The magic of Christmas traditions

in Features

Christmas is such a magical time, especially for young children who look forward to Santa’s arrival on Christmas Eve and the presents that he leaves for them at the end of the bed or by the fireplace.  Most families have longstanding Christmas traditions that have been handed down over the years that are based on religious practices, rituals or folklore, and these are the same ones that parents usually try to continue with their own children.   

When you think back to your childhood Christmas, what do you remember most fondly? It probably involves some sort of tradition or custom that you have continued year after year.  It is the little things that we all do to celebrate Christmas with our families that we look forward to that evoke happy memories and help us to make new ones. 

If Father Christmas was a part of your childhood, it is more than likely that you have continued the tradition within your own family. From counting down the days to his arrival with an advent calendar and writing him letters, to the excitement of awaiting his visit on Christmas Eve then leaving out a plate of mince pies, carrots for the reindeer and maybe a glass of sherry or milk. When we are young, fantasy and reality blur into one, but this is a normal part of child development and believing in characters is a fundamental and joyous part of childhood. Keeping the magic of Santa alive and reliving our own childhood memories can create a strong connection with our children. 

Do you remember the thrill of waking up to see a twinkling, sparkling Christmas tree with presents surrounding it? Did you help to decorate the tree, just as your father or mother would have done with their parents? Many of us have Christmas ornaments that we hang on the tree every year, each one with a special memory connected to it. These are traditions that have been followed in families for generations. 

Whether you like it or not, sending Christmas cards is increasingly being replaced with digital messages and it’s not just the younger generation who have given up with buying and writing greetings cards. Swags of Christmas cards displayed on mantelpieces or pinned to ribbon that sagged with the weight and strung across the room were a feature of many of our homes. Once a staple of the Christmas season this tradition is now dying out, but the good news is that we are helping to save the planet and reducing waste. 

However, you don’t have to be a Grinch and there are ways of enjoying a greener Christmas. It is the little things that bring joy to children that don’t cost a lot of money or harm our environment. Snuggling up in front of the television under a cosy blanket, watching a favourite Christmas film with a mug of hot chocolate may be one of them.  Get the children to write a letter addressed to ‘Santa, North Pole’ or instead, in this digital age, there are several sites where you can write an email to Santa and get an instant reply. 

Music is an essential part of the Christmas season and one that many of us associate with a happy and special time. Whether you play jolly songs on the radio or gather round for a session of singing your favourite carols, this is one festive tradition that can have a really good impact on our mental health and lift our mood.  

There are also some new, modern Christmas traditions that are creeping into our lives, including wearing matching family pyjamas and that little mischievous elf that appears on a different shelf every day in the run up to Christmas Eve! Are you the family that wear novelty Christmas jumpers? All of these can be quite an expensive addition to the traditional Christmas customs. 

There’s still nothing quite as magical as the school nativity play for kids and parents alike, and although many schools are re-imagining the Christmas story and introducing contemporary characters, there is nothing more heart-warming than a cute collection of children singing and performing, no matter whether they are dressed as a star or a lobster!

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year and for some of us family traditions are an important part and without them special events or celebrations such as Christmas seem incomplete. Traditions can strengthen family bonds and create memories that last a lifetime.  Importantly, children get a sense of their family history and a feeling of belonging to a particular culture.  If we take these family traditions for granted and then for some reason we are not able to carry on with them anymore, it is then that we realise how important they are. Traditions can make Christmas magical and special. 

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