We all have our favourite Christmas traditions that make our December special so I thought I’d share some that my family and friends love to do each year. From favourite movies to festive music, midwinter activities to seasonal reads there’s something for all ages. I hope you enjoy 🙂
(If you’d like to read about some great storybooks for little ones too you can click here and view my Midwinter Storybooks blog)
Santa Claus the Movie
This movie is without a doubt my families favourite Christmas film. Since we were tiny tots, my brother and I would watch this film with our parents while we put up the decorations. It tells the tale of how Santa Claus came to be back in the days of Old Father Time right up until modern times. The modern part of the story is set in 1980s New York where the paths of our main characters cross.
For me David Huddleston plays the perfect Father Christmas and Dudley Moore brings to life his elf character Patch brilliantly. The sets are incredible and the craftsmanship that went into making this film is rather amazing – from the wooden toys and North Pole scenes to the costumes and the sheer amount of actors that were choreographed is quite something. It’s full of absolute magic and I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of watching this. I can’t wait to share it with my nephew and my best friends little one in the years to come!
Making the North Pole
My mum can pretty much make anything into an activity for kids and when we were children one of my favourite things that she would do in the lead up to Christmas, was to give us the inner tube to the wrapping paper which my brother and I would make it into the North Pole. So simple yet so much fun! Because of the natural twirling pattern of the cardboard spiralling up to make the tube shape, it was perfect for colouring in or sticking red and white paper on to make the iconic North Pole which we would later use in our Christmas Eve game. You can leave your kids to it whilst your wrapping presents or can go as fancy as you like by adding a sign or ball topper like in the pictures I found online below. It’s cheap to do and keeps little hands busy to give you a few minutes extra to get things ready for the big day – a win-win all round I say!
Almost Midnight by Rainbow Rowell
This little book is a great pocket Christmas read to snuggle up with or to keep with you whilst you’re on the go. These two festive YA short stories map the time of the lead up to Christmas in Kindred Sprits where we wait in line with Elena and Gabe for the new Star Wars movie and then we celebrate New Years Eve with Mags and Noel. It’s filled with all that you’d want from a Rainbow Rowell book – a little bit of geekery, a few awkward characters and a sprinkling of first love. It’s also illustrated by Simini Blocker who captures the atmosphere of the tales wonderfully and makes you long for more her illustrations to be in books! So, if you’re looking for a quick but festive read, this book might be just for you.
A Boy Called Christmas series by Matt Haig
Have you ever wondered how Father Christmas came to be? Was he always there or did he grow up just like you and me? In Matt Haig’s A Boy Called Christmas we find out just that! Quirky, heartfelt and funny we go on an adventure of a lifetime with Nikolas, a young boy who’s having a rather hard time. Illustrated throughout by Chris Mould, it’s hard not to love this tale whether you 8 or 98! Matt Haig has a way of lending a helping hand through the pages of a book at the same time as entertaining the socks off you. A perfect tale to read and share on winter nights.
[There’s also been a film adaptation released this year so if you want a new Christmassy family film, keep a look out!]
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Can Christmas even be Christmas without some sort of Christmas Carol in your life? We all have our favourite rendition – two of my friends from work both watch their favourites without fail each year; one has to watch the Jim Carey version at the stroke of midnight on the 1st December to hark the festivities of the month and my other friend ends her Christmas Eve each year by watching the Muppets Christmas Carol, whereas I can’t help but love the 1951 adaptation staring Alastair Sim. But that’s part of why I love this story, it has so many different versions but the love for it is universal. So whatever format it comes in, whether book form, film or audio, this ghostly time travelling tale is part of what makes the season magical!
Charity Shop Present Swap/Secret Santa
There are many things that my aunt used to love and two of them were Christmas and charity shops. She could never pass up a charity shop and would have the ability of a niffler to hunt out the treasures and hidden gems. And one of the things that she and my mum would do at Christmastime would be to do a £5 charity shop present as their Christmas present to each other. It could be anything you found which could lead to some pretty lovely and sometimes inventive presents but that was the beauty of it – the present was unique, the charity shop would receive some business and thought would be put into the present itself and it always ended with smiles on both faces. So if you and your friends or family don’t know what to get one another how about spend some time searching for something special by using the charity shop Christmas game? Who knows what you might find 🙂
Together at Last album by Alexis Ffrench
I only recently discovered British pianist Alexis Ffrench earlier this year when I stumbled upon his beautiful album Dreamland. When searching through his backlist of albums I found that he had made a Christmas album which includes well known Christmastime classics like Fairytale of New York, Mary’s Boy Child and Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire as well as some of his own creation which are simply beautiful. They’re perfect to have on in the background whilst you’re wrapping presents, cooking or just sitting down with a nice glass of something festive and a mince pie.
Making Reindeer mix
I once did this at one of the bookshops I worked in and it went down a treat with the kids. Simply get some bird food, seeds, dried worms, dried fruit and oats, pop them in some containers and let the kids fill their bag up! Then all you need to do is tie it up with a little bit of ribbon and sprinkle it on Christmas Eve night in the garden or any open space for the reindeer and wildlife to enjoy as a little midnight snack! 🙂
Here’s a link to the RSPCA website which gives you a good recipe that’s wildlife friendly to all.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
I don’t like to recommend books unless I’ve read them but I had to include this one on the blog as so many of my friends love this book which is suppose to be ideal for Christmas week reading! Set in Scotland during the lead up to New Years, eight friends are reunited, but when a murder happens all are potential suspects. It’s said to have lots of twists and turns so if you’re looking for a modern day take on golden age crime writing, this might just do the trick!
Die Hard (1988)
Now I know this isn’t a typical festive movie but it is set during a Christmas party so I think it’s a totally acceptable festive film! It’s got great actors, great storyline and it’s filled with blockbuster action. It’s perfect for when you’re wanting a good Saturday night film but with just a hint of Christmas.
Christmas Light Walks
December can be a full on month with cramming everything in and sometimes you just need a breather and that’s when I love to go for a walk with the sole purpose of looking for Christmas lights. Seeing festively dressed houses with sparkling lights and decorations lifts your spirits massively and with the mix of a chilly quiet evening, you can’t help but feel better 🙂
While you were Sleeping (1995)
Set in the chilly city of Chicago over the Christmas week, While you were Sleeping stars Sandra Bullock as Lucy and Bill Pullman as Jack alongside a whole cast of awesome characters. After rescuing a member of the public whom she’s admired from afar from an oncoming train at the station on Christmas Day where Lucy works, Lucy finds herself whisked into a family after they mistakenly take her as the fiancée of their injured son.
I know the prospect might sound a bit cheesy but stay with it – it’s such a good film!! Funny and atmospheric, the characters bounce off one another perfectly and it’s 90s vibes brings such nostalgia. It’s heartwarming but manages to not be corny and instead leaves you with feeling just the right amount of warm and fuzzy.
Chrismukkah – The O.C Mix 3
This album brings me nostalgia by the bucketful. My brother and I used to love The O.C and he had all the soundtracks including the Chrismukkah one. It’s a great album if want a little bit of indie/alternative music to accompany your Christmas (and while you’re at it, the Chrismukkah episode is pretty damn awesome too)!
Christmas Tree Adopting
Now this probably isn’t for everyone, but my aunt who used to love Christmas would inevitably go round and ‘adopt’ any lonely, weather-beaten old Christmas trees that people had chucked out prior to the big day. Together with her neighbour, they would decorate the front of their houses with unwanted Christmas trees and bring them to life with some lights and well deserved tinsel! So if you have the space and see any old Christmas trees left on the side of the road, why not give it a new lease of life by up-cycling a Christmas tree into it’s festive self again! 🙂
Making a Sequin-Sparkle decoration
A few years back my family and I made some decorations by getting a ton of sequins, pins and polystyrene stars. It was super simple to do and made a pretty cool decoration (but beware, it does make your fingers ache a little after a while so I highly recommend using a thimble to help with the fixing of the pins). It can take a little time to complete but it’s very methodic and weirdly addictive and at the end of it you get a lovely sparkly decoration!
I love making mug cakes on chilly evenings, especially around Christmastime. They’re quick and easy to do and a lots of fun. Here’s my favourite recipe from allrecipies.com and it makes roughly enough to share between 2-3 people depending how hungry you are!
Merry Midwinter by Gillian Monks
Merry Midwinter follows the season starting in late autumn all the way through to Christmas itself. Filled with folk customs, recipes, activities, history of traditions and things to do during the cold months, this almanac is a great book to read with a hot chocolate and to pass around between friends.
The Good Life Christmas Special
You can’t beat traditional tv programmes at Christmas like Dad’s Army, Only Fools and Horses and Morecambe and Wise – they just seem to have this quality about them that’s hard to find these days. One of my all time favourites though has to be the Christmas episode of The Good Life. The two sets of neighbours end up having a very different Christmas to what they first thought after Margot’s traditional Christmas isn’t delivered in time, but the two couples spend the day together with much merriment and silliness. The Good Life at it’s best!
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
It is custom here in the UK to read and tell ghost stories at Christmas, however this tradition seems to have gotten a little lost over the years but if you’d like to read a ghostly tale there’s none better than Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black. Set on Christmas Eve night, our main character Arthur Kipps narrates his experience as a young solicitor visiting the abandoned home of the late Mrs Alice Drablow. There, a whole tale ensues and disturbing hauntings seem to encapsulate the house and grounds. Atmospheric and very well written this is such a good book and makes a really great audiobook too. But if you’re reading late in the evening, maybe keep the lights on…
Quiet Christmas Playlist
Although Christmas is suppose to be a joyful season, it can also be a very melancholic and sad time if you’re going through some hardships or if you’ve recently lost a loved one. Over the last few years I’ve found some songs that have helped me that have either been quietly Christmassy or a little melancholic themselves, so I thought I’d put together a little playlist suggestion that hopefully might help you feel a little festive but also less alone if you’re not feeling Christmas this year for whatever reason. (I’ll pop a little ** marker next to any song that might be a bit sad in case you want to skip those ones!)
- Sleigh Ride by Stacey Kent
- Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer by Jack Johnson
- Winter Wonderland by Jason Mraz
- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Joshua Hyslop
- This Time of Year by Rhys Lewis **
- Merry Christmas Everyone by Hannah Grace
- The Christmas Song by Stacey Kent
- If we make it through December by Phoebe Bridgers**
- Someday at Christmas by Jack Johnson
- Maybe this Christmas by Ron Sexsmith
- Christmas is Going to the Dogs by The Eels
- River by Joni Mitchell
- Christmas Day by Dido
- Joel the Lump of Coal by The Killers
- No Christmas for Me by Zee Avi
- Winter Wonderland by Stacey Kent
I hope you’ve enjoyed this festive blog and that you and yours have a lovely and safe Christmas. As the wonderful voice of Nat King Cole says “Although it’s been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you”