Xmas Tricks and Treats
Here are some ideas and
guide how we do Xmas in our family. You can probably make use of
several of these, especially if you have little ones.
New decorations appear each day.
This is a variation on "Making
Halloween more suspenseful." For example, each evening after
the kids go to bed, I put out some Rudolph figures on the mantle until
it's completely covered with scenes from the Bass and Rankin Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer tv
special (1964). You can do similar by adding a wave of ornaments
to the tree each night, then claim the elves are responsible.
They're Santa's scout party, after all!
theme each year. Who says you have to be traditional with
the ornaments every year? If the kid(s) is/are focused on a
favorite movie or show, then build the decorations around that. I
could easily decorate our tree with Star Wars figures, for
example. Or use Stan's plush Adventure Time and Regular Show
calendar. There are plenty variations on Xmas "countdown"
calendars, so pick whatever you like. We happen to use a wooden
Xmas tree Grandma painted. You take a little charm off one of the
pegs over each date on the calendar portion of the board, and you move
that up to the tree at the top to decorate it. When the tree is
completely decorated, it's Xmas morning! It teaches the kids
about time by allowing them to visualize its passage, while at the same
time building suspense.
the stockings. Dani put felt adornments on all of our
stockings that made them about us to some degree. Here's what's
on each of our stockings:
Three guitars arranged in chronological order on their year of design
D'Angelico New Yorker archtop
black Stratocaster (with Lace Sensor
pickups) - my first guitar
green Steinberger GM
The plan being to include books among his Xmas presents every year (and
in between). As of this writing he has more than 700 books.
train - No real reason other than he plays
with a Xmas train every year that our friends bought him when he was
about a year old.
soccer ball - He started playing soccer
(because her name means "star"; her middle name is Nova even!)
Pug (for the foster pug)
little fawn pug
Betsy - A cairn terrier we took in.
bell with holly leaves and berries
Snowy - White kitten
Smokey - Grey kitten, Snowy's sister.
Shadow - Grey kitten, Snowy's best friend.
Retired stockings (I need to get these out of the attic to see what's
now-deceased German shepherd/akita mix)
BT (for the foster Boston Terrier; we
haven't fostered as much since the baby arrived)
Cubby (deceased cat)
Cricket (deceased cat)
Xmas shopping starts December 26th!
Don't wait until immediately after Thanksgiving. Buy things
throughout the year (or at least make a list). Hide them
someplace safe where the kids (and spouse too, if you're shopping for
him/her) won't look.
lists and check them more than twice! I recommend keeping
a list of presents and their hiding places on the computer though, just
so you don't forget. I've bought things way in advance before and
then couldn't find them again until months later. Keep lists of
what you've given them in the past for inspiration in the future.
Anytime someone says, "I wish I had a..." you jot that down
surreptitiously on your phone or something until you can transfer it to
your secret master list burred inside a file that looks like the last
thing it would contain would be lists of ideas for Xmas presents.
the presents. One of my mom's friends always used to
modify greeting cards to personalize them for her. She'd insert
words or cross things out to and re-write them to make them specific to
my mom. The year Dani was going to get a hysterectomy right after
Xmas (like literally the next day), I modified the the tradition
Hickory Farms present. The two lengths of sausage were relabeled
"Fallopian Tubes." The "Farmhouse Cheese" became "Farmhouse
Uterus," and the "Smoked Cheese" became "Smoked Cervix." Yes, she
thought it was funny... because she's more twisted than I am!
matching presents. For the last couple years, whenever
Stan got a sword, Daddy got one too! When he was three, I got him
Finn's sword from Adventure Time. Well, naturally Santa brought
Jake's sword too so Stan could play fight Daddy. The next year
Stan got a blue lightsaber from Santa. So OF COURSE Daddy got a
red saber to battle with!
"series" of gifts. For example, if a present turns out to
be a big hit with a kid (or a spouse, parent, etc.), get something else
from that same line and save that for the next birthday or Xmas.
For example, a surprise hit for Stan a couple years ago was a Doctor
Dreadful toy we bought as an afterthought one Xmas. The next
birthday he got another one. You could similarly get the next
book in a favorite series, another movie by the same director,
etc. I got my cousin the dvd set of Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" one
year. The next year I plan to get him Gilliam's "Time Bandits."
classic. If you're looking for ideas, here's a list of
"classic toys" that are largely timeless and make great stocking
models: the human eye, skeleton, "invisible man"
Brain teaser puzzles: wood blocks, metal
loops you have to untangle
Chocolates and candy
Diary / journal
Floor piano (from "Big")
Fridge magnet kit (e.g., the poetry set)
Hot Wheels/Matchbox cars
Magic 8 ball
Magic Rocks (growing crystals)
Swiss army knife
Wind-up Chattering Teeth
aren't just for Xmas. Because (as I mention above) we buy
presents throughout the year, we keep a box of them set aside for
special occasions. This probably started with potty training, or
at least that's when we were the most systematic about using presents
as rewards, but we've also used it for other goal-oriented activities
like learning to read or other milestones.
Cookies and milk for Santa.
This is an American classic. You and the kids set out a snack
just before you put them to bed, then you help yourself to it while you
set out the presents under the tree and stuff the stockings.
reindeer. Put out something for the deer just like you did
for Santa. My friend Leiann always puts apples and carrots on her
lawn with her son before he goes to bed. Of course, once he's
asleep, then she goes back and collects them and takes a bite out of
each. The next morning they check in the yard and see that "the
reindeer" have had a few bites before they move on to the next
house. When Stan was four (Stella was still in zero), we put out
a mix of oatmeal and glitter on the front steps. Once he went to
bed, I went out with the mini-Dyson (handheld) and vacuumed up the
middle of the pile. In the morning it looked like the reindeer
had nibbled away at the center of the pile.
present before bedtime. We haven't done this with our kids
yet, but when I was younger, I got to open one present on Xmas eve to
tide me over until the next morning. You can let the kids pick,
but I think it's best if you have a specific "Eve" present that's a
stand-alone to keep them occupied for the evening, especially something
like a doll or plush that they can take to bed.
Hide the presents in different places on
Xmas morning. I start out with a bunch under the tree, but
then it turns out there are more hidden elsewhere. This keeps the
action rolling so that there isn't a flurry of unwrapping and
attention-deficient bouncing to the next one. If you have a
fireplace with an open chimney, that's an obvious location to hide an
extra present as though Santa forgot one. I pulled that one on
Dani a few times over the years. You can also hide things in
plain sight. For example, one year I put a guitar case behind the
tree. Guitars are my thing, so she didn't think anything of
it. Turned out I had more presents in it for her once she thought
she'd already opened everything!
the presents. You can use the hiding techniques above to
pace a build-up to a big present for the kids, spouse, etc.
Alternatively, you could include a note in each present that says which
present to open next (or where to look for it). Dani did
something like that for me one Valentine's Day before we had kids.
Birthdays = Hanukkah! After Stan's 4th birthday, we had a
mantle full of birthday presents. Rather than letting him open
them all at once, I let him pick one to open each night. I made
him wait until sundown (which is a developmentally-appropriate marker
of time; otherwise he'd keep asking when he could open the next
one). This spread the celebration out over the next two weeks.