I wasn’t much of a natural when it came to being a Mother in that I never could bake or sew and was as impatient and short-tempered then as I am now but one thing I did well was Christmas.
Mark and I did a really good job of making Father Christmas an actual real-life not making it up thing and it’s one of the best things about having little kids.
Every year we had several nights stacking up presents and arranging into piles of what was “Father Christmas” and “Mum and Dad” with their biggest wishes and favourite toys always being from the man himself.
That sorted we would choose a wrapping paper that would be from Father Christmas and wrap all his presents in the same stuff taking care not to mix and match or wrap what was from us in the paper Father Christmas used.
Father Christmas wrapped his presents in traditional Victorian paper but the last couple of years we bought rolls and roll of brown paper, bundles of string, tags and ordered an ink pad to stamp them as having been dispatched to our address.
I used to stain paper in tea or coffee a few days earlier, hand write them both a letter in my Dad’s old calligraphy pens and then roll into a scroll, tie in red or green ribbon and leave in the empty fireplace for them to find.
Every Christmas Eve we got magic reindeer food (oats mixed with glitter) and scattered outside the house and up on the roof so they knew where to go and then left a glass of whisky, mince pie, glass of milk and a carrot before sending them off to bed and leaving us to start lugging the mountain of toys out of their hiding place and downstairs without detection.
Every Christmas morning we went through the same drill of waking up the kids, sitting at the top of the stairs and reminding them they mustn’t get upset if Father Christmas hadn’t been to us this year – he probably had to visit children that don’t have toys and they still had gifts from us anyway so don’t be disappointed OK? Promise you won’t get upset?”
“No we won’t be upset can we see if he’s been though?”
We’d let one of them open the door and sneak a peek inside the darkened living room and do all the dramatics between ourselves “I hope he’s been this year.. if he hasn’t it’s no big thing but I hope he’s been”
“OH MY GOD LOOK LOOK HE’S BEEN HE’S LEFT US LOADS OF PRESENTS LOOK!!”
The little things caught their eye and heart such as the crumpled foil tin from the eaten mince pie and the few bits of carrot left by the hearth and they’d see the scrolls tied in ribbon sat in the empty open fireplace and just go nuts. Father Christmas was always careful to throw in a reference to something that gave absolute proof he knows and sees everything and those little things were bigger, better and more exciting than any of the presents they had to open.
The year both kids remember the most was probably the last year they were old enough to enjoy it / starting to question there was even such a person as Father Christmas. We knew it would be the last one we’d get to enjoy as well so made it one to remember.
Having done what all Mum’s do in the lead up to Christmas which is clean every single thing in the entire house, I had them leave the usual snacks and drinks, tip-toe outside with reindeer food and then climb into bed.
In the morning we reminded them again not to be upset if he hadn’t made it and then my son opened the door to exclaim once again they’d been paid a visit.
Then I walked in and opened the curtains and saw what had become of my lovely clean and tidy house
Muddy hoof prints all over my nice clean floors right through the entire of downstairs. Big size 12 prints all over the living room and on my hearth and floors… IN MY KITCHEN?! THEY’VE BEEN IN MY KITCHEN LOOK AT THE STATE!!!”
Brussels I’d prepped the night before tipped up and strewn in the kitchen.. carrots I’d sliced just half chomped and littering my lovely clean floor.
Glasses and cups and plate I left their snacks on just left – just left without even attempting to get near the dishwasher I played holy shit.
Made the kids get a dustpan and brush and clean it up before they were allowed to touch any presents and they were mesmerized. I’m up and down waffling “Sick of this shit… every year he does this every bloody year! I’m not having this again next year that’s for sure I am gonna write and play hell over this.. Does he have no idea how long we spend cleaning??”
Kids just walking slowly around and holding munched bits of veg.. proof actual proof that Reindeer had been.
The empty foil and glass and big muddy prints on my floor.. “OH MY GOD FATHER CHRISTMAS HAS ACTUALLY WALKED THROUGH OUR HOUSE??!”
Even now aged 19 and 17yrs the kids both remember that particular Christmas the most and recall how fascinated they were to have all this proof right there in front of them and how they didn’t even mind having to clean up on Christmas morning.
This year I’m helping to make Christmas a little bit more exciting for one or two friends whose children are at that fantastic age by decorating our stables and making them a sort of hideaway grotto / secret place Father Christmas checks into a week before the main event and can’t wait.
Already ordered very subtle, cosy lights and things to turn some very ordinary stables into a grotto but for those of you whose kids are still young and whose bank balances already struggling I cannot tell you how much you can do to make Christmas even more magical for next to nothing in terms of price.
Our kids barely remember the gifts we got them but they will never forget the morning I made them clean up at 6am on Christmas Day.
We started a new tradition a year or two back which is to secretly add oddly placed, inappropriate items on the tree and then the rest of us had to find what had been placed since last time before leaving their own addition. It got really daft silly in the end our tree was just covered in nonsense by New Year but that’s what happens when your kids have grown up.
We also decorated the dog with as many Christmas objects as we could without disturbing her from a deep sleep.
Festive slice of bread