My parents-in-law were over the other day, bombarded with all the Christmas things in our home Ella just had to show them. (And by Ella, I mean me.) We got to talking about advent calendars — one of my most favourite things about this time of year — and my mother-in-law retold the memory of how excited she used to get as a young girl when she got to open up a tiny window each day.
“What was behind the window?” I asked.
“Just a picture.”
There was a pause, and then we both laughed, because here I was, stuffing our advent calendar full of elaborate Christmas activities like opening a window to a boring old picture wasn’t enough.
I know enough to know that for a child, it is enough — a picture hidden behind a window, the simple concept of Christmas itself, without anyone having to go to any great lengths to “expose” them to its magic.
But I get caught up in the fever and I come alive when I get to amplify the magic. More than anything, our advent calender has become a great way to use the month of December to share experiences as a family, enjoy the celebrations going on in our city, and make traditions that shape and define us as us.
Every morning I’m up before the kids, lighting candles and waiting for the pitter patter of feet rushing towards the tiny box windows which are now crumpled and ripped, the third year now they’ve been pulled at, important not for how they look but what’s inside.
And I can’t wait for Monday morning, the beginning of our Christmas, for all the magic to begin.
So without further ado, I hereby declare that this curtain is rising and this game is ON. Pour a martini and throw some tinsel in the air, let those Christmas unicorns out of their stables and join me in welcoming the month of December.
Friends, our 2014 advent calendar. I’m just a tad excited.
1st: Decorate tree
The tree decorating is always a first of December tradition for us. I accidentally bought a new 8 foot Christmas tree this year and it is patiently standing in our living room waiting to be adorned with twinkle lights and ornaments we both love and which mean something to us.
2nd: Ornament of the year
Each year, I buy an ornament for my kids – something meaningful and personal about the year they’ve had. Last year, Ella got a red, sparkly, high-heeled shoe for her overwhelming love of shoes (Can I wear them to bed, Mummy?). And this year, she’ll unwrap this cute little dog and hang it from the tree, for her great love of animals this year, particularly puppies.
Billy’s star is a first-Christmas tradition and will hang next to Ella’s and Joel’s and mine in all its beautiful glory.
3rd: Make paper snowflakes
This was a hit last year, and 364 days later, I have forgotten about the blisters I got from cutting so many. We suffer for our art, and I’m happy to repeat the tradition.
4th: CRAFT — Mini lace trees
I’m not sure what happened, but we were supposed to make these for last year’s advent. I found them when I dragged out our big Christmas box from under the house, and they WILL be brought to life this year with a splash of modge podge and some little helping hands.
5th: Christmas story marathon night
Candles, hot chocolate, pillows in front of the tree, my babies wrapped around me, twinkly lights twinkling at us, Bing in the background. It’s going to be lovely.
Carols, face-painting, markets, happiness. We’ll be packing colorful blankets and ending our day surrounded by our buzzing little local community.
7th: Annual Photo With Santa
We’re hoping for a tear-free experience this year. You’ll stand right next to me, Mummy? she’s already asking. Last year, Santa had to get up and then slide in after we successfully distracted Ella. When she realized he was there, about 4 seconds after this photo was taken, there were tears that lasted until we got home. It was not a successful outing.
8th: Make Snow
Winter wonderlands shouldn’t only be for those lucky folk in the northern hemisphere. We celebrate what we have and create what we don’t, and friends, I’ll be damned if we don’t have snow. The Santa Express is gonna be SO happy to see snow-covered Christmas trees on its merry little route around our dining table.
9th: Christmas pedicure
Gonna be a happy day, that one.
10th: Write Letter To Santa
Our freshly festiv-ed nails will make their way to the pens and stamps and paper,
and once Santa’s letter is written, off it goes into the North Pole mailbox, which is conveniently situated at the front of our stairs.
11th: Pine Cone Hunt
This is a favourite family tradition. We take a little road-trip north, pull off the highway into pine tree forest and spend the morning collecting pine cones to take home and decorate.
We say Hark a lot, and we blast Christmas songs on the way up and we try to avoid getting bogged in huge wet ditches which I may have done last year.
12th: Kids In Care Christmas Gift Drop Off
As much as I go a bit Christmas crazy, high on this-is-the-best-time-of-year fumes, I acknowledge that for some children and some families it isn’t. Instead of your child getting four presents this year and another child getting none, please consider donating two of those gifts to a child whose Christmas might not be shiny as yours. Kids in Care Christmas Appeal is a great program, and you can drop off gifts at any local ABC shop. Two presents for them, two presents for you. Everybody wins. Details here.
13th: Home Carols By Candlelight
We shall hold candles and we shall print out carolling sheets and we shall blast YouTube videos of live carols from years past and we shall be merry.
14th: Neighborhood Lights Night Walk
We shall pour hot chocolate into take-away cups and scramble into tinsel covered prams, glow-in-the-dark bracelets ready to be strung upon excited wrists. We shall stroll through our neighbourhood after dark, caught within the magic of the twinkly lights we follow. It’ll be grand.
15th: Santaland and Myer windows in the city
I love heading into the city this time of year, Santaland and the Myer Christmas windows a must-see viewing.
16th: Make Christmas cookies & deliver to neighbourhood
This was another favourite from last year — and we especially loved the connection from neighbourhood families which followed.
17th: Portable North Pole Video Showing
Santa HIMSELF makes personalized videos for children and posts them online to watch (did you know they get WiFi in the North Pole!).
It was special, this little moment last year. She was utterly captivated, and we watched it about 67 times. And FYI parents — it’s free. Portable North Pole. Check them out.
18th: Wrapping present party
Oh ye wrapping present parties. We’ve got cute paper, twine, paper doilies as gift tags, and a whole heap of stamps for little helpers to decorate gift tags with. We shall sip fancy drinks out of fancy straws out of fancy glasses and eat fancy cookies off fancy plates while we party.
19th: Sparkler Night
The night we light a whole box of sparklers just for fun.
20th: Make reindeer food
I cannot tell you what’s IN reindeer food since it is magical, but I CAN tell you it looks a lot like oats and glitter.
21st: Annual secret santa party
We do this every year with a big group of our friends – our children playing and shrieking and giggling, and us popping champagne and sitting back taking it all in, feeling thankful for such wonderful people to call our own.
22nd: Bon bon night
There are roughly 632 bon bons left over from last Christmas, so dinner will be set all pretty this night, a stack of bon bons ready to go, paper hats and really bad jokes a dinner-eating must.
23rd: Christmas Eve Eve – Make reindeer runway
Another family favourite – a string of fairy lights, or even candles in paper bags would work too, giving the perfect runway for the magical reindeer to land that magical sleigh.
24th: Christmas Eve Preparation
Hands-down my favourite night of the year. Out goes the reindeer food, and the cookies and milk and note for Santa. Best dresses are worn, spirits are high and we head over to Oma and Poppy’s for a big Christmas dinner and a walk through the neighbourhood light displays, torches ready to go, looking for any signs of Santa and his magical flying reindeer.
And my very favourite part of all – tucking sleeping babies into bed, candlelight flickering, chest swollen from that feeling of a full heart, putting together the final touches for the morning. The magic, the make-believe, the thankfulness for these children who make it what it is. I get overwhelmed every time, never quite believing that this is me. That they are mine. It’s a wonderful night for me. A silent, holy night as my head finally hits the pillow and I fall asleep exhausted, but utterly happy.
Which brings us to the little photo challenge we’re about to start. Please join us! It’s the Red Tent 12 Days of Christmas photo challenge, beginning 1st December.
For 12 days, post one photo a day of something festive. I want to see your tree. Your lights. Your candles. Your loved ones. Your traditions. I want to see what makes you come alive this time of year. Post a picture to Instagram with the hashtag #redtent12daysofchristmas and don’t worry about annoying anyone with your Christmas enthusiasm because Haters Gonna Hate, sisters! Get on board, friends – jump off the Christmas cliff with me. The flight down is SO MUCH FUN.
Friday Photo Dump (theredtent on Instagram if you want to follow the feed).
Also, my boy started crawling this week. That little grin is a half because he’s proud of himself, and half because he swiped a mini Christmas tree and thinks he got away with it. Cheeky boy.
Merry nearly December!
“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” Dale Evans.