3 mistakes I made with Christmas traditions and how you can avoid them

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I grew up in a home with lots of traditions: how we did breakfast, birthdays, and, of course, Christmas!

It’s sometimes hard to get the balance between enjoying traditions and not being ruled by them.

Here are some mistakes I made in the early days of being a Mum and how I plan to learn from them to make this Christmas a calmer, more connected one:

Mistake 1: Doing too much

When I first had children, I was 35 and super-keen to apply loads of traditions to Christmas, so while my children were so young they weren’t even sleeping through yet, I was busy working hard to fill Advent pocket calendars, wrap Christmas books and organise nativity toys all to make Christmas special for them. (Or maybe for me?)

I ended up very tired and not really able to enjoy December. My girls are now 9 and 11, and I’ve reviewed all the things we do and only kept the things which really serve to bring us joy,

Some of those traditions have stuck and some have been gently laid down, while others have subtly shifted and morphed into a more manageable or age-appropriate form.  

For example, instead of organising tiny bespoke craft activities to put into their Pocket Advent Calendar, this year their’ getting a bought calendar of their choice (Minecraft and Rocks if you’re interested) and in the pockets simply contain a piece of chocolate.

Instead of wrapping up 24 Christmas books which used to take me hours, I will simply put the books in a basket in the lounge so they can browse and read at their leisure.

Mistake 2: Thinking everything has to be chock-ful of spiritual purpose

Or feeling guilty that it’s not enough.

While I’m completely for being intentional about celebrating Jesus at Christmas, it’s also possible to plan too much and to make Christmas stodgy and dull by making everything a ‘teachable moment’. We home educate, so this is something that I have to watch myself on constantly – it’s very easy to kill off my children’s desire to learn and join in an activity by me being too ‘teachy’. 

The way I avoid this is to remember that research shows that spiritual growth happens in families with good, connected relationships, so anything that ‘brings your family together’, and you have fun doing is helping to grow faith in the long term.

So this year I’m making sure I plan on stuff which is ‘just for fun’. This week, that involved going ice skating!

Mistake 3: Not doing anything for me

Last year was the first time I bought an Advent Calendar for me. It was a coffee calendar, with 24 different sachets of freshly roasted coffee. It was A. Maz.Ing. It meant that more or less every day in December I sat down with a (wonderful) cup of coffee and had 15 minutes to sit and enjoy it. This has led me to aim to do this each day, which I manage better some weeks than others. I’ve also bought a coffee subscription to get a fresh pack of coffee every other week,

Doing something for ourselves is important. Jesus said we should love our neighbour as we love ourselves, but sometimes we don’t really love ourselves very much! Giving to our families is something which comes easily to most of us, and it’s easy to run dry at this time of year. So let’s make sure we add in a tradition which is just for us.