Christmas Traditions for Babies and Children
Is it just me, or does every December bring with it a new ‘must-do’ Christmas custom?
From Elf on the Shelf (which seems to divide parents into two very firm camps!) to Christmas Eve boxes, fancy advent calendars and Santa Cams, it feels like there’s a new-fangled novelty to add to the list each year.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, and I love the idea of activities that become family traditions. It’s just sometimes it all feels a bit too commercialised. And there seems to be an unwritten rule that, as parents, we’ve got to do ALL the things and make ALL the memories to give our kids the ‘perfect’ Christmas.
In a bid to not get caught up in the FOMO, I’ve been reflecting on the little festive rituals we do as a family – most of which we started when my son was born – and realising that, actually, the simple things that require very little expense and effort are by far the best. It also got me thinking about what customs exist in other cultures that we can take inspiration from.
If you’re celebrating your baby’s first Christmas, or you have young children and would love to introduce some special family rituals into your festivities, I hope this blog gives you some ideas and reassures you that less is most definitely more!
DIY Tree Decorations
For us, this tradition began when my son started nursery and the steady (read: prolific) flow of artwork started coming home. At Christmas, they made salt-dough ornaments, and it has since become an annual event for Sam to create a bespoke ornament for our tree.
Now that he’s older, he absolutely loves going through the box of decorations each year to find the ones he’s made, and he still enjoys making a new one either at school or with us at home. At some point, we also started a tradition of him choosing a new bauble from our local garden centre every Christmas, too. Our tree will need to be enormous by the time he’s 18!
Of course, if you’re after an Insta-worthy Christmas tree this custom might not be for you, but I absolutely love our higgledy-piggledy tree and all the memories it holds!
The Christmas Pickle!
No one seems to truly know where this somewhat strange Christmas tradition came from – some say Germany, some say America, and others say it’s a myth! But whatever its origins, it’s a bit of fun that costs next to nothing and gets the whole family involved.
The idea is that you have a tree ornament in the shape of a pickle (I did say it was a bit strange!). It gets hidden somewhere on the tree, and whoever finds it is said to get good fortune for a year. Some families also give the successful pickle-hunter an extra present, or just let them have the honour of opening a gift first.
Treats for Father Christmas
If you enjoy baking with your kids, making homemade cookies or mince pies is a really lovely way to add a little extra magic to the age-old custom of leaving treats out for Santa. It can also be a good tactic for giving children something to focus on if (or, more likely, when) excitement levels threaten to tip over into overwhelm!
Spot the Christmas Star
This is a tradition from Poland and Ukraine. On Christmas Eve, the youngest child is given the job of watching the evening sky and waiting for the first star to appear. When they spot it, the opening of the presents can commence!
I’m pretty sure this will have begun as a tactical move by some stressed-out parents who needed to calm the children down! But I absolutely love the idea and may well try and weave an adaptation into our celebrations this year. I’ll tell Sam that when the first star appears, we all get to choose one present to open early. If nothing else, it might buy us some quiet time to enjoy a glass of mulled wine!
A letter from Father Christmas
It’s fair to say that most children, once they’re old enough, write a letter to Santa detailing their Christmas wish list. In our house, this is basically an abridged version of the Smyths catalogue (he can dream!).
But we also write a letter back to Sam from the big man himself, thanking him for the treats and reminding him to be good next year. It never fails to wow him and really does add a little bit of extra magic to Christmas morning.
A Time for Giving
The run-up to Christmas is always an ideal time for a clear-out, making way for the inevitable influx of new toys. As part of this, I think it’s really nice to get older children involved in packing up some outgrown clothes, toys and books to donate to a charity shop or local shelter.
Organisations like Little Village and Baby Bank Network are crying out for donations all year round, and there’s sure to be similar charities in your area. At Christmas, a little kindness can make even more of a difference, and I think it’s important to give our kids an awareness that, sadly, Christmas isn’t a time of joy for everyone.
Sprinkling reindeer food outside your home is a magical activity to do on Christmas Eve, but sadly the ready-made packs you can buy often contain plastic glitter that’s harmful to birds and other garden wildlife. So why not make your own wildlife-friendly version?
This great recipe from the RSPCA is so easy, the kids can do it all by themselves. And you’ll probably find you have most of the ingredients in your cupboards already!
- A handful of wild bird seeds
- A few rolled oats
- Dried fruit
- Some dried insects, like mealworms
- Some grated cheese
- A hint of chilli powder (this will stop squirrels and rodents from stealing the food before Rudolph and his friends arrive!)
Simply mix it all together, then have fun sprinkling it on your lawn before bedtime.
Taking a picture of your children – or even the whole family – in front of the
Christmas tree is a lovely way to create a treasured memento for the future. You could have some fun trying to stage the exact same photo each year, then add the photo to an album and have fun looking back on previous years!
Santa’s Scavenger Hunt
Christmas treasure hunts are great fun! Set up a quest for the kids complete with clues to find their ‘main present’, or send them on a mission around the house to seek out hidden chocolates or candy canes. You could come up with your own clues if you’re feeling creative, or check out our FREE printable Santa’s Scavenger Hunt here. Have fun!
Do you have any weird or wonderful Christmas family traditions? I’d love to hear about them! Pop a comment below or come and join in the conversation over on Instagram.