It’s November. November the 6th. You know what that means? Twinkly light season has officially begun. I can sniff a Christmas scent from, like, miles away and I believe it is my duty to share. The winds are a-blowing, people. Buckle down.
In case you’ve been too busy to notice, we’ve strung up fairy lights in every nook of the tent. Cups of apple cider are being brewed and some of us are even adorned with holly, swinging by chandeliers hollering, “7 weeks til Christmas!” — because we’re outrageously and unashamedly festive like that.
In my world, November is the month it all begins – the month before the storm. It’s the time I start thinking about all the details of our holiday happies. I thumb through pages of Christmas cookie recipes and tree ornament crafts. I plan our December advent calendar. (And I envisage the cute holiday outfits which are to go with our advent calendar activities.) I think up new ways to expose my daughter to as much Christmas magic as possible, because really, the magic in the air this time of year is palpable, and anything we do to enhance it – to add a bit more sugar to our tea – means it stays in our ‘happy memories’ box long after it’s over.
Right now? It’s the beginning of family, of traditions, of cheer, and if I had to spell it out, like in black and white, it’s safe – and very accurate – to say these are my three favourite things of all time. Besides, Christmas brings with it the very-near arrival of my son (my son – I love saying that), as if I need more cheer to add to my holiday pot. This heart of mine is lit up like the lights on a Christmas tree at the thought of him in my arms just as my most favourite time of year is coming to a close. My little holiday baby. I love him so much already.
I love advent activity calendars. As soon as Ella’s first Christmas approached, I knew I wanted to establish traditions in our family that would help us experience all of the anticipation that makes Christmas so special. And the older she gets, the more I can add to our Annual Advent Activities list. Some activities are grand and complicated, like organising a secret santa party with friends. Others are simple and don’t take more than five minutes — like making reindeer food or baking Christmas cookies.
Here is ours this year — little activities hidden in each box of our advent calendar — and which we run to and open excitedly each morning while Michael Buble’s Christmas CD hums in the background.
Put Up The Tree
This is a First of December must. I have done it ever since I was a kid – a tradition which well and truly signifies the beginning of Christmas. We are going to buy a real tree this year, so on the first, we’ll pull out our back-up fake one until we head out a week before Christmas to ride on the back of a tractor at Dave’s Christmas Tree Farm and pick out the tree with our name on it. It’s most important the tree decorating coincides with the listening of something appropriately Christmas-y like Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” — a real Christmas song, that one. Assured to get a spike in even the Grinch’s heart rate.
Buy Yourself – And Whoever You Live With – Some Comfy Christmas Pyjamas
Perhaps even two pairs each so you can rotate them through the entire month of December. Be sure they make you feel perfectly festive. Christmas morning feels so much better when we are adorned appropriately – which is to say, in a cozy pair of jammies.
Christmas Card Ceremony
Hot cocoa, The Family Stone, cinnamon candle burning, and a slew of envelopes and all-things-Christmasy stamps, ready to send out to the people in your life who make up your village — reflecting on the year you’ve had and thanking them for their role in it. I’m really looking forward to this tradition this year.
Christmas Wreath Craft
A styrofoam wreath, some mod podge and a few festive scraps of material equals easy-to-make kid’s Christmas craft. And a home made that little bit happier.
Pine Cone Scavenger Hunt
This one spontaneously began last year after Joel was desperate to take our just-bought-fancy-off-road-car, well, off road. Goal: Grab a bucket (decorated with tinsel, preferably), pop on some gumboots and head out to collect pine cones. Spray paint them silver, or with fake snow. Arrange in bowl on table. Admire regularly.
Brew Christmas Tea
That’s correct, Christmas Tea. Hand-picked by elves and delivered to a grocery store near you on the back of smiling reindeers. Otherwise known as, simply, Cheer.
- 1 small orange, thinly sliced
- 6 black tea bags
- 2 x 7cm cinnamon sticks (see note)
- 1.5L (6 cups) boiling water
- 80ml (1/3 cup) honey
- Ice cubes, to serve
- 6 sprigs fresh mint
- Place the orange, tea bags and cinnamon in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the water and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Stir in the honey. Set aside to cool.
- Strain the tea into a serving jug, fill up with ice and add mint sprigs.
A cardboard box flattened out and a grassy hill – instant hot-weather sledding experience. And there is a hill near our place which is perfect for it.
Secret Santa Party
We do this every year with friends. Someone hosts a Christmas party and we eat and drink and sometimes even dress up if we’re feeling particularly festive. We open secret santa presents and have our annual present-steal if we fancy someone else’s present. Note: Never buy scratchies if you are participating in the Secret Santa Steal. It gets personal, and a little on the nasty side, if you ask me. And we’re there to be merry, you guys. Merry.
Give To Others
Every year, we buy a present and put it under the K-mart Wishing Tree so a little person for whom Christmas may not be so joyous can feel special and loved on for a day. There are plenty of organisations that run charity events at Christmas – from making up ‘love boxes’ and divvying them out to people in need, to purchasing essential items for people living in third world countries via organisations like Oxfam or World Vision.
Make Paper Snowflakes
Obviously, it doesn’t snow where we are. Ever – least of all at Christmas. Still, snowflakes are such a fabulous representation of Christmas. So, we’re gonna sit down with some paper, some scissors, some glue and a whole lot of glitter and make our own. And if we’re feeling particularly crafty, we may even just grab some twine and hang them around the house.
Make Reindeer Food
Of course, I can’t tell you what the recipe is for reindeer food is because it’s magic, but I can tell you it looks a lot like rolled oats and glitter.
Make Ella’s Annual Ornament For The Tree
Last year, she was so little I didn’t think of doing an ornament craft with her, so this year marks the first of many that we will. I have visions of these ornaments being carefully stored in tissue paper-filled boxes for her to bring out long after her childhood is over, cherished like irreplaceable memories, maybe even re-used by a family of her own.
Write Letter To Santa
There will be a mailbox. A special North Pole mailbox. Soon to be North-Pole-ified. No childhood Christmas is complete without writing a letter to Santa Claus. Honey, look! The letter is GONE. The elves must have known. They must have come during the night and put it in their little green elf sacks and delivered it straight to Santa!
Christmas Lights Drive
Hot cocoa in thermos. One jammied little girl. A cozy car and Christmas carols humming from the speakers. Our annual Christmas lights drive through a neighbourhood we can finally call ours.
Make Christmas Cookies
This always gets messy. We always crash from licking spoons and sugar comas. But the Christmas cookie cutters are sitting in our drawer just begging to be used – just this one and only time of year, so really, we can’t not. It’s our duty to make them happy, really.
Annual Photo With Santa
We put on our best Christmas frocks and bundle in the car to pay an exorbitant amount of money for one little Santa snap. Still, it has to be done. It’s a tradition I insist upon.
Wrapping Present Party
Think candles burning. Think Christmas cookies. Think hot cocoa. Think Bing Crosby. Think red and white twine and brown crinkly wrapping paper. Friends, you’ve got yourselves a wrapping present party right there.
Christmas Story Night
Beautifully illustrated children’s story books are one of my most favourite things. Beautifully illustrated Christmas children’s story books? Well sweet Mother Mary, it don’t get better than that. Add fresh clean sheets, a big cozy bed, a string of fairy lights and little tiny feet all entwined with yours and you’ve got yourself the perfect Christmas night. Christmas classics are a must. The Nutcracker, The Night before Christmas, The Polar Express, The Twelve Days of Christmas, A Christmas Carol — make it into a Christmas story marathon, a tradition I have a feeling will become a favourite in our family.
Pick Out Our Tree
Dave’s Christmas Tree Farm. We’re going there. To take in deep breaths of pine. To ride on the back of a tractor, picking out our first ever real tree. I’m a teensy bit excited.
Make Reindeer Runway
I don’t remember where I read about the idea for this, but it involves a whole heap of Christmas lights arranged on your driveway in the shape of a runway, so the reindeers know where to park, of course. A tray needs to be left out at the top of the runway, obviously, to tip your homemade reindeer food into on Christmas eve. Reindeers can’t go about their magical flying without sustenance. Everybody knows that.
Carols by Candlelight
A December must. Candles and blankets and enough junk food to make you crazy. One happy night.
Light Display on Bowers Road
This is an iconic Christmas experience in our town. A kind family puts on the most magical Christmas wonderland display you’ve ever seen. There are model trains and Christmas village displays and mini-sleighs to sit in and even Christmas cubby houses which include displays for Santa’s workshop, North Pole Post Office, Reindeer Barn, and the Elves Kitchen. It’s such a magical night.
Christmas Movie & Popcorn Night
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Miracle on 34th Street. We will drag out the teepee, set it up in our lounge room, light some candles, make some popcorn, snuggle down and be thoroughly Christmas-ified.
Christmas Eve Prep!
Perhaps the busiest night of all. There are so many traditions to share in on Christmas eve. My mother’s side of the family is German and as kids, we grew up celebrating Christmas on this night. A big family roast, present-opening, and enough carols playing to cover our neighbourhood’s quota. We would grab our torches and go on night walks to see if we could catch any glimpses of Santa’s sleigh. It was a big deal, and it still is for me. So this year, before we head over to my parent’s house for a big Christmas eve celebration, there will be plenty of fun prep to do. Cookies and milk will be left out for Santa. Reindeer food will fill the reindeer trays. The Reindeer Runway will be on show for all to see. Cozy pajamas will be laid out on the bed ready to be snuggled into. Joel and I will make sure we have everything sorted for the magic of the morning. The magic that comes when we check for reindeer footprints and see if Santa’s cookies and milk are gone and run to our Christmas stockings to see if they have been filled.
What are some of your favourite Christmas activities and traditions? I’d love to hear them.
Merry November to you!