Building family Christmas traditions

One of the fun things about having young children is that over the course of time you start to develop family traditions that only grow in number with each passing year.

Pre-kids, we didn’t really have any annual traditions. I’ve always mentally observed two milestones: the first time I hear/see the Pogues’ Fairy Tale of New York marks the unofficial start of the run-up to the festive season, and then things really start to get serious once I’ve got my hands on the Christmas edition of the Radio Times, which I then religiously pore over with my trusty highlighter pen.

Radio Times
Time to fill up the Sky box again …

Oh, and I tend to allow what passes for a beard to grow out over the holidays. No particular reason – just because I can.

With three young children (aged seven and under), the pre-Christmas routine becomes longer and more elaborate with every passing year. It now starts in early to mid-November, when the boys and I spend a morning shopping for a few new decorations to upgrade our existing selection. The trees – one for our living room, one for the kids’ playroom and miniature ones for their bedrooms – are up by the beginning of December, along with outside lights, stockings, wreaths and so on.

And then there’s the annual trip into London to meet up with my folks to see the Christmas lights and the giant tree in Trafalgar Square. This was the third year we’ve done it with all three kids, and as they have grown older and we’ve become cannier, it has become an easier and more enjoyable experience each time. (Top tip: get a bus towards Marble Arch from the Parliament Square end of Whitehall so that the kids can see Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus and then the Regent and Oxford Street lights from the top deck – it makes such a difference to little ones who otherwise struggle to see when surrounded by the seasonal crowds.)

This year we started with a dim sum lunch in Chinatown before taking in the funfair in Leicester Square, moseying on down to Trafalgar Square and then taking the aforementioned bus back up to Marble Arch. We also had the added bonus of being able to pick off several of the temporary statues on the Paddington Trail en route. The kids love it. And so, by extension, do we.

That just leaves today, Christmas Eve. We’ll be leaving out the traditional mince pie and carrots for Santa and his reindeer tonight. (No eggnog or anything alcoholic, as we don’t want to encourage drink-sleigh riding.) And, most importantly, because we have 21st century children, I’ll be downloading a Santa tracker app to the iPad shortly so that the children can monitor his progress as he speeds around the globe – and get themselves to sleep before it’s too late.

What about you? Do you have any particular Christmas traditions with your family?

Merry Christmas, everyone!