Ed Elf: Can you have such a thing as a ‘new tradition’? Those two words don’t seem to go together at all.
Mrs. C: Well, if a person thinks of something new to do as part of their celebrations – then continues to do it year-on-year it becomes a tradition. So ‘new’ and ‘tradition’ together in one sentence. There you go clever clogs.
Ed Elf: I’m still not convinced.
Mrs. C: You’re failing to see the bigger picture. Maybe that’s an elf thing.
Ed Elf: That’s rather elf-ist of you, Mrs C. But go on – show me what you’re talking about.
Mrs. C: The How to Christmas team have come up with great suggestions for injecting some ‘new’ into the traditions and customs of ‘old’ as well as recommending other fresh and novel ideas you might wish to make annuals. There are 25 in all in the following list to entice you – with much greater detail on each item outlined below that, with full explanations. Why not give just a few of them a try and start – are you listening Ed? – a new tradition!
The Big List of New Traditions
2 – Write poetic lines, clues and numbers on tags to turn opening gifts into a guessing game.
3 – Start a collection of tree baubles that will one-day form the “Flying the Nest” set.
4 – Make Advent crackers and help the countdown to Christmas Day go with a bang.
5 – Visit a local pop-up ice-skating rink as a family or with friends – even if you can’t skate.
6 – Nominate a Random Acts of Kindness Day for the youngsters in your life. Let them do some good at home or in the neighbourhood – and you, your friends and family can join in too.
7 – Have a Great British Bake Off Day – going head-to-head with family or friends to determine who is champion cook of the Christmas grub.
8 – Visit a Christmas market – soak up the atmosphere and glug some gluhwein.
9 – Create a magical movie night at home.
10 – Make pinecone garlands after a winter walk in the woods.
11 – Allow Santa to put his foot in it. Check below for more details and you’ll understand we can’t give too much away on this one.
12 – Make Advent a play-on-words with the 24 Books of Christmas.
13 – Create gift cards with a difference – offering the priceless commodity of time.
14 – Hurray for pound shop presents! This will be an inexpensive test of humour and ingenuity for family and friends.
16 – Book a group outing to a local pantomime or Christmas concert – but make sure it’s between Christmas and New Year.
17 – Why should Easter have all the hunts? We feel a Christmas treasure hunt coming on.
18 – Put old toys in a Santa sack ready for collection on Christmas Eve. Father Christmas will replace old with new – and you will de-clutter.
19 – Take just 15 minutes out for a special Christmas Eve night gift exchange. No kids, no noise, no interruptions.
20 – Cook a special Christmas Eve dish that will be replicated year after year, conjuring up mouth-watering smells and memories each time.
21 – Visit Father Christmas and get a family picture, not just one of Santa and the kids. Make this the must-achieve family photo each festive season.
22 – Camp out for Christmas. Well, camp in actually. Have a sleepover beside the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree – sleeping bags, barbeque food and all.
23 – Volunteer your services to charity and aim to make it a family affair.
24 – Find a gift that keeps on giving year after year.
25 – Amazon adventure anyone? Use gift vouchers as a pack of purchasers to keep the Christmas excitement alive.
1 – The Personal Storybook
Here is a delightful idea to bring fun, joy and laughter to any gift giving. It’s the notion of a personal storybook to accompany the opening of presents. For the special people in your life the likelihood is you will buy them more than one gift for Christmas. If you are anything like the How to Christmas team, you will shower your nearest and dearest with presents. If this is the case, you can now add to the experience by taking them on a storybook journey as they delve into their bag of treasures. It’s not so easy to achieve with children on Christmas morning, when all they want to do is tear into their gifts. But for Christmas Eve it is perfect, as you will discover from our Storybook Three example.
Type-out each story on the computer. Add photographs, pictures, stickers or drawings if you want to make it more elaborate. It is important to keep each segment of the story on a separate page so the recipient cannot read ahead. One page is equivalent to one gift. Imagine folding over several pieces of A4 paper and binding them with string or Christmas ribbon. Each half of that A4 sheet can carry a passage of the story. Here are examples from which you can work: one each for a man, woman and child. But use your imagination and knowledge of your recipient to make their storybook pertinent to them.
Page One: Bob (insert your gift recipient’s name here instead of Bob) loved Christmas: time off work, carols on the radio, mince pies and a drop or two of mulled wine. But for the best wine and the best mull he needed…
(Open the first gift here: a delicious bottle of red wine and a bag of mulling spices attached)
Page Two: Bob warmed the wine, dropped in the bag of festive spice and was immediately transported to Christmases past. He remembered doing the Hokey Cokey with the neighbours at a house party one year as cinnamon scent filled the air. Mr. Thornton at number 9 put his left leg in and left it there. It was a prosthetic. Bob was traumatised for a time – but a few weeks later, he was talking again…even smiling in time. Nowadays he laughed so readily at such Christmas oddities which is why he would love…
(Open the second gift here: a DVD of the film “Bad Santa”)
Page Three: It wasn’t lost on Bob that Billy Bob Thornton starred in this American comedy. A Bob and a Thornton, together again. Of course, it’s always best watching movies while munching away on…
(Open the third gift here: a bag of mince pie flavoured ‘Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn’ in a retro metallic popcorn bowl)
Page Four: Bob loved the film. He laughed. He laughed a lot. But as the end of the story drew nigh, he started to yawn and wondered if he could make it to the end. Nothing to do with “Bad Santa”, you understand, and everything to do with the mulled wine. Thankfully he owned a…
(Open the fourth gift here: Bialetti stovetop coffee maker, a Christmas mug and Starbucks Christmas coffee)
Page Five: The freshly brewed coffee did the trick and Bob was able to stay awake to see the hilarious climax to the film. That letter at the end from Bad Santa – just genius. Bob could now take himself off to bed quite happily. He pulled on his…
(Open the fifth gift here: pair of Gap Christmas motif pyjamas)
Page Six: Bob was the kind of bloke who could drop off quite easily on the couch watching a film, but struggled to doze off once his head hit the pillow – whether caffeine was coursing through his veins or not. He needed the soothing calm of music to ease him into the land of nod, so it was just as well he possessed a…
(Open the sixth gift here: Roberts DAB Digital Radio)
Page Seven: Bob tuned into his favourite, soothing station and was soon in a deep sleep – dreaming of false limbs, naughty Santas and the kind of Christmas joy all friends like Bob deserve. The End.
Page One: Susan (insert your recipient’s name here instead of Susan) adored Christmas: decorating the illuminated twig tree, singing at the top of her voice to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” and having a big night out with the girls. The outfit that night had to be red. Susan always wore red at Christmas, which went perfectly with her vibrant red…
(Open the first gift here: lipstick by Chanel)
Page Two: With a gloss like that, there was some serious mileage in those lips. Not that Susan was thinking about puckering up. She’s a good girl she is! Actually, maybe a bit too good so it was perhaps as well she poured some bravery into her blood for the night’s festivities with…
(Open the second gift here: a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne)
Page Three: Ooh! The fizz worked wonders. The bubbles went up her nosey and down to her toesies. There was a massive night ahead of her – she could smell it in the air. But that couldn’t be right. If she could scent an impending joy-fest, she couldn’t possibly be wearing enough…
(Open the third gift here: Tom Ford Neroli Portofino perfume)
Page Four: A good spritz later and Susan was ready for the night ahead. Lippy? Check. Dutch Courage? Check. Heavenly aroma? Check. And what a night it was. It all goes a bit hazy for Susan after a while, though. It must be something to do with all that…
(Open the fourth gift here: Smirnoff Gold vodka and its irresistible gold flakes)
Page Five: The morning after. Susan’s head was pounding. Nothing a couple of aspirin couldn’t sort out – along with a pot of tea, a hot shower and that rejuvenating…
(Open the fifth gift here: Ren Neroli and Grapefruit Body Wash)
Page Six: Refreshed but still somewhat delicate, a delightfully lazy Sunday stretched ahead of Susan. It was a perfect day to catch up on sleep (Susan really loved her sleep), as well as her recordings on Sky+ and the festive classics…
(Open the sixth gift here: “White Christmas” and the 1994 version of “Miracle on 34th Street” on DVD)
Page Seven: As Susan saw the twinkling light dart around the Christmas tree at the end of the second movie she was reminded of her own wonderful tree in all its glistening wonder. As she turned from the couch to face it, she saw a small dark blue box under it and realised she hadn’t put it there herself. She opened the box excitedly but carefully and was thrilled to find…
(Open the seventh gift here: a beautiful Swarovski Crystal decoration)
Page Eight: In the box with the ornament was a note that read: “We love you Susan – now and always!” The End.
Page One: It was a magical Christmas Eve. Molly/Zach (insert the young boy or girl’s name of your choice here) had been a very good girl/boy for most of the year. There was that time when she/he wouldn’t go to bed on time…and when she/he ate so much chocolate she/he was sick…and when she/he couldn’t get up in time for school. But overall, she/he had been a very good girl/boy. Good enough to make Santa’s nice list anyway – and that meant Molly/Zach could be rewarded with a new Christmas Eve friend. In a beautiful box with a big satin ribbon was…
(Open the first gift now: the cutest teddy from the Charlie Bear collection)
Page Two: With a new addition to the family – a new bedtime buddy for Christmas Eve – Molly/Zach felt she/he couldn’t be happier. But then Mum/Dad searched at the back of the tree and found a gift bag that read: “Molly/Zach – please use these tonight.” When Molly/Zach looked in the bag she/he found…
(Open the second bag of gifts now: a special personalised cookie plate for Santa – see our Elf Helper on this page for details – a box of chocolate chip cookies, a bag of glittery reindeer food and a carrot.)
Page Three: Santa would surely leave great toys for Molly/Zach now and playing with toys was one of her/his favourite things to do in all the world – along with eating ice cream, tormenting her/his brother/sister/friend, catching ladybirds and spotting animal cloud shapes in the sky. She/he also loved cartoons so imagine her/his delight when she/he was handed…
(Open the third gift now: a DVD of “Rise of the Guardians”)
Page Four: With such great characters as Jack Frost, the Easter Bunny and the Sandman in it, the film would be a big hit. Santa makes a star performance in the film, too. And after all, he is Molly’s/Zach’s favourite – which is just as well because the next gift is all about the big man and perfect for bedtime reading on Christmas Eve. Why it’s…
(Open the fourth gift now: the book “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”)
Page Five: The brilliant poem made everyone very festive. There was still one more package for Molly/Zach to unwrap before she/he went to bed. It felt all soft and squidgy. When she/he tore off the wrapping paper, she/he unfurled…
(Open fifth gift here: a personalised Christmas stocking from notonthehighstreet.com to hang from the mantelpiece)
Page Six: With the name “Molly/Zach” across the top of the stocking, there was no way Santa could get confused. Molly’s/Zach’s old stocking didn’t have a name on it. This would definitely help him. Maybe that would earn her/him more presents. Sweet dreams Molly/Zach. Happy Christmas Eve. The End.
Elf Helper: There are wonderful choices for personalised cookie plates online, but we recommend a plate madebyemma.co.uk that has outlines of a carrot and a cookie on it as well as a space for Santa’s drink. It reads “To Santa – love from…” around the edge, with space for as many as three names. Also check out mylittletreasures.co.uk. We also recommend a visit to notonthehighstreet.com.
2 – Poetic Lines, Clues and Numbered Tags
Another way of adding fun and intrigue to gift opening, especially when there’s a sack-full of items to unwrap, is by tagging each present with clues – some of them rhyming ones if you feel creative enough. There might be a particular order you want them to be opened in as you develop a certain gifts theme, so number each tag as well in this case. It turns gift opening into a kind of game. Here’s an example for whisky lovers:
Tag 1: “Take to the Scottish Hebrides and you’ll get the feeling
There’s something funny and tasty coming out of Ealing”
The Gift: A copy of the DVD “Whisky Galore!”, an Ealing comedy set in the Hebrides.
Tag 2: “Why should Scottish islanders have all the fun?
Get some of this good stuff down you son!”
The Gift: A bottle of quality whisky, like 16-year-old Lagavulin single malt. It’s from the Hebrides, of course.
Tag 3: “You’ll need these too, but will have to cough up cash
Just to be sure our friendship doesn’t smash.”
The Gift: Crystal whisky tumblers. There’s a long held superstition that if you are given a sharp object like a knife or a potentially sharp object like breakable glass you must receive a coin in return – that way you won’t ever cut the friendship.
Tag 4: “Once you’ve put the last two gifts to good use
And you’ve delivered your body some boozy abuse
You might just need some friendly concern
So to this handy helper you might want to turn!”
The Gift: “The Hangover Cookbook” by Milton Crawford – a witty and helpful pocket-sized book of recipes & cures.
Tag 5: “When you’ve adopted a chapter to cure ya
It’s time perhaps for a loud ‘Hallelujah!”
The Gift: A CD of Handel’s “Messiah” – including the Hallelujah chorus.
3 – Flying the Nest Bauble Collection
If you have young children, take them to buy a special Christmas decoration each year. By the time they are ready to leave for university, college or fly the nest for good they will have their own set of ornaments for their own Christmas tree. Each year, take a photo of the youngster holding the new bauble and print it out. Create an album and write details of where the decoration was bought, with whom and on what day. In years to come you will have a magical book of memories.
4 – Advent Crackers
This alternative to a conventional Advent calendar is a cracking idea for youngsters. Buy a couple of boxes of inexpensive crackers, 24 small foil-wrapped chocolate treats and/or the same number of tiny trinkets. Open up one end of the cracker and upgrade the contents with one of your foil-wrapped chocolate pieces and/or one of the trinket gifts, like key rings, small decorations and mini sweet tins. If you wish, put in your own poem or trivia question on a small piece of paper. Close up that end once again and tie ribbon around it, making a big enough loop to hang it over a door handle. Repeat the process with all 24 crackers. Number 24 pieces of card or paper: 1 to 24. Stick a number on each of the crackers. Hang cracker number one from a door handle of a child’s room as they sleep on November 30th, ready for them to greet the first day of December with a bang when they awake. Make sure any pets are out of earshot when the crackers are pulled.
Round up family and friends and get your skates on. More towns and cities are creating ice rinks in local parks, town squares or shopping areas over the Christmas period. Children will love ice-skating and should take to it quickly. For first-time adults, it is a longer way to fall. But if you hold on to the sides – or a skating friend who can stay upright – you will gain confidence. If you are a bit delicate, then stay off the skates, get on the mulled wine and watch a few others take a spin. The festive atmosphere alone will make it all worth it.
6 – Random Acts of Kindness Day
Christmas is a great time to think of others so why not have a day sprinkled with acts of random kindness and get family, friends and neighbours to join in. It can be anything from checking on an elderly neighbour to letting a mother with children and a mountain of shopping go in front of you in the supermarket. One of our team did this last year. The look on the woman’s face was priceless. She said it restored her faith in human kind. You might not quite achieve that standard of recognition, but it’s certainly worth a try.
7 – British Bake Off Day
Deriving inspiration from inside the tent of “The Great British Bake Off”, challenge family or friends to a cook-off. Choose a festive dish and gather with your ‘rivals’ to prepare it – in your kitchen or theirs. All dig in afterwards for the big taste test. Winning adult dish wins a bottle of bubbly – a selection box for the young champ.
8 – Visit a Christmas Market
These have been a tradition for many years on the European continent, but have become ever more popular on British shores in recent years. The most famous of all the Christmas markets is in Nuremburg in Germany and Krakow in Poland also holds an iconic market. But if a weekend abroad isn’t on your radar, arrange to meet family or friends at your local Christmas market to view the crafts and multitude of stalls, taste the sausages and glug the gluhwein.
9 – Create a Magical Movie Night
The options here are plentiful. Watch the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” and celebrate your own life and loved ones by cracking open a bottle of champagne and toasting your blessings. Watch “Home Alone” (maybe I & II) with your family while eating cheese pizza and drinking Coca Cola. Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister is never happier in these movies than when he’s eating “a whole cheese pizza just for me.” His cousin Fuller drinks so much Coke that he’s a bit of a bed-wetter. Actually, maybe you should go light on the Coke. Is “The Grinch” more to your liking? Watch the cartoon version and Jim Carrey’s live action version in a double bill while eating bowls of popcorn and homemade cookies with green icing. For the grown-ups, a cheeky Sauvignon Blanc should ensure there is no ‘Grinchiness’.
10 – Make Pinecone Garlands
Collect as many pine cones as you can find on a winter walk through the woods, which will be an enjoyable pursuit with your family and friends. At the same time, gather a few small cuttings from the pine trees – each piece just a few centimetres long. Using a length of garden twine, tie a knot around the top of a pinecone and then tie a knot around a pine cutting. Repeat the process until you have a garland long enough to hang on the tree or to drape across a banister, bed headboard or window. You can put any surplus pinecones in a bowl with pot pourri.
In the last few Christmases, there have been Santa-sized boot prints found around fireplaces all over the country. There’s just been a gentle dusting of white stuff outlining the prints – proof that Father Christmas had visited. Of course, this has to be snow from his boots and not, as has been foolishly suggested, talcum powder sprinkled around the stencil of a boot-print. There have been reports of reindeer oats, containing magic stardust glitter, being found in the general vicinity as well. Again, further proof Father Christmas and his reindeer friends have dropped by. Adults everywhere, you know what to do!
12 – The 24 Books of Christmas
This idea can be adopted for adults and children alike. Wrap 24 books in Christmas paper. They might be books you already own, an entirely new collection or a combination of both. Number two-dozen gift tags from 1 to 24 and attach to the wrapped books. Put them in order in a rectangular basket or container, with number one at the front and number 24 at the back. On December 1st open the first book and make that your reading material for the day. Continue the process through December until the 24th, when our suggested read is the classic “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”.
This is straightforward enough for youngsters, with so many children’s books to choose from that can be read in one, short bedtime burst. Think of books like “The Gruffalo”; “The Gruffalo’s Child”; “Room on the Broom”; “Father Christmas Needs a Wee”; “The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas” and “The Dinosaur Who Pooped Christmas”. You can also include the enchanting books from our original stories section. Make certain you have enough stories for the collection of 24 well before December. Even if the books are not new, children will enjoy the unwrapping process – more an unveiling process really – and have fun guessing what that night’s bedtime story might be. For adults, bite-size books are the key: the kind of work you can easily digest in one sitting at night’s end. Carol Ann Duffy’s collection is perfect. The Poet Laureate has delivered a lovely series of Christmas poetry pamphlets in recent years entitled “The Twelve Poems of Christmas” and also “Bethlehem”; “The Christmas Truce”; “Another Night Before Christmas”; “Wenceslas: A Christmas Poem” and “Mrs. Scrooge: A Christmas Tale”. Other books for your consideration might be: “At Christmas Time” by Anton Chekhov, “The Christmas Box” by Richard Paul Evans and “The Fir Tree” by Hans Christian Andersen.
Once the books are wrapped, shuffle them before you add the tags. That way you (or the person for whom you’re creating this experience) won’t know what book you’ll be reading each evening until the wrapping has been torn off – so it’s a surprise whether or not the books are new. You can stick number 24 on “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” from the outset if you want to guarantee that’s your Christmas Eve read.
13 – Gift Cards to Buy Time
Include note-cards in Christmas stockings, sacks or envelopes offering the priceless gift of time to the youngsters in your life. Write something like this on the cards: “Stay up 30 extra minutes before bedtime”; “One late-night pass to stay up to watch the match” or “An hour of computer games after school”. You could even make it a Monopoly-style ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card with words like: “Get out of cleaning your room for a week”. It is then up to the youngsters when they produce the cards to their best advantage. This could work both ways if you encourage your children to write IOU gift cards to you for your stockings on which they spell out their intentions, like: “IOU one free car wash” for Dad or “IOU breakfast in bed” for Mum.
Elf Helper: Also visit our pages on Christmas Birthdays and Coping With Christmas (in particular the loss & bereavement section) for ideas you might want to bring into your holiday season and continue as family traditions.
14 – Pound Shop Presents
We are not suddenly turning Scrooge-like and tasteless – it’s just a bit of inexpensive fun and a test of ingenuity. If you are gathering as a group of family and/or friends, arrange it so that each person attending the festive bash has to buy gifts for everyone else from one of the many pound shops in the land. If there are six of you, for example, that’s five gifts for a fiver or less. Wrap each gift and attach nametags. Within the wrapping, include a Post-it size note explaining why that gift fits the recipient. Each person takes it in turn to hand out his/her presents. What kind of magic have they conjured up with their fiver? How well do they really know you? Have they bought you glue sticks when you’ve always been a sticky tape person? You’ll remember that next year! Oh yes, you’ll get ‘em back! Laughs – or maybe groans – should flow readily. This might not be workable on Christmas Day itself, when there is so much other serious unwrapping going on, but it could be a fun thing to do as a warm-up for the big day.
15 – Pocket Prize Pyjamas
It is a tradition across vast swathes of the western world: you have to receive new pyjamas at Christmas. That can also mean a new dressing gown and a new pair of slippers as well. Keep that delightful tradition going, of course, but add a twist by delivering a pocket prize surprise. In the pocket of a child’s pyjama top you might want to slip a final note from Father Christmas: “Sleep well young one this magical Christmas Eve – by the time morning comes I’ll have delivered your dreams. Love, Father Christmas”. Perhaps in a dressing gown pocket you can put a tiny guardian angel ornament they can place under their pillow – or an angel-themed tree decoration they can hang above their bed. And if you don’t already own it, buy a book called “The Pajama Elves” (American spelling) by Hayden Edwards to complement the whole PJ package.
After all the excitement of the build-up to Christmas, then the explosion of delight and delirium on the day itself, there is the almost inevitable comedown. At least we in the UK are fortunate enough to have Boxing Day to keep the festivities and over-indulging going a little longer, unlike our American cousins. They are straight back to work on December 26th. We also have the quintessentially British tradition of pantomime. Shows will run into the New Year. So prevent a post-Christmas lull and book a group outing to a local pantomime (or maybe a Christmas concert) in that week in between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Even if adults are back at work, this is still something that can be achieved in the evening. It will give everyone something to look forward to beyond Christmas and bring you all together in fun and celebration once more.
17 – Easter Egg Hunt Gone Christmassy
Why should Easter have all the hunts? Christmas can deliver a pretty darn special treasure hunt of its own, given half a chance. Wrap and hide some fun and festive trinkets – inside the house and even outside if the weather is cold, crisp and kind. Write clues on Post-it notes or print out more elaborate ones if you have time. Here are a couple of examples: “Start where you lay your head to sleep – but be careful where you creep.” This piece of treasure could be tucked just behind the bottom of a bedpost. That’s where the second clue can be found that reads: “Curtains hang at the windows but also in this place – somewhere you might brush your teeth and wash your mucky face.” The second treasure can then be discovered near the shower curtain. And so the treasure hunt can continue. Maybe conclude the hunt with Kinder Egg gifts: a nod to Easter. Oversee proceedings so everyone involved has a chance to win a piece of treasure. It isn’t a bad idea to have a couple of gifts hidden in one place and an extra little something in your pocket ready to surreptitiously hand to the crestfallen.
Have your children put old or unwanted toys and games in a Santa sack ready for collection on Christmas Eve. Father Christmas will replace old with new and you will de-clutter. Make certain the toys are of a good quality so they can be ‘delivered by Santa’ to a charity shop in the New Year.
19 – Take 15 Minutes Out for a Special Gift Exchange
Take just a few minutes of time on Christmas Eve night for a special gift exchange with your partner or a cherished loved one. No kids, no noise, no interruptions, just a wonderful moment to share. This way you get to savour your present and fully appreciate the look of delight on the face of the person receiving your gift.
20 – Make a Meal of It on Christmas Eve
Christmas Day might be the main event in terms of turkey and all the trimmings, but Christmas Eve is a special day as well and deserves its own culinary delights. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to make something delicious and memorable on Christmas Eve and replicate it year after year? The cooking smells that fill the house that day will create a memory and whenever you get a waft of that lovely, home-cooked goodness in the future you will be magically transported back to that first time. The mother of one of our team always cooked a mouth-watering pork joint on Christmas Eve and carved it on slabs of white bread. ‘Pork Butties’ became the Christmas Eve tradition – chunks of crackling on the side and a glass of something fizzy. Lemonade in the formative years became Asti Spumante in later years and now its full-on, hardcore champagne. The smell of the pork joint cooking is an integral part of Christmas to him and his family.
21 – Visit Father Christmas and Snap the Family Photo
Find a photo-friendly Father Christmas. He could be in a shopping mall, wandering around a garden centre or in his Lapland base. Wherever you find him, gather all the family around and have a group photograph taken. It is ever so cute to see children with him, clambering on his knee and making their innocent gift requests. But what’s wrong with older kids and positively aged adults getting in on the act? Get Gran on his knee, Mum and Dad either side of him, the children at the front and a tall-ish elf to take the picture. Every year, aim to copy that exact photo: same poses, same smiles (or sulks), same poses – just different ages. We know of two brothers who’ve got 30 such pictures…and they’re now 35. What an album they must own.
The Christmas tree lights are twinkling away in all their glory and the living room never looked so festive. What a shame you have to turn the lights out and turn your back on the tree as you head upstairs to bed. Or do you? We suggest a family sleepover beside the beautiful tree, keeping the lights on all night. With LED lights these days, it’s safe. Get out the sleeping bags and fleece blankets, make flasks of hot chocolate and barbeque-flavoured food and tell Christmas stories by the light of flickering candles and a roaring fire. If you don’t have a fireplace, buy one of those virtual log fire DVDs so you can see dancing flames on your TV screen at least. It’s winter, but you can carry on camping.
23 – Volunteer Your Services to Charity
Aim to give something back to those less fortunate this Christmas and every Christmas. Donate tinned food to a nearby food bank and toys to a local toy-drive, volunteer at a soup kitchen for the homeless or visit a home for the elderly and take homemade Christmas treats for the residents. Get the children involved in the packing of tins and baking of biscuits and inform them why their actions are so valuable and important.
24 – The Gift That Keeps On Giving
An adult has to start the ball rolling with this idea. He or she has to buy a gift – the key being it has to be something in which other gifts can be stored or around which another gift can be wrapped. For example, the chosen present might be a wooden music box. A smaller gift is placed inside the music box and the entire thing is wrapped. When family and/or friends gather, everyone has to put their name in a Santa hat. The gift giver selects one name at random and that person receives the gift. It could be a beautiful tree decoration suitable for all ages and genders. The recipient keeps whatever is in the music box forever but only keeps the music box itself until next Christmas, when they become the new gift giver. They might then choose to wrap Christmas-themed oven-gloves around the box and put just a token chocolate treat inside the box. It is their choice. And so the gift keeps on giving.
25 – An Amazon Adventure – the Search for More Gifts
Just when you think all the gift buying is done, an Amazon adventure comes along. Buy everyone in your immediate family a gift certificate from amazon.co.uk and print them off. There are several Christmas designs to choose from on the website. Choose a night in between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and gather together around a computer or tablet, then spend your vouchers together. You can help each other decide what to select. Did Santa forget something off your Christmas list? Now could be the time to plug that gap. Do this year-on-year and there will be a frisson of gift excitement in the air for you all beyond Christmas Day.
Elf Helper: Got youngsters in your life? Consider a book and toy combination known as “The Elf on the Shelf”. It was introduced in the United States in 2005, having been imagined over a cup of tea by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell. The scout elf sits on a shelf in the house to keep an eye on children and reports back to Santa Claus if they have been naughty or nice. Each elf obtains its magic when the new owner names it. There’s a registration certificate and all. After that, there are two rules in play: the scout elf must not be touched or he might lose his magic – and he only comes to life when everyone else in the house is asleep. There’s a whole website of products at elfontheshelf.com.