it the Chucky train and we’re convinced that anything that gets broken in the garden centre and is therefore unsellable becomes a decoration on this ride. But it’s certainly a unique experience for all!
16th December Buy presents for each other
This is the day I take each child out individually and we buy for the other child. It’s just like the day we buy for the boys, except they get a little one-on-one Mummy time. So this year I think I’ll take each for a cup of coffee and a cake while we’re at it!
17th December Make stained glass lanterns
Another simple craft activity. Glass jar, glue, tissue paper stuck on and some battery powered string lights from the pound shop. And everything can be used again next year.
18th December Make wrapping paper and wrap presents
The kids love this one. A big roll of paper, lots of Christmas stickers, stamps, glue and glitter and they get to decorate their own paper to wrap their previously bought gifts in. Then we can proudly display their finished product under the tree.
19th December Make mulled wine and mince pies
My favourite activity as I get mulled wine. As they’re 4 and 6 it’s a case of ready rolled pastry, a jar of mincemeat and some cutters. And as for the mulled wine, I set the slow cooker going so it scents my house all day long. Then they imagine mixing potions as they mix orange juice, cranberry juice, slices of orange, lemon, cinnamon sticks, cloves and nutmeg. We leave it to cook for several hours and then they usually taste it, say they don’t like it, before I adopt it for myself and pour the port in. Not your traditional mulled wine, especially as I put no actual wine in it so it can be non-alcoholic on the off-chance they like it this year, but I like it!
20th December Drive around to see the lights
There’s many a famous street in the area that goes all out, so I can never fail to deliver on this activity. But just being in their pyjamas in the car, with a McDonalds drive through if I’m feeling flush, is a great little activity to do.
21st December Make a bubble wrap snowman
This is new this year on the basis I have a job lot of bubble wrap. My plan is to roll and tape the bubble wrap into a snowman shape, then either papier mache or paint the bubble wrap before they dress him. I’m going to wing it on the day, but I think the 3 bin bags of bubble wrap will be enough excitement before we even start the activity. My husband is going to freak. In my head I’m imagining something like the giant Santa that hangs on Manchester Town Hall, but we will have to see if my vision is accurate!
22nd December Family games day
This year my kids have really got into playing things like UNO and scrabble. And as I don’t do the big Christmas meal because we go to my mum’s, I thought I’d have all the family round with a buffet style feast, and force them to play games with my kids. I don’t know how this will go as both the girls and their cousins are extremely competitive, but we’ll give it a try!
23rd December Make eggnog, shortbread and watch a Christmas movie
I’ve never had eggnog, so this is a first too. But this day falls on a Sunday, so I want some nice food, some nice drink, and to snuggle down under the duvet and watch something like ‘The Grinch’ or ‘Santa Claus the Movie’.
24th December Crib service and Christmas Eve box
I love the crib service. The kids drag their feet until they’re given chocolate by the church as a bribe to enjoy, but in all honesty it’s what Christmas is all about. I feel so emotional listening to carols sung in a church, so this is Christmas to me. And they’re totally geared up for kids with low attention spans, so I can enjoy this without worrying about whether my kids are sitting on their seats or lying on the ground telling me they’re bored. Then we all walk home to open their Christmas Eve boxes filled with new pyjamas, a Christmas story book, hot chocolate and marshmallows, a cookie making kit, the key for Santa to let himself in, some reindeer food to scatter in the garden, and the plate to put out for Santa for his mince pie, milk, and a carrot for the reindeer.
So that’s my very lengthy Christmas tradition of the gold envelopes. If you follow me on Pinterest at Recipeforhappinessnow or Instagram at recipeforhappinessnow I will be sharing pictures of my Christmas activities throughout December.
But please don’t read this and feel overwhelmed or that this tradition isn’t for you. Even if you don’t have kids I think it would be a fun thing to do with a partner or even on your own. You could challenge yourself to do something Christmassy every day, or to make or bake something Christmassy every day. Or what about a random act of kindness every day? You could even just keep it to weekends to cut a little of the planning work out. Maybe a Christmas get together with a different friend every Saturday and Sunday throughout December! And you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want. Pinterest is a fantastic source for so many good ideas. We’ve been building this up over so many years that I have all the envelopes, cards, and a lot of resources all ready in my box in the loft. At this stage I only have to tweak the list each year and replace a few activities they’ve outgrown to add in some new fresh ideas.
So let me know if you have any different traditions at Christmas, or if you do anything similar to celebrate Christmas throughout the whole of December. I wanted to get away from the kids just thinking of Christmas as a day they get presents. And I hope over the years we’ve managed to put a bit of Christmas magic, a bit of religion, a few random acts of kindness and thinking of the less fortunate, and lots of glue, mess and chocolate into our Christmases. And despite the immense planning involved, I have to say for me it’s all worthwhile because I know for my kids when they look back on Christmas in adulthood they will always remember the gold envelopes and hopefully bring back a few of their favourite activities into their own family Christmases.