Christmas is a great time to establish some family traditions and rituals, especially if your family is young.
Children love the anticipation of special things they know are going to happen and will only happen at a certain time, in a certain way.
This can involve very simple things such as how Christmas cards are displayed and the placing of the new arrivals, to the time and day of getting and decorating the Christmas tree, to the way the table is laid with the special tablecloth, plates, glasses, napkins or placemats.
It's great to have a sequence to events on the day or, better, from Christmas Eve through to Boxing Day. Depending on age, perhaps it starts with a special bedtime story, an evening Christmas carol event or midnight church. Maybe on Christmas morning a few interesting, edible items and things to play with or read are to be found in a small stocking at the end of the bed, keeping the youngsters happy until mum and dad are ready to surface.
Then perhaps a special breakfast and church followed by the grand opening of presents. Maybe Dad always wears a Father Christmas hat at this time.
Then there's the routine of the laying of the table, the serving of the meal, a toast to family and friends and the clinking of glasses, with sparkling grape juice for the youngsters. The menu for lunch and dinner is the same each year and includes extras not normally served at any other time. Afterwards Mum is allowed to loaf while Dad and the kids clean up before some other ritual event takes place. Perhaps Christmas Day could be the one day of the year when the television is never turned on and other whole-of-family activities take place instead.
One family used to buy a new ornament each year for each child to hang on the tree. They became that child's collection to place on the tree each year. Now the parents are finding the stock of tree ornaments dwindling as the young adults claim them for their own family trees.
These things are all very traditional, but the rituals and festivities don't have to be northern hemisphere ones. It doesn't take too much thought to come up with some special routines and differences that add a unique Kiwi festiveness to the Christmas barbecue or picnic at the beach and to make it a family day.
In this country, we have very few annual festive events that bring people together in joy. These traditions and rituals are part of the essence of family and are the memories that we cherish later in life. Merry Christmas.
© Ian Munro 2012. All rights reserved.
Ian Munro will take a break over Christmas and the New Year. His column will return on January 19.