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How to make our tiny family Christmas magical when 1. We are both ill and 2. Our own Christmases were crap?

(52 Posts)
fuzzpig Fri 02-Nov-12 10:17:50

Need the wisdom of you lovely festive MNers please!

Xmas has always been a bit of a struggle for us. DH had a horrific childhood and obviously has no good memories of it. My own family is dysfunctional and toxic and my parents didn't like Xmas so didn't see why their only child should hmm.

We have an agreement that Xmas day itself is just for us (me, DH, DD 5, DS 3) - my family believes it is just because we want to enjoy the day ourselves but basically it is because the alternative of having them here is miserable, boring and stressful.

But even on our own, Xmas has never been that great. It feels like Sunday with presents and more food. We are good at the present part but it seems like that is the focus of the day which is not what I want.

Hopefully DH will be in good health by then, as he has just had an operation on his spine having been injured for 2 years (he couldn't even sit at the table!) but I am unlikely to be much better as I have developed a chronic illness - it is unpredictable and I don't even know if I'll be able to work by then.

I am not going to put loads of pressure on myself to make it 'perfect' because I know that's a bad idea. So I'm just looking for a few easy ways to make it more fun and different smile

lucamom Fri 02-Nov-12 10:47:19

You have the wonderful opportunity to create your own family Christmas, so that not only will your children think of Xmas as a wonderful thing, but that you and your husband will enjoy too.

Not knowing your situation/requirements/limitations etc, I'm just going to post random ideas that you might be able to adapt (or might think of as utter tosh!):

* Special Xmas brekkie - doesn't have to require much physical effort/cooking, can be just nice pastries/croissants/brioche/hot chocolate etc. Maybe add some new silly rule like no proper food until you've eaten a chocolate off the tree!

* Stockings - start your own tradition of pressies in a stocking (can be little tokens or even joke pressies), make decisions as a family as to where you place them, when you have them (do you come downstairs in the morning and have them, or do you open them in bed xmas morning, or before bed on xmas eve, with a special hot chocolate/drink/treat before doing santa's mince pie etc?)

* Make your own biscuits for santa - make special shape using xmas cookie cutters (a carrot/bone shaped one for rudolph)

* Open pressies every hour - either hold some back or buy little stocking filler types, set an alarm to go off each hour, and whatever you're doing at the the time you have to stop and all open a present

* Xmas film on Xmas eve, all snuggled under a blanket with popcorn etc

Sorry for the long post and mostly silly ideas, just thinking off the top of my head. It's your family now, you all get to decide what you do (for some people that's everything anti-xmas). The point is that you choose, so over the coming weeks see what the kids want - I'll bet they'll have better ideas than anyone!

Hope you all have a great Xmas, an that 2013 is your year xx

Pos1 Fri 02-Nov-12 10:48:04

Sorry to hear about your previous Christmases - but here are a few ideas.....

Family game in the afternoon
Go for a nice walk, weather permitting- normally lovely as most people are indoors
Perhaps too old for your children, but maybe do a plan for 2013 - so all choose one place you want to go to, one hobby you want to try, one thing to achieve etc- would need to be amended for baby
Do you have digital camera? Maybe do a family slide show of the year just gone
Could you go out for christmas lunch?

Pos1 Fri 02-Nov-12 10:49:21

Sorry just re read about your husband, so a walk may not be a great idea....

Lemonylemon Fri 02-Nov-12 10:50:06

How about putting out a little tray with a mince pie, carrot and a glass of Baileys something nice for Santa and the reindeer? You could snap the carrot so it looks like the reindeer have eaten a bit of it.... and drink some of the Baileys/scotch/snowball whatever you say Santa likes

Gumby Fri 02-Nov-12 10:51:20

If you feel well enough take a trip to a garden centre to see FC a couple of days before
Drive around to look at the lights
Go to the panto

On the day we don't have any expectations beyond presents, nice food , Xmas tv
I have to say I'm always relieved at the end of the day just because it's a relief if it's gone well, people have had fun, presents have been well received etc

Lemonylemon Fri 02-Nov-12 10:52:02

You could all have a vote on whether you stay in your pj's all day....

Lemonylemon Fri 02-Nov-12 10:52:52

You could open presents a different times during the day - say, one before breakfast, one after lunch and the rest before dinner or the other way round....

Gumby Fri 02-Nov-12 10:54:26

Also make the table exciting so it's not like Sunday lunch

Sparklers in the pudding

Xmas candle

Crackers

Theas18 Fri 02-Nov-12 10:54:37

" just like a sunday with more food and presents"

Well yes.....but what else do you do? What about actually going to church at some point even if you don't have a faith - singing carols and hearing the story of the first Christmas at least sets the whole thing in context. If you are a bit scared of churches try a kids/crib service in the pre christmas run up. It's really magical.

Otherwise enjoy your "sunday with more food and pressies" together as a family. Watch a film, play a game etc

Also don't set it up t be " THE BEST THING EVER" 'cos it wont be- something will happen that , actually wont be any thing much, but if you are aiming for " perfect" can " ruin the whole day (eg "you forgot to do the sprouts... well that's it ... it's ALL spoiled" sort of feelings).

lucamom Fri 02-Nov-12 10:55:23

* Santa footprints - place boots/shoes as the stencil and sieve flour/icing sugar around to look like santa's left snowy footprints behind 9especially good by a fireplace or front door)

* If no fireplace, find an old key and tie a ribbon on and leave out as Santa's special front door key (Sainsbury's sell one in their xmas decs)

* Reindeer food - mix a handful of oats/breakfast cereal/grain etc, add some glitter, place in little bag and attach a label. If you google, you'll find a special poem about sprinkling it in the garden on Xmas eve to guide the reindeer to your home. Nice to give to other little ones you or your children may know

* Google elf on the shelf - looks like a fun (and useful) tradition to start.

Sorry, I'll stop now (maybe)

Pancakeflipper Fri 02-Nov-12 10:56:50

We have a low key Christmas Day. Just the 4 of us. It's gorgeous as we can take our time. We have treasure hunts, go for a stroll, visit the neighbours with gifts.

Make sure you have a few board games and some lovely food. And just enjoy being together.

mignonette Fri 02-Nov-12 10:57:10

When we 'blended' our two sets of children, DH and I bought cheap plain Christmas stockings, a load of glitter, ribbon, felt and other cheap trimmings and we all sat round the table and customised our own stocking. The kids insist on keeping these now tatty old rags and they come out every year.

We also make a big deal about 'Stir Up Sunday', getting together to make Christmas puddings.

We start watching Christmas films in December with 'Miracle on 34th St' and 'It's A Wonderful Life' watched on Christmas Eve. 'The Grinch' is for Christmas Day.

The best part of the 25th is gathering on our bed to open stockings. Kids are all adult but every year most of them end up perched there alongside their partners. Our house 'rule' is that anybody sleeping over on the 24th gets a stocking alongside the children. So relatives and friends are catered for.

We also have a special breakfast, nothing complicated but we all sit at the table in PJ's. BTW, wearing of Christmas themed PJ's compulsory in our house throughout december!

Katisha Fri 02-Nov-12 11:02:19

Sunday with presents is actually fine. We all tend to get taken in by M&S stylee ads of thousands of friends/family all prancing round having a special time. It really isnt like that for 99.9 per cent of us.
AGree with maybe going to church actually - how much more christmassy and focussed can singing carols be.

EldritchCleavage Fri 02-Nov-12 11:03:39

I think it is a mistake for Xmas to be all about 1 day- a bit of build-up works wonders to get everyone in the mood,and also means that doing nothing much but food and telly on Christmas Day itself is nice, rather than disappointing.

Last year I made Xmas decorations with DS (paper chains and stars, with lots of glitter) and he absolutely loved it, so a bit of that in the run-up to Xmas day would be nice.

Another thing that children love is biscuit decorating-buy or make plain biscuits then let the children dribble icing all over them. It's a good one to have friends over for. They can take their biscuits home as a present for their parents. Actually, jpining in making any Christmas food is a nice thing to do.

Christingle services are a good idea (and I say that as an atheist).
Stuff like that does get children in the mood and I really enjoy watching them enjoy it.

We also go for a drive to see Christmas lights, which is quite fun (especially if you live near someone who does the whole house covered extravaganza).

Badvoc Fri 02-Nov-12 11:10:16

Fuzzpig
Once the kids have broken up from school we really get started on Xmas in our house! smile
We make biscuits, cakes, decorations like paper chains and snowflakes.
We decorate the house, check out where Santa is online on Xmas eve - you can track him!
You can also go on pnp and Santa will send the children an e mail from The nor pole! It's ace and my kids love it smile
We leave out reindeer food and water for the reindeer in Xmas eve and they have their stockings.
We go to the crib service at church.
We have crackers etc on the table at lunchtime to make it a bit more festive.
Xmas films on Xmas eve - home alone is a great one.
At bedtime we all look out of the windows to see if we can see Santa (dh then secretes himself somewhere and rings sleigh bells and we rush off to bed)
I make it easy as I can for myself by doing an online grocery shop and I order 95% of the gifts online too. Like you, I simply cannot carry heavy stuff round shops...
I also get ready to cook veg, roasts, meat etc so I don't have to spend hours prepping food on Xmas morning.
Have a lovely Xmas x

CaptainKirksNipples Fri 02-Nov-12 11:15:29

My parents were crap, so christmas wasnt great and we only occasionally got what we asked for. I still remember it being quite special for the other things we did, we didn't have a Sunday roast so the food was always good, we went out sledging weather permitting and always put out stuff for Santa and his reindeers.

In my house ds is 8 and dd is 6. We watch Elf on DVD snuggled under every blanket, cushion and pillow in the house on Christmas Eve, I buy everyone new christmas pj's for Christmas Eve, this is great for photos in the morning too, we got the kids their own tree for their room that they can decorate themselves (they love this!) and I keep all the decorations they made at nursery and school to add to the rest of the tat they choose to over it in.

Always go and see the Christmas lights getting switched in and get a hot chocolate and wrapped up for a walk about the shops (even if we aren't buying anything!) and make a special trip to the big Hamleys toy shop in the city near us. I also get the kids to help wrap presents for the rest of the family and they get excited imagining santas elves wrapping their presents.

I get the kids super excited before they go to bed, and tell them santa knows if they are pretending to sleep... last year they swore they saw Santa's shadow in the hall and heard the bells when they were pretending to sleep!

FireOverBabylon Fri 02-Nov-12 11:15:58

Create your own Christmas with your little family. Ask your older child what they've liked in previous years and ensure you do that. We're doing the same this year, and my aim is to switch the telly off for the most part so we can get on the floor with the children and play games / do puzzles with them and read Christmassy stories.

I'm doing a treasure hunt for DS this weekend, laminating pictures from clipart showing the pond, the slide etc so he gets to charge around the garden. A christmas bersion for your children would be lovely.

Also, think about traditions you'd like for them, whether that's putting a £1 coin in their stocking every year, or always buying them a mug and socks to go in their stocking or doing the Christmas Eve jamas, book and DVD hamper, or taking them on a Christmas steam train ride first weekend in December.

Sod your parents, google Christmas family traditions and start to build your own version that yur children will want to carry on themselves. You are creating your children's Christmas heritage.

CaptainKirksNipples Fri 02-Nov-12 11:17:06

We only live in a 2 bed flat but I still move sofas about and put a dining table up and dress it to look like it should be in John Lewis window! Place names and crackers and sprinke shit all over it. Dp hates it :-)

kernowmissvyghen Fri 02-Nov-12 11:24:22

What made Christmas magical for me as a child was my parents decorating the tree/ sitting room/ stairs and hallway after we'd gone to bed on Christmas Eve- so we'd wake up on Xmas morning to a magically transformed Christmas house- we loved it!

I do it now, and while it is exhausting on Xmas eve night, it's really worth it.

And waking up to a stocking at the end of the bed and taking it in to my parents room to open it on their bed! ( only a small stocking, mind, and only ever with small cheap joke-shop type toys, soap on a rope or similar to fill most of the stocking's leg, a sugar mouse, chocolate coins and of course a small orange at the end to make the toe shape) Hawkins Bazaar is a good shop for small cheap stocking toys.

And let the children be a part of making the day special too - one parent help them do a tray of tea and biscuits/ mince pies to "surprise" the other parent with, that kind of thing. I am a firm believer that the joy is in the giving as much / more than receiving , and it's a way to avoid the day being all about material things.

InNeedOfAPennyForTheGuysBrandy Fri 02-Nov-12 13:08:18

Hi Fuzzpig

I can't really add to anything else others have said,(but I'll try!) I know exactly what you mean by sunday with presents.

Treasure hunt for presents
christmas tree in dc room
lots of booze starting at breakfast time
Is there a elderly neighbour on their own? MMaybe drop them round some mince pies and stay for a drink? Invite a few friends round on the evening that live walking distance?

teenagedreams Fri 02-Nov-12 13:20:18

This is getting me so excited. It's a totally personal thing but what an exciting part of parenting, building your own family traditions.

We sprinkle reindeer dust down the drive and leave out the special key, biscuits and carrot on the plate we painted as a family.

New xmas pjs hanging on the dcs bedroom doors when we get in xmas eve after delivering presents. Get them on then read Twas The Night Before Xmas all snuggled on the settee.

Putting the tree up with xmas classics blaring on the 1st.

Daddy has to go down first and check he's been.

Chocolate for breakfast.

The Santa Claus trilogy, Elf, Santa Claus The Movie etc.. on all December.

girlywhirly Fri 02-Nov-12 13:45:43

Lots of lovely ideas here. If you don't want to do crackers you could have a small present each at the dinner table, my cousin had a knitted snowman with a hollow inside to hide the gifts in. You could hold back a gift each for Boxing day to stretch it out a bit. What about a CD of Christmas songs and music to sing or dance along to. A very gentle, short walk on the afternoon around the neighbourhood to have a good look at everyone elses decorations.

I think making decorations and Christmassy food is a lovely way for DC to build up to the day itself. Visit garden centres and choose something for the tree, as well as enjoying their displays.

For you and DH, only do what you know you can manage easily. Plan meals that won't need you to be on your feet in the kitchen all the time. Prepare what you can in advance and freeze, make use of delivered shopping and ready made if you need to.

I think if you present a positive attitude towards Christmas, the DC will also be positive. They will love it and you will be happy for them. I would consider carefully whether you want to see either set of GP's close to Christmas if they are going to spoil what you are trying to achieve with their negativity.

EldritchCleavage Fri 02-Nov-12 13:51:09

I'll probably be run out of Dodge for saying this, but I dread all the Father Christmas stuff. I wasn't brought up to believe, and don't want to lie to the DC about it, but DH does. I think we will have to be fairly minimalist-leaving out carrots etc will not be happening.

HoldMeCloserTonyDanza Fri 02-Nov-12 13:52:57

You have got great ideas here, I just wanted to say that if Christmas seems like "Sunday with presents", IMO that doesn't so much take away from Christmas as speak very highly of your Sundays! grin

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