Our Favourite Christmas Traditions

The Christmas period oozes tradition whether it's trimming the tree, heading to church or opening presents in a certain way. We all have traditions that surface this time of year

Almost every individual, couple, family, extended family and friends will come together over the holidays, be it in person or more recently virtually, to share in each others company, eat too many moreish foods and exchange gifts. Or maybe you take yourself off to a quiet place with a book and a fire and leave the outside world behind. Regardless, you'll be participating in traditions and passing them on to the next generation.


When my parents moved to the Norfolk Coast we started a new tradition. Every Boxing Day we go to Horsey Beach and count the number of seals. A great walk, brisk sea air and irresistibly cute seal pups, who could ask for more?


Food and Drink

MMMMMMM, Christmas Eve I always make Snickerdoodles with my children. We listen to Carols, sing along (badly!) and enjoy the time spent making and eating the biscuits together. At the end of the evening we always leave a mince pie for Santa by the fireplace as well as a carrot for his reindeer. It's a tradition we haven't stopped despite my children not believing in Santa as they are too old. I have my own tradition as well, I always drink champagne on Xmas day!?


One by One

After delving into our stockings first thing in the morning, we aren't allowed to open any presents until the evening. We then open presents one by one (in age order) and everybody claps and cheers after each present is opened - it takes forever! But there is a reason behind it, my mother has an internal battle with the gross materialism of Christmas - although she is the one buying most of the presents. By opening presents in this way each present is seen and appreciated by everybody and the appropriate "thank you" is bestowed. This makes each gift seem significant rather than disappearing in the 5 minute flurry of wrapping paper. Saving presents to the end of the day also keeps the excitement going.

On a less moral note - we all get a new pair of PJs on Christmas eve!


Letters to Santa

When I was small, we spent all of our Christmases at my Gran's house in Essex. They had an old Edwardian house with a number of big fireplaces.

On Christmas Eve we would all get together in the living room, then my Gran would give us each a piece of paper to write our letter to Father Xmas. The funny thing was the paper my Gran gave us to use was actually loo paper, the old fashioned scratchy paper, not the lovely Andrex you get now. It was just like tracing paper!

We would pass the letters to our Grandpa who would then put them up the chimney, whilst we ran outside to see if we could see them floating up to the night sky. My grandparents and my mum and dad always shouted how they could see them - and my sister, brother and I totally believed we could see them too!

We do exactly the same thing now with our 2 boys, except we use normal writing paper, not loo paper!


Parties and Parades

I lived in a very small village growing up but regardless of the population, every year they held a Santa Claus Parade. To be honest there are usually more people IN the parade than watching but it was a wonderful day that brought the whole community together. Since as long as I can remember, my parents hosted a gathering at our house after the parade, sometimes it was the only time of year when people saw each other but the house was always filled with wonderful smells, the sound of laughter and a sense of extended family. I was sad the year we moved away as this was a tradition I looked forward to every year. I must admit, I am a child at heart and I still try to get back for the parade when I can!



Christmas at home (yes I still refer to my parent's house aged 45!) means beautifully cooked rare roast beef. We moved from the traditional turkey after one Christmas lunch when we all confessed to my mother that we hated turkey!


After attending midnight mass on Xmas Eve, I was raised a Catholic, we were always allowed to open one present before going to bed - Only one, and not the biggest of course!

It meant we actually looked forward to going to church - a rarity. Although, having said that, it was actually pretty cool going to church - or anywhere, so late at night when I was so young... seeing all my friends there... everyone was so excited they'd practically be spinning... beautifully sung carols in an atmospheric church dimly lit by candles... followed by the short walk home, which seemed to take forever, to open that one present... the magic of Christmas indeed?

Oliver D

Choral Notes

Our 12-year-old has just gone through his final promotion to Senior Chorister in a cathedral choir, and every year we have the pleasure of attending the candlelit advent carol service, followed by mulled wine & mince pies. This event culminates with the much anticipated raffle of a Christmas cake, made by an expert among the choir mums, which is decorated with tiny choristers made from marzipan. The boys spend ages trying to spot which one is them! There is nothing like those angelic treble voices, especially when one is the near teenager that you see in all sorts of less angelic moments.


Guessing Games

Christmas Eve starts with the whole family going out to dinner together. When we return home, we all sit around the tree and the children are allowed to open one present each. The presents under the tree are only from outside family members and friends that have arrived in the run up to Xmas. This tradition started because the kids were always feeling and guessing what was in the gifts in the lead up to Christmas, now it's one of their favourite times over the holidays. My son Tom always tries to find one that he thinks he can use/play with straight away.


Getting Ready

For me the Christmas Traditions are all in the preparations. I love sitting down with Adam, pouring a large glass of Harvey's Bristol Cream and wrapping the presents together. It's made even better if there's a good programme on the TV - last year I did as little wrapping as possible as I was distracted by An Audience with Michael Buble which Adam despised! The other tradition for us is finding ways for Jack to keep himself busy on Christmas Eve, since he was 3yrs old he's taken it upon himself to make homemade biscuits (or something similar) for Father Christmas and some of his relatives as a thank you. A selection of these are then placed on a special plate and Jack picks what kind of drink he'll leave for Santa.

One year he decided on orange juice although we were trying to encourage him to pour some of his Grandfather's Vintage Port!! Once that is done, because we are always in Kent at my Parents home and away from our own house in Surrey, Jack always sprinkles Reindeer food on the back lawn. This is made up of porridge oats and glitter and shines in the moonlight while he's sprinkling. This has helped us combat the "how will he know where I am" questions we've recently had and of course he's never failed to find him!


Fresh Air and Family

We always did a stocking in the morning. Full of the useful stuff you needed, socks, a jumper, toiletries etc & then did Xmas presents after a very late lunch. But if I am honest the thing I loved the most was the going to my cousins for drinks and nibbles at 11am and then going for a long walk, just the family, so that when we got back home at 2-4pm, we were really hungry. It was getting darker and you could really indulge in Christmas lunch, guilt free. Knowing that by the time you had eaten and opened presents... you could settle down to either a game or a James Bond film with the fire going.

As we got older traditions changed but I still like the one where we buy one present for one person and that's it. We spent a good amount of money on one gift and hopefully by consulting with them we spared everyone the tat and rubbish like the toiletries my grandmother had obviously been given years before that had actually gone out of date that she then gave to us. It never stopped the small present things for no reason, but it meant you were assured of something really useful and good that you liked.


Christmas Magic

On Christmas morning, my father was always the first one to go downstairs. He'd set the fire and play Christmas music, once he had set the mood the rest of us would follow. We'd rush into the Family room where we'd find stockings filled to the brim with magazines, chocolates and toiletries. These items were in our stockings every year. After the stockings were emptied, we'd proceed to the Living room where the rest of our presents waited under the tree. Christmas morning always had a magical feel.