Mak­ing mem­o­ries

We all have our own fam­ily Christ­mas tra­di­tions. Here, par­ent blog­gers tell An­drea Mara some of their favourite fes­tive ac­tiv­i­ties

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“MUM, when are we do­ing the go-into-town-and-pick-a-dec­o­ra­tion day,” asked my five-year-old last week. It’s a tra­di­tion that’s evolved in re­cent years — on the first Sun­day in De­cem­ber, we bring the kids into the city cen­tre to choose one new Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tion each, then we go for cof­fee and cake.

It’s easy to or­gan­ise and doesn’t cost much, but ev­ery year it’s one of the rit­u­als they look for­ward to most. So for the sea­son that’s in it, I asked some par­ent blog­gers to tell me about their tra­di­tions, and why build­ing a unique Christ­mas story for their chil­dren is im­por­tant.

Sinéad Fox (Bum­ble­sofRice) has fond child­hood mem­o­ries of see­ing ex­tended fam­ily. “We had set times we’d visit dif­fer­ent rel­a­tives; two aunts on Christ­mas Eve, Granny af­ter Mass on Christ­mas morn­ing, and other Granny on St Stephen’s Day.” And she has car­ried this tra­di­tion through for her own kids. “They love hav­ing their grand­dad come to stay, and vis­it­ing their other grand­par­ents on St Stephen’s Day, and at New Year they ask us which aunts and un­cles we’ll see. I’m try­ing to get the mes­sage to them that Christ­mas is about spend­ing time with fam­ily rather than what fam­ily give them!”

Grá Con­way (FredTedAndCom­pany) doesn’t have great mem­o­ries of Christ­mas, and is try­ing to change the fo­cus for her own fam­ily. “Grow­ing up, Christ­mas was ex­pen­sive, full of ar­gu­ments and never good enough, whereas my hus­band loves it; his fam­ily go all out, no one fights, no one has any ex­pec­ta­tions, and ev­ery­one en­joys their day.”

Con­way does, how­ever, have one par­tic­u­lar tra­di­tion from her own fam­ily that she’s re­viv­ing as an adult. “My aunts used to do Soak-It-Sun­days; they’d all go to one aunt’s house and soak the fruit for the Christ­mas cakes. Re­ally it was about the gos­sip and the sneaky glass of sherry! It was one of my favourite as­pects of Christ­mas, there were no gifts to fret over, and no one fought. I’ve ar­ranged my first-ever Soak-It-Sun­day with my sis­ters-in-law, I can’t wait!”

Tracey Smith (Mum­sMakeUpBag) sees Christ­mas tra­di­tions as a link with the past, par­tic­u­larly with her fa­ther. “My dad went all out; tin­foil stream­ers in ev­ery colour and dec­o­ra­tions that spanned decades. That’s the ma­jor tra­di­tion I’ve brought to my own fam­ily; my Christ­mas tree isn’t colourco-or­di­nated, it’s a smor­gas­bord of our fam­ily and our cre­ations. I asked my teenage daugh­ter last year if our tree was bor­der­ing on tacky. She shook her head, and said she loves our old dec­o­ra­tions; they tell a story that spans gen­er­a­tions. That made me smile, my dad would have been proud.”

An­nette Kelly (4Acorns) is orig­i­nally from France and sees Christ­mas as a time to bring French tra­di­tions to her Ire­land-based fam­ily. “Start­ing on De­cem­ber 1, I plan a daily ac­tiv­ity or out­ing that the kids dis­cover on open­ing the Ad­vent cal­en­dar ev­ery morn­ing. It can be as sim­ple as read­ing a Christ­mas story to­gether, or more elab­o­rate like mak­ing Santa hats.”

Is it hard work? “Yes, but it re­ally gets us in the Christ­mas spirit. It also means we spend more time to­gether prepar­ing for Christ­mas, so it is not all about con­sumerism.”

Lor­raine Hig­gins (Lor­rainesWorldBlog) says it’s about the lit­tle things. “My en­tire child­hood is made up of tiny but im­por­tant mem­o­ries, and I’ve car­ried them on with my own two chil­dren. The tra­di­tional new PJs for Christ­mas Eve has evolved into a Christ­mas Eve box filled with py­ja­mas, The Night Be­fore Christ­mas book, and Christ­mas crafts. We go to the park to see Santa’s rein­deer and we bake cook­ies for Santa on Christ­mas Eve. Hav­ing tra­di­tions strength­ens our fam­ily bond and cre­ates a sense of be-

“My

aunts used to do Soak-ItSun­days; they’d all go to one aunt’s house and soak the fruit for the Christ­mas cakes

— Grá Con­way

long­ing, and I firmly be­lieve that it makes the kids feel se­cure know­ing we do same things ev­ery year.” Of course, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that not ev­ery­one has fam­ily around, says Dr Col­man Noc­tor, psy­chother­a­pist and au­thor of the par­ent­ing book Cop On. “For many, the fam­i­ly­fo­cus of Christ­mas brings a unique sense of col­lec­tive joy, but for those in less cel­e­bra­tory cir­cum­stances, it can be very dif­fi­cult. Fol­low­ing a be­reave­ment or a re­ar­ranged fam­ily sit­u­a­tion, Christ­mas serves to am­plify the loss,” he says.

“We have a well-worn nar­ra­tive of fam­ily Christ­mas which com­monly in­volves the com­plete fam­ily gath­ered at the fire­place cel­e­brat­ing to­geth­er­ness.”

The mes­sage of to­geth­er­ness is an im­por­tant one. “It’s a unique time where fam­ily life be­comes the fo­cus of our at­ten­tion and in to­day’s world, where ev­ery­one watches TV in sep­a­rate rooms and fam­ily’s in­stant-mes­sage each other de­spite be­ing in the same build­ing, I be­lieve the fam­i­ly­fo­cus of Christ­mas is ever more im­por­tant. It should fo­cus on catch­ing up with each other, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with each other, and shar­ing ex­pe­ri­ences of each other.”

He points out that elec­tronic de­vices en­cour­age dis­tance. “The power of the col­lec­tive ex­pe­ri­ence is be­ing di­luted in the world where shar­ing in­volves post­ing a pic­ture on a so­cial me­dia site. Real shar­ing is com­pletely dif­fer­ent to that and should be ex­pe­ri­enced as much as pos­si­ble, and the hol­i­day pe­riod seems an op­por­tune time for this con­nec­tion.”

Pic­ture: iStock

TIME OF YEAR: Tra­di­tions are par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant to chil­dren at Christ­mas.

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