This year, for the first time, I have done a 'Christmas Eve Box' for my children. It contains new pyjamas, a Christmas film, popcorn, 'reindeer food', a book, Santa's Magic Key, a Christmas activity book and some sweets (thanks for the ideas Pinterest). It's the first time I've done it because our eldest is finally, at the grand old age of 3, old enough to appreciate it and because it's our first Christmas with both of our children (and we're not having any more because I would like a full night's sleep at some point in the next five years).
I was excitedly telling someone about my Christmas Eve Box (not a euphemism - see above) the other day to which they responded;
"Oh so you've bought into all that have you? We never used to make such a big deal of it all and we still had great Christmasses."
To which I didn't really have a response (I've got sh*tloads now but at the time, no appropriate words were forthcoming).
But it made me think; am I just making a big deal of it all? We're not a particularly religious family. Am I just jumping on the bandwagon to give myself a great time?
Err no. Because actually some of it is rather stressful. Like the idea to write a letter from an elf everyday of Advent (a bit like Elf on the Shelf except they freak me out a little bit and I suspect they would freak out the three year old). Merry McJingles (yep - totally proud of the name) leaves our boys a letter every day. Which was great in the beginning. But it started to get difficult around Day 15 when I couldn't think of much more to tell them about the North Pole, except the fact that it's cold and the elves are wrapping presents and giving Rudolph a bath. It also didn't help that I thought I would make the letters look oh-so-authentic by sealing them with actual. red. wax. This was a ridiculous idea for two main reasons; number one, the children have no idea about wax seals because they were only born a few minutes ago. The three year old calls them 'stickers' (should've just used stickers) and the ten month old tries to eat them. And number two, getting a perfect circle of wax in the correct place on the seal of an envelope is bloody hard! I was peeling wax off my kitchen work tops, my fingers, my dressing gown and out of my hair for days after my first attempts (ok, not days but definitely a few minutes).
Advent calendar and the first letter from Merry McJingles
But you know what the three year old rushes to find every morning? The sweets in his advent calendar? No. His letter from Merry McJingles. He truly believes that one of Santa's elves is writing to him personally and is delivering him letters, to our house, specially for Christmas. His face when he finds the letters is amazing and completely magical. It makes the stupid wax idea totally worth it.
And that's the same reason I've made up a Christmas Eve Box. Not to spoil my children. Not to jump on a bandwagon.
But because Christmas, for me is about spending time with my family. Giving so much more than presents. Giving time. Giving appreciation for each other. Giving love and cuddles. Giving back to people who have given so much to us in the past and continue to do so (thanks Mum and Dad).
My Christmasses as a child were always magical. If I could somehow still believe in Santa I would. No, we didn't have a Christmas Eve Box and an elf didn't write to us. But we always had a new story for Dad to read to us on Christmas Eve (personal highlight - a signed copy of The Jolly Christmas Postman - who doesn't love a book where you get to open envelopes?!) And at the end of Christmas Day, there was always a new game waiting for us right at the back of the tree. Me and my sister would open it and we would all play it as a family. We began to anticipate this gift but never expect it, because we were brought up to understand that Christmas was about more than just presents. It was about making memories of good times with family and friends.
And that's what I hope to teach my children. When they are thirty and they look back on childhood Christmasses, I want them to remember, not that they got a big pile of stuff on Christmas Eve in a special box, but that, as a family, we put on our pyjamas, opened the popcorn and watched a movie together, all snuggled on the sofa, before sprinkling reindeer food on the front lawn, having their new bedtime story and falling asleep for Santa to come.
I'm not buying into a fad or consumerism. I am making memories for my children.
And I am continuing the family tradition of having a game right at the back of the Christmas tree, to play together as a family before bedtime on Christmas Day.
So to the lady who told me I was buying into it; I think the way you see it says a lot more about you than it does about me. Because the way I see it is this: Family. Traditions. Memories.
Now I'm sorry but I have to dash and find a good hiding place for Merry McJingle's next letter. I may have a glass of Baileys too.