Our Christmas rituals

Every year the Brady family Christmas continues to takes shape. By this I mean that new rituals are added in, lots of old ones keep going, some are dropped (sorry Elf on the Shelf, you are now just Elf Who Lies on Bea’s Bed). Rituals are what Christmas is all about. Little things that we do each year, things that speak of our values (sounds a bit serious that, but really that just means what we like) and that create memories for years to come. Hopefully things that the kids will pass on to their future families; and no doubt add on to as well.

I totted up ours that i can think of – and there are 16 that spring to mind, no doubt I am forgetting quite a few, but I thought it’d be nice to take a minute and jot them down, which kind of cements them as golden. Also it might give you some ideas if you are a bit dry in the Christmas ritual department. Maybe you share yours too? I love picking up new ideas…

1. Letter to Santa: 3 items and post it

OK so this one happened a bit early this year, in November. But I wanted to get ahead and I know Santa likes to be organised. We sit and write a list, discussing any budgetary or age appropriateness factors that may come into play: “Santa won’t be stretching to that particular set of Lego as it costs £400 Artie…”, and “Santa knows you have an XBox already so no I don’t think an XBox 1S is going to be very likely…”. We ask them to write a polite letter, and only ask for 3 things that Santa himself brings. We get the rest and these are made up of extras and lots of practical things like toothbrushes, books, etc. We used to send it up the chimney (burn it, but Santa magically got it). Now we post it via the Royal Mail – actually we haven’t had a reply yet!

2. Day before Advent: new bedroom (kind of), calendar, Christmas party outfit and sweets

This is a new one! This year, without really preplanning it, on the last day of November I happened to have been shopping and laid out their new party clothes (literally one inexpensive outfit that fits and is a bit sparkly or festive) with their calendar for the next day, along with a few sweets in a Santa Stop Here bowl that I found in a charity shop. By chance I had sorted their rooms out, changed things around (kids love that) and got rid of some toys (a great idea before Christmas as a whole new bunch is going to moving in). They were CHUFFED. It’s the little things, eh? I am going to do that every year as it really felt like a good way to kick things off.

3. After school Christmas movies with hot choc and mince pies

After school, most days I get a fire on just before they come back. Then we have a hot chocolate, a biscuit or mince pie and settle down to a Christmas movie. Sometimes it’s short ones like Stick Man (Christmassy at the end!), or Gruffalo’s Child (snowy!) – I try to make it festive but yes it’s hard to constantly find ones that contain a vaguely Christmas element. Others we’ve watched so far include: Miracle on 34th Street (amazing), Groundhog Day (hilarious and yes, quite adult themed, but nothing too bad at all), The Magic Reindeer (terrible, but they liked it) and several more than I can’t recall. I’m building up to It’s a Wonderful Life…

4. Family party at mine one week before

This tradition started last year, but not that many could make it as it was quite last minute. This year everyone can. 20 adults and 9 kids. I’m doing all the cooking the day before: a ham, side of salmon, some winter salads, a trifle, mince pies – proper traditional! Also people are bringing bits and pieces: my uncle is bringing a Mexican dish (he’s Mexican) and my aunty a flapjack, my mother in law a pavlova. I am so looking forward to it. This is what Christmas is all about… I love the inevitable group photo that will be treasured for years to come. My Granddad won’t be there, as he wasn’t last year for the first time. We’ll raise a glass to him of course…

5. Christmas Tree festival with my Nana

Last week I met up with my Nana, who I’m really close to, to see the Christmas Tree Festival at The Church of Saint Mary and All Saints in Chesterfield, more commonly known as The Crooked Spire. I grew up in Chesterfield, and the church is so worth visiting. I was actually christened there. I light a candle to my Grandad and also my maternal Nana. And we sit and have a catch up. I love this time in church, I find them so relaxing and peaceful. This we’ve done for the last few years and I think it’s sticking as a tradition now…

6. Weekly winter walks

New one! Last week I asked my Dad if he fancied doing a weekly walk in December as I am trying to complete 500,000 steps. Crazy maybe, but a good way to keep the Christmas extra stomach roll at bay! We did a 2 hour walk, round Great Longstone and it was fab. Obligatory mince pie half way round with a quick coffee from the flask too, naturally…

7. Panto in Chesterfield

We’ve been to a panto every year since they were very little. Tomorrow, all being well with snow (it’s snowing here, which I LOVE as you can imagine…) we are off to Chesterfield Pomegranate theatre. Christmas jumpers or dress up is the dress code. It’s an incredible, old fashioned theatre which you must visit if you can. I try to support it every now and then. This year the panto is Peter Pan. I love the modern songs that they perform, which Bea does too as she’s into performing type stuff (we think – well, she likes dancing). It’s real, old fashioned proper entertainment with lots of jokes for the adults. It’s a long show, about 3 hours, and after the bit where they get kids up on stage, they make it snow inside. I cry like a deranged person every time. It kind of feels like now Christmas has really begun.

8. Christmas Eve church

So last year we said we were going to do this and it didn’t happen. But this year I am more committed; I think going to church at Christmas is really important, especially for kids who without any input from us will overlook the religious aspect of Christmas and simply gorge on the commercialism of it all, which I find quite hard to stomach. Yes, they’ll moan. I did too when I was little (we went every week!!) but hopefully some of it will sink in and they can enjoy the Christmassyness of the twinkly lights, the carols, and the general festive vibe.

9. The Snowman and The Snowman and Snowdog on Christmas Eve

Now Artie is getting older he kind of moans when this goes on (I think it might be the sad bits he doesn’t like, rather than the fact he thinks himself too old for it). But this is a BIG ONE for me. We record it afresh every year (even though last year’s is already recorded). We watched it every Christmas Eve as kids – usually it was on at 5pm. And so they must too. I always cry. It’s the music, the magic in the air, it’s just the official start of ACTUAL Christmas for me. And the Snowman and The Snowdog is just as good as the Snowman in my opinion. The main song in the sequel, Light The Night by Andy Burrows, is one of my all time Christmas favorite tracks. It gives me shivers and just totally encapsulates Christmas. I love watching the kids’ faces as they are completely mesmerised, just like I was when I was their age. And the bittersweet element of both stories just captures Christmas, which can be sombre and bleak for many people. I’m welling up now, daft sod that I am.

10. New Christmas PJs for kids

Cliche alert! But yes, this year they are having new (inexpensive) PJs on Christmas Eve. I resisted this previously, but my mum bought some last year (above) and they really liked it. It’s not much money and I suppose it’s a practical addition.

11. Looking out the window for Santa just before bed

The last few years I have done this with Arthur but this year I’ll ask Beatrix to look too… Just before they go to bed, we look out my bedroom window and more often than not see Santa’s sleigh’s lights flashing as he makes his way across the sky in the distance… it’s pretty special.

12. Christmas present assembly with a classic Christmas movie

The kids are in bed. Asleep – they HAVE to be asleep for obvious reasons. Adam (not me, never me) assembles anything that requires it. Then I wrap. That’s the deal. There is normally cheese eating, or chocolate eating at this point also… and also something decent on telly. The Lady in the Van by Alan Bennett I think was on last year, which was brilliant.

14. Christmas Day – late dinner with family

Does this count as a tradition? We eat late and it’s always the same meal (well, almost always bar the one time in this picture funnily enough). Normally we have turkey, parsnips, rad cabbage, sprouts, stuffing, pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce, bread sauce, roasties in goose fat… we are so trad about this it’s ironic that in this photo it’s the one year we had beef! I love Bea having a meltdown here!

14. Boxing Day Walk / Buffet at in laws

This is something that we try to do with Adam’s brother and his family and their parents. After a local walk where the kids moan incessantly, we lie on his mum’s sofa and eat endless plates of ham, stilton and pickled onions followed by Quality Streets whilst watching telly. It makes Adam feel 15 again. To be fair it is very nice.

15. New Year’s Day Walk

As we don’t go out any more for NYE – never been that fussed about it to be honest – we make more of New Year’s Day. A walk in the fresh air followed by a pub lunch or a buffet (as yet undecided) is the best way to see in the new year. I love this day, it’s so full of promise and I love the thought of an almost empty calendar to be filled up with exciting and wonderful things! (I am aware of how irritatingly upbeat and giddy I am being in this post, by the way, but I can’t help it…)

16. New year show in Sheffield

This is a relatively new one. I booked Wizard of Oz at The Crucible for me, Bea and my mum for early January. Last year we went to see Showboat (above) and the year before that it was My Fair Lady, I think… It’s lovely to have something to look forward to in January and have some catch up time with my mum. Theatre is one thing I don’t mind spending money on. It’s an indulgence that it worth every penny; I always come out feeling uplifted.

I think that’s my lot – although I know I’ll have missed some stuff out. It’s so lovely how personal Christmas is to everyone. Will this year be a quiet or a raucous one? Is Christmas a reflective time for you (I think it so often is for so many people) or a time to let your hair down?

What are your Christmas events, rituals and traditions? I’d love to know!

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