MAKE YOUR OWN CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS
Create your very own memories this season and celebrate the values most important to you.
Do you still remember the excited buzz about Christmas you felt when you were little? The anticipation of putting biscuits and milk out for Santa, or the joy of going into the living room in your pyjamas to open presents? No time is more magical for little ones, and it’s the warm familiarity of family traditions that sprinkles much of the magic dust. Now you’re a parent, you have the key to this Christmas kingdom, and it’s up to you to decide what memories your little one will cherish. So, make a date on the sofa with your partner: it’s time to think about what your new family traditions are going to be.
Share your memories
Now you’ve got your own family, Christmas will be different. Up until now, you may have always gone along with the way your partner’s family celebrates – or vice versa – but it’s time for change. Yes, you’re each still part of your ancestral family, but this year, your own little family takes precedence. So, talk to your partner about what he finds special about Christmas, and share your thoughts too. Decide what parts of his childhood Christmas, and what parts of yours, you’d like to recreate.
This cherry-picking of Christmas traditions to celebrate in your new family has wider benefits than you might first imagine. “Sharing memories, coming up with exciting new traditions, and making plans for your future together as a family will strengthen your bond with your partner,” says psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos. “Together, you have the power to hand-pick all the bits you loved and throw out the parts you hated, making you feel like a team. You’re designing your child’s memories, and it feels good to do that together.”
It’s also important to take joint responsibility for the way your new family Christmas is going to be. “To do this, you need to accept that some people get really excited about Christmas, but others don’t,” adds Dr Papadopoulos. “Talking and respecting each other’s wishes will help create a harmonious atmosphere and let you enjoy these first Christmas experiences with your baby. You don’t have to be perfectly in sync with your partner when it comes to Christmas, just to have agreed what it means to your new family. Whatever you agree on, it will all form part of the stories you’ll re-tell as your child grows. In years to come, your child might joke about how Christmas-crazy Dad was while Mom always moaned about vacuuming up the glitter − but that’s all part of creating a shared history.”
Involve the wider family
Ask family members what they remember from their childhood Christmases, as this will give you plenty of ideas for your own. Your traditions will be even more significant if they go back years and involve other family members.
“We don’t always find the time during the year to sit and reminisce about the past, and Christmas is the perfect opportunity to share this with your child,” says Dr Papadopoulos.
“Kids love stories and doing this will give you a wealth of family tales to tell your baby as she grows. The time spent and stories told will give her a sense of family history and a wider feeling of being connected to those around her.”
If you, or your partner, have roots in another country, find out how Christmas is celebrated there too. Another culture might offer ideas that you had never thought of, and it will be another opportunity to give your child a sense of her family identity.
Consider the future
While you’re chatting through your plan, think about how your traditions will stand the test of time. The things your child will enjoy most – at all ages and stages of childhood – are ones that involve spending time with her family. “Think less about what you are going to do, and more about why you are doing it. The answer is hopefully because you are enjoying festive time together,” says Dr Papadopoulos. “These are the memories you will all value the most, and the traditions your child might carry on with her family one day in the future.”
Likewise, keep your traditions simple and fun. “Christmas shouldn’t be a drag,” says Dr Linda. For example, there’s nothing more cosy and Christmassy than snuggling up on the sofa and reading a magical, festive story with your little one. Although it’s such a simple pleasure, it can have a real impact on your child’s memory. Select a story to read every Christmas Eve, and it will be etched even deeper into her memory. “This simple act will help create a calm moment of togetherness and the story itself will, in turn, become part of the story of your child’s life,” says Dr Linda. “As siblings come along, they will be bonded by this shared experience and memory of an activity they always enjoyed together.”
Think about the sum total
Think about choosing one tradition that builds into something that’s bigger than the sum of its parts.
For example, you could take the same Christmas photo every year: ‘We all cherish photos from our childhood, especially the ones we know our families cherished taking. Putting thought into festive shots that can be taken every year ensures your child has special images, with dates and memories attached,” says Dr Papadopoulos.
“Photos are an important part of our story and the tales attached to them help seal our memories. “Family photos can be wonderful for all of you − when you look back, you and your partner will be flooded with memories of how your child looked and acted at that stage. She will see how important she was and still is in her family setting.” So, what will it be? Buying the Christmas tree, standing outside your front door in Santa hats, or an excited justbefore-bed snap on Christmas Eve?
Even if your baby is too young to remember right now, it isn’t too early to start. Set your festive traditions from the start and you’ll be able to photograph or video your baby taking part, or keep the treasure she helps make, to show her when she’s older. This will make your traditions feel like a central, age-old part of your family that she’ll treasure forever. LL