My fantasy of a perfect Christmas used to be the one Samantha Jones and Smith share in the movie version of Sex and the City: there's fancy jewelry, tons of champagne, and it's very much a clothing-optional party. It represents the very ideal of an adults-only celebration, but it still felt like something missing. Once you become a parent, you just realize that Christmas is way better after you have kids. In fact, most of the secular magic of Christmas is aimed at children: the Santa Claus story, the commercials, the excitement, Rudolf, and all the glitter and lights that make the season so special. Even if you're not religious, the excitement of the holiday is so special for a child.
My mom always recounts the story of her first Christmas as part of a married couple. She and my dad decided to celebrate just the two of them, thinking it would be so romantic and glamorous and by lunchtime they were bored rigid and beating down the door of my grandparents house to get in on the holiday cheer.
You see, Christmas just isn't Christmas without family, and a big part of what makes family celebrations fun is the innocence and excitement of children. I've always loved Christmas, but now that I have a child I realize the true meaning of the season. Quite simply, Christmas is way better after you have kids and these are the reasons why:
Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Père Noël, Tomten — it doesn't really matter what you call him, he's a kindly old gentleman who delivers presents to all the world's children on a magical sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. I mean, could there be anything more magical?
Sometimes it's freeing to believe in a fantasy and this year, as it's the first year my son will really understand the whole spectacle, I'll be making cookies and leaving a dram of scotch out for me, um, I mean, Santa.
Although I will definitely not be spoiling my kid this holiday season, he'll receive a few special toys and probably a whole heap more from generous relatives. I am looking forward to seeing my son play with his toys and adopt some new favorites. But more than anything, I'm going to hopefully show him how importnant it is to give love to the people around you.
The build up to Christmas starts right after the Halloween decorations have been taken down and can seem never-ending. Yet half the excitement of a special occasion is the anticipation. In our home, we have a traditional advent calendar and as soon as December begins we'll start the countdown to Christmas.
I love watching my son get more and more excited, asking every single day if tonight's the night Santa will come.
There is something about a child's energy and enthusiasm that's contagious, and watching him delight in the excitement of the Christmas countdown brings a smile to my face.
I love buying a new outfit for Christmas in jeweled tones, metallics, glitter, or, of course, red — it just makes me feel so festive!
But now that I'm a parent I also get to shop for fashions for my little one and dress him up in all the colors of Christmas, plaid pants, and suspenders. I seriously can't wait.
When you start a family, you have to artfully combine both partners' family traditions to give your children the best of both cultures. My husband has Swedish relatives and they open presents on Christmas Eve, so we have incorporated this practice (although not with all our presents) into our lives. When I was growing up in England, we didn't have stockings for our presents but instead a Christmas sack (which fits a lot more presents in it!), so we'll do that this year too.
My parents had a personalized sack made for our little boy, and just like back when I was small, he'll wake up and find gifts inside, as well as chocolate, satsumas, and a brazil nut! Just because, you know, tradition.
Making New Traditions
Since we got married, my husband and I have developed some Christmas traditions all of our own and we're eager to start sharing these with our son.
On Christmas eve we watch Raymond Briggs' The Snowman with the special introduction by David Bowie. Seriously, go watch it now, it is soooo Christmas.
In the weeks before Christmas, as our little one is train obsessed, we like to take a ride on the Christmas train and drink hot chocolate. Much to my husband's embarrassment, this year we'll also all be wearing matching Christmas pajamas.
Christmas morning is the only morning of the entire year when I actually don't mind having to wake up early and get out of my nice warm bed. We'll all be wearing our matching pajamas as we enjoy a special breakfast with Bucks Fizz (that's a mimosa to you!). We'll watch our son open his presents, get dressed in our sparkly outfits, and perhaps take a walk before Christmas lunch. Of course, we won't miss the Queen's speech. (I mean, you can take the girl out of England but...)
I look forward to Christmas all year long, precisely because I have such wonderful memories of magically rich celebrations past. Now that I'm a mom, I have a new appreciation for how we as parents are charged with creating the memories and traditions our children will treasure forever and carry on into their own families.