The spirit of Christmas

SONYA LEUSINK SLADEN
Last updated 10:14 11/12/2013
Christmas on the beach
FAIRFAX NZ
FAMILY TIME: Christmas is an ideal opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors with the family.

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I love the idea of creating and sustaining unique family Christmas traditions.

In my own family growing up, we had a few and they make for fond memories.

Like going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and opening our presents afterwards - at half-past one in the early morning hours of Christmas Day - so that we could all sleep in.

Familiar rituals help build memories and add significance to an occasion … and [traditions] add a sense of belonging and significance. - Sarah Heeringa, editor Good magazine.

When we become parents ourselves, the joy of family celebration takes on a whole new significance. Our children become the focus of the season, and we can be the creators of our own family traditions. Although for some of us, the season may be a difficult time for financial, family or personal reasons, we all have an opportunity to create happy memories around little personal rituals with our little ones.

It is a precious and holy time; don't overlook the "reason for the season" in cultural terms and spiritual ones. It is a time to treasure and reflect on the power of love. - Erica, mother of twins

In the spirit of this sentiment, I asked The Motherhood Project what they did on and around Christmas, to make it a happy and meaningful time of celebration. Here are some of the ideas we came up with.

Celebrate with music

Once a year, we marinade ourselves thoroughly in the nostalgia and memory-building power of music. You may be well and truly "over" the music of Christmas by Christmas day, but I rather think that's kind-of the whole point of it, don't you?

Christmas carols at the Church Steps is a must on Christmas Eve. Although my siblings and I used to (and still do) use it as an opportunity to giggle at the old ladies warbling away and using the candles to accidental set our song sheets on fire. - Kate, mother of 2.

Decorate together

Little rituals around decorating the house and garden are fantastic fun for children and grown-ups alike.

Create your own Christmas traditions, decorations, lights, Kiwi theme or European, whatever means Christmas for you. It will be a blend of your own memories and new ideas for your own expression of this time of gathering. - Erica, mother of twins.

Make stuff

I like it that we can be Christmassy without buying stuff. Indeed, these crafty approaches to the season can become little traditions we enjoy and remember with fondness in the years to come.

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…. Going to choose our Christmas tree outdoors and decorating it together, dressing it with various decorations that have been made at school and home over the years by the children. It's very nostalgic reminiscing over how old they were when they made each one - the boys usually remembering better than us - each decoration has lots of memories for them. - Jacqui, mother of 2.

Enjoy Christmas Eve rituals

I rather love the intensity and excitement that surrounds the build-up to Christmas day, and look forward to Christmas Eve rituals that thrive on this energy.

Reading "the night before Christmas" is a must. This might seem a tad weird but my mother still insists I clamber on to her knee (she's 5ft 5 and I'm 5 ft 9) for the story. I'll be honest and say I quite like it although this year I might suggest she sit on my knee or perhaps she can read it to her 6-month grandson instead! - Kate, mother of one.

Of course for littlies, leaving notes, cookies etc for Santa the night before is always great fun (and writing a "reply"!) - Tania, mother of 2.

Celebrate with friends

My hope for our family is that we can establish rituals with the extended network of close friends we regard also as our "family". Traditions around gratitude for those with whom we have much love and so many shared experiences.

If you can't be with family, getting together with friends who also don't have family close can be really lovely. We've had a couple of years where we've done that and it was great! We put up bunting, ate in the garden, and all pitched in with food. We all had little ones including babies and it was a lovely way to be with 'family' of a different kind. - Tania, mother of 2

Give family-focused gifts

However you define "family", Christmas is an occasion that celebrates it. What better way to do this than to give gifts that bring us together, and encourage us to have fun?

On one side of the family, the adults put money into a travel fund, rather than buying presents, which we use to get together. - Kelly, mother of two

For extended family, we buy family gifts that can be used and enjoyed by everyone. Like games, camping equipment, sports gear and family passes to the pools or Natureland. - Carl, father of two.

Family activity

I like the idea of making a ritual of a family activity on Christmas Day to get everyone out and about and working up an appetite.

It has been traditional in our family (and many) to wrap up warm and go for a wintry (usually snowy) walk on Christmas morning in the UK, but we plan to do something a little different in NZ this year and go sailing/boating in the morning, weather permitting. - Jacqui, mother of 2

Remembrance

Christmas can be a sad time for those of us who may have lost loved ones. It is nice that sad but joyful rituals of remembrance can be incorporated into families' Christmas celebrations.

Our first son died a few years ago and I try to do something in his memory at Christmas. When the boys are older I hope to involve them. - Kelly, mother of two.

Elevate giving

Nurturing traditions with our little ones that encourage them to understand and think more deeply about giving is such a wonderful idea. I would be very proud if ours grow up with a deep sense of gratitude for what they have, and genuine generosity towards those who may struggle at this time.

I have instigated a pre-Christmas toy and book tidy. Some things we throw away, some we give away, some we keep. At the moment it's all about "making room for new toys" for my son, but in time I hope he gets the message that he is fortunate and that it's not a one way street of toy accumulation. - Kelly, mother of two

Have glorious feasts

Food is such a central, cross-cultural part of the Christmas tradition. I am looking forward to building on the little food-related traditions we have begun with our own family, like berry-picking as a family, and an over-abundance of strawberries on Christmas day.

…I also love the tradition of sitting around a table together - and if you're into cooking, it can be nice to put energy into creating an amazing feast - as long as it's out of enjoyment and not obligation! - Tania, mother of two.

One of my husband's family traditions includes all the men sitting outside on Christmas morning podding peas. They are all market gardeners a and fresh produce is a huge part of Christmas. - Kate, mother of one.

  • Have a happy and joyful Christmas all. And thank you to all who have contributed to The Motherhood Project so far. We are always looking for new ideas and insights that celebrate the motherhood experience so do feel welcome to share via themotherhoodproject@xtra.co.nz.

- Nelson

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