Simple Christmas Traditions / Operation Christmas Child, Puds and Letters to Santa

Christmas is all about time with the family. We like to keep it simple.

One way I’ve chosen to do this is by developing simple traditions. Kids love knowing what to expect, it adds to the experience and excitement for them. We are currently building up to the big day as the weekend after Remembrance Sunday now signifies the start of these traditions.

Each week I will post on our countdown to Christmas. First born is now at an age where she can actively get involved not just in the ‘doing’ but in the decision-making. This seems the perfect year to start documenting it all.

A home-made Christmas doesn’t happen overnight. A consumerist Christmas literally can. Buying stuff isn’t what Christmas is about for us, but at the same time Christmas is a shared holiday, and other people’s expectations need to be taken into account. I’m hoping I can demonstrate how I keep the balance between a Simple Traditional Christmas whilst making it enjoyable for everyone whether they share that vision or not.

So what did our first weekend entail?

First things first. Operation Christmas Child. This is important as it acknowledges that there are others for whom the abundance of Christmas doesn’t apply. This was done before the Kids did their own letters to Santa.

So as a family we sat down and decorated our shoebox. The idea was that by sticking the torn gift wrap to the box with PVA glue, and sealing it by painting over with the same glue, that it would make the box extra durable. It could then be a keepsake for the child throughout the year, maybe to keep their gifts inside? It also meant that we spent time (the greatest gift of all) on their box rather than just buying things to put in it.

The result was pretty impressive (IMO :-))! (more items went in the box – the photo was pre-shop). We will do two next year once Second Born fully understands, and has the concentration to do his own.

With an act for others completed, the Kids got to write their own letters to Santa. They will drop them off tomorrow at Santa’s special post box in the village, a donation to charity will be made and a reply sent!

The final activity this weekend was to make the Christmas puds. Now a confession, I have never done this before, although it was always on the ‘To Do List’. After discovering a very simple recipe, and summoning up the courage, First Born and I set to work. All the dry ingredients mixed, I started to panic. There was an awful lot of mixture, and my gaze kept returning to the two small pyrex basins I own. At this point common sense prevailed and we put the dry ingredients to one-side as I called for back up. This meant that the pudding weren’t cooked until yesterday after my Big Sis arrived with two extra basins. What a fabulous smell there was throughout the house yesterday as 4 puds slow-cooked for 10 hours. Hooray for having 3 slow-cookers!

The plan is that as the holiday season progresses at the weekends we do the fun stuff. During the week I’ll do the boring stuff and the things the kids can’t get involved in. I’ll also ensure anything we need for the weekend activities is to hand, as for a child there’s nothing worse than aborting mid fun! (as we did with the puds – lesson learnt!).

I’ve just finalised the gift list for the family – and I’ll share more on this next week. I keep it simple, but at the same time take into consideration the expectations of others. I quite like my approach to it. There’s some creativity thrown in for good measure!

This week I’ll also ensure that Santa and his helpers (aka family) are fully informed as to what the Kids would like in their stockings this year.

A School Christmas Disco on Friday which I will be helping at then kicks off weekend 2, with another selection of traditions and fun activities to do!

What traditions do you hold? How Simple are you going this year?

I’m now posting on Facebook almost daily odds and ends that I wouldn’t post here – feel free to check it out!

{ 63 comments… add one }
  • Carla November 23, 2011, 6:57 pm

    I haven’t done a shoebox before but think I’ll look into it… I wonder if there’s still time this year? I always like to have the kids choose a gift for the charity tree at the mall, and more & more I’m adding in ways to give since we have been blessed with so much! 🙂

    • simplybeingmum November 24, 2011, 2:13 pm

      Hi Carla – think the deadline may have gone…but I could be wrong! Mine had to be in yesterday. We are blessed with such a lot in so many ways I agree. If we can do something however big or however small – every act of kindness helps someone somewhere…

  • Carla November 23, 2011, 6:57 pm

    I haven’t done a shoebox before but think I’ll look into it… I wonder if there’s still time this year? I always like to have the kids choose a gift for the charity tree at the mall, and more & more I’m adding in ways to give since we have been blessed with so much! 🙂

    • simplybeingmum November 24, 2011, 2:13 pm

      Hi Carla – think the deadline may have gone…but I could be wrong! Mine had to be in yesterday. We are blessed with such a lot in so many ways I agree. If we can do something however big or however small – every act of kindness helps someone somewhere…

  • Carla November 23, 2011, 6:57 pm

    I haven’t done a shoebox before but think I’ll look into it… I wonder if there’s still time this year? I always like to have the kids choose a gift for the charity tree at the mall, and more & more I’m adding in ways to give since we have been blessed with so much! 🙂

    • simplybeingmum November 24, 2011, 2:13 pm

      Hi Carla – think the deadline may have gone…but I could be wrong! Mine had to be in yesterday. We are blessed with such a lot in so many ways I agree. If we can do something however big or however small – every act of kindness helps someone somewhere…

  • sharron November 23, 2011, 7:01 pm

    Jo, you put me to shame, i bought my xmas pud from m&s last week 🙁

    We have lots of little traditions and i have to say it’s mainly centred around food!! We kick off with the shoe boxes, Luke’s school asks for general donations, and then they construct the boxes in school, they do lots of work on how the samaratins purse help children less fortunate than themselves. I tend to pick things up throughout the year as i see them. This Saturday the lights go on in our local villiage and the kids get to see santa, although they all know the ‘truth’ now we still enjoy this and it gets the festive season off to a start. The first weekend in December the tree goes up and we have our first mince pie and custard. We make mince pies, shortbread fingers as gifts for the teachers and handmade cards. Christmas eve, hubs is usually home early (he’s a postie) then the front door gets shut and it’s all about us 6, we have a buffet tea and open the tin of celebrations and watch a cheesey christmas film. Around 4 o’clock the pajama fairy comes then it’s baths, and into new pajamas and slippers. This is my favourite time, when the shops are shut and the roads are quiet and the crazieness has stopped.

    I usually do my christmas shopping at the end of October then get it all wrapped quick smart before prying eyes find them. I loathe christmas shopping with all the crowds and panic so this is best for me. Anything i havn’t got in my christmas shopping week (apart from food) Doesn’t get bought otherwise i could go on forever. Each one of mine gets 5 gifts each and a stocking filled with carp (usually picked up throughout the year). When the list’s are constructed i leave off 4 gifts as the family always ask me what to get them, although as they get older it’s usually cash 🙁

    Food shopping will be done on the Wednesday before christmas this year, with the milkman leaving milk bread, and cream on Christmas eve. I make the carrot and turnip, pigs in blankets and peel the rest of the veg on Christmas eve. I love this time of year but i hate the consumerist side, christmas cards in the shops in september and adverts fo new sofa/table/tele are my pet hates.

    Your Christmas sound lovely Jo, it’s really nice that you build traditions with your family, this is what will stay with them, not the presents they received . What a different world we would live in if more christmasses were like yours. Lovely memories made is the perfect gift 🙂

    Sharron x

    • simplybeingmum November 25, 2011, 4:03 pm

      I may well be wishing I’d bought my puds at M&S when I taste them! 🙂 Gosh Sharron you are organised! I’m impressed! This is the second comment that mentioned PJ’s, I’m going to have to build in a PJ tradition myself!
      Hope the Hubs wears a Santa Hat on his rounds Christmas Eve 🙂
      ps – so with you on the consumerist side – it’s the ads on TV that get to me. A little more festive spirit would not go amiss…

  • sharron November 23, 2011, 7:01 pm

    Jo, you put me to shame, i bought my xmas pud from m&s last week 🙁

    We have lots of little traditions and i have to say it’s mainly centred around food!! We kick off with the shoe boxes, Luke’s school asks for general donations, and then they construct the boxes in school, they do lots of work on how the samaratins purse help children less fortunate than themselves. I tend to pick things up throughout the year as i see them. This Saturday the lights go on in our local villiage and the kids get to see santa, although they all know the ‘truth’ now we still enjoy this and it gets the festive season off to a start. The first weekend in December the tree goes up and we have our first mince pie and custard. We make mince pies, shortbread fingers as gifts for the teachers and handmade cards. Christmas eve, hubs is usually home early (he’s a postie) then the front door gets shut and it’s all about us 6, we have a buffet tea and open the tin of celebrations and watch a cheesey christmas film. Around 4 o’clock the pajama fairy comes then it’s baths, and into new pajamas and slippers. This is my favourite time, when the shops are shut and the roads are quiet and the crazieness has stopped.

    I usually do my christmas shopping at the end of October then get it all wrapped quick smart before prying eyes find them. I loathe christmas shopping with all the crowds and panic so this is best for me. Anything i havn’t got in my christmas shopping week (apart from food) Doesn’t get bought otherwise i could go on forever. Each one of mine gets 5 gifts each and a stocking filled with carp (usually picked up throughout the year). When the list’s are constructed i leave off 4 gifts as the family always ask me what to get them, although as they get older it’s usually cash 🙁

    Food shopping will be done on the Wednesday before christmas this year, with the milkman leaving milk bread, and cream on Christmas eve. I make the carrot and turnip, pigs in blankets and peel the rest of the veg on Christmas eve. I love this time of year but i hate the consumerist side, christmas cards in the shops in september and adverts fo new sofa/table/tele are my pet hates.

    Your Christmas sound lovely Jo, it’s really nice that you build traditions with your family, this is what will stay with them, not the presents they received . What a different world we would live in if more christmasses were like yours. Lovely memories made is the perfect gift 🙂

    Sharron x

    • simplybeingmum November 25, 2011, 4:03 pm

      I may well be wishing I’d bought my puds at M&S when I taste them! 🙂 Gosh Sharron you are organised! I’m impressed! This is the second comment that mentioned PJ’s, I’m going to have to build in a PJ tradition myself!
      Hope the Hubs wears a Santa Hat on his rounds Christmas Eve 🙂
      ps – so with you on the consumerist side – it’s the ads on TV that get to me. A little more festive spirit would not go amiss…

  • sharron November 23, 2011, 7:01 pm

    Jo, you put me to shame, i bought my xmas pud from m&s last week 🙁

    We have lots of little traditions and i have to say it’s mainly centred around food!! We kick off with the shoe boxes, Luke’s school asks for general donations, and then they construct the boxes in school, they do lots of work on how the samaratins purse help children less fortunate than themselves. I tend to pick things up throughout the year as i see them. This Saturday the lights go on in our local villiage and the kids get to see santa, although they all know the ‘truth’ now we still enjoy this and it gets the festive season off to a start. The first weekend in December the tree goes up and we have our first mince pie and custard. We make mince pies, shortbread fingers as gifts for the teachers and handmade cards. Christmas eve, hubs is usually home early (he’s a postie) then the front door gets shut and it’s all about us 6, we have a buffet tea and open the tin of celebrations and watch a cheesey christmas film. Around 4 o’clock the pajama fairy comes then it’s baths, and into new pajamas and slippers. This is my favourite time, when the shops are shut and the roads are quiet and the crazieness has stopped.

    I usually do my christmas shopping at the end of October then get it all wrapped quick smart before prying eyes find them. I loathe christmas shopping with all the crowds and panic so this is best for me. Anything i havn’t got in my christmas shopping week (apart from food) Doesn’t get bought otherwise i could go on forever. Each one of mine gets 5 gifts each and a stocking filled with carp (usually picked up throughout the year). When the list’s are constructed i leave off 4 gifts as the family always ask me what to get them, although as they get older it’s usually cash 🙁

    Food shopping will be done on the Wednesday before christmas this year, with the milkman leaving milk bread, and cream on Christmas eve. I make the carrot and turnip, pigs in blankets and peel the rest of the veg on Christmas eve. I love this time of year but i hate the consumerist side, christmas cards in the shops in september and adverts fo new sofa/table/tele are my pet hates.

    Your Christmas sound lovely Jo, it’s really nice that you build traditions with your family, this is what will stay with them, not the presents they received . What a different world we would live in if more christmasses were like yours. Lovely memories made is the perfect gift 🙂

    Sharron x

    • simplybeingmum November 25, 2011, 4:03 pm

      I may well be wishing I’d bought my puds at M&S when I taste them! 🙂 Gosh Sharron you are organised! I’m impressed! This is the second comment that mentioned PJ’s, I’m going to have to build in a PJ tradition myself!
      Hope the Hubs wears a Santa Hat on his rounds Christmas Eve 🙂
      ps – so with you on the consumerist side – it’s the ads on TV that get to me. A little more festive spirit would not go amiss…

  • Apple November 23, 2011, 11:05 pm

    I love reading about different family-traditions! 🙂

    In our house, the kids usually write their Santa letter rather early (Sept-Oct), Also, I have a habit of picking up Christmas presents all year through whenever I see a suitable gift. And (to prove even more how organised/weird I am) we buy with the kids their yearly Christmas pyjamas (which they are not allowed to wear until Dec. 24th) in the first week of November. 🙂 …so by now I have almost all of the presents bought and wrapped.

    Other than that I try and keep the Christmas season off until Advent. Then, we pretty much concentrate on making Christmas cookies and other decorations. With the kids we also wrap presents for disadvantaged children, and leave these under the SVP Christmas Tree at our local shopping centre. We also have an Advent book, which I made a couple of years ago, with a story (and chocolate) for each day.

    • simplybeingmum November 25, 2011, 4:06 pm

      Okay I’m sold on this PJ thing! I’m definitely going to jump on the bandwagon here. The ‘bedtime fairy’ visits our house from time to time (when sleeping patterns deteriorate) and I’m sure a gift of PJ’s (or Jammies as we call them here) would go down a treat on Christmas Eve morning. I love your ‘weird organised thing’ going on – sounds good to me.
      I too want all the grisly horrible stuff out the way soon – it’ll be by the time the tree goes up – next Saturday. I’m also treating myself to Michael Buble’s Christmas tunes… praying for snow as I type

  • Apple November 23, 2011, 11:05 pm

    I love reading about different family-traditions! 🙂

    In our house, the kids usually write their Santa letter rather early (Sept-Oct), Also, I have a habit of picking up Christmas presents all year through whenever I see a suitable gift. And (to prove even more how organised/weird I am) we buy with the kids their yearly Christmas pyjamas (which they are not allowed to wear until Dec. 24th) in the first week of November. 🙂 …so by now I have almost all of the presents bought and wrapped.

    Other than that I try and keep the Christmas season off until Advent. Then, we pretty much concentrate on making Christmas cookies and other decorations. With the kids we also wrap presents for disadvantaged children, and leave these under the SVP Christmas Tree at our local shopping centre. We also have an Advent book, which I made a couple of years ago, with a story (and chocolate) for each day.

    • simplybeingmum November 25, 2011, 4:06 pm

      Okay I’m sold on this PJ thing! I’m definitely going to jump on the bandwagon here. The ‘bedtime fairy’ visits our house from time to time (when sleeping patterns deteriorate) and I’m sure a gift of PJ’s (or Jammies as we call them here) would go down a treat on Christmas Eve morning. I love your ‘weird organised thing’ going on – sounds good to me.
      I too want all the grisly horrible stuff out the way soon – it’ll be by the time the tree goes up – next Saturday. I’m also treating myself to Michael Buble’s Christmas tunes… praying for snow as I type

  • Apple November 23, 2011, 11:05 pm

    I love reading about different family-traditions! 🙂

    In our house, the kids usually write their Santa letter rather early (Sept-Oct), Also, I have a habit of picking up Christmas presents all year through whenever I see a suitable gift. And (to prove even more how organised/weird I am) we buy with the kids their yearly Christmas pyjamas (which they are not allowed to wear until Dec. 24th) in the first week of November. 🙂 …so by now I have almost all of the presents bought and wrapped.

    Other than that I try and keep the Christmas season off until Advent. Then, we pretty much concentrate on making Christmas cookies and other decorations. With the kids we also wrap presents for disadvantaged children, and leave these under the SVP Christmas Tree at our local shopping centre. We also have an Advent book, which I made a couple of years ago, with a story (and chocolate) for each day.

    • simplybeingmum November 25, 2011, 4:06 pm

      Okay I’m sold on this PJ thing! I’m definitely going to jump on the bandwagon here. The ‘bedtime fairy’ visits our house from time to time (when sleeping patterns deteriorate) and I’m sure a gift of PJ’s (or Jammies as we call them here) would go down a treat on Christmas Eve morning. I love your ‘weird organised thing’ going on – sounds good to me.
      I too want all the grisly horrible stuff out the way soon – it’ll be by the time the tree goes up – next Saturday. I’m also treating myself to Michael Buble’s Christmas tunes… praying for snow as I type

  • Suze November 24, 2011, 1:58 pm

    I would love to know how the slow cooked pud works out. We boil ours in cloth and in the Australian summer it is very steamy process I would love to avoid. Thanks.

    • simplybeingmum November 25, 2011, 4:07 pm

      Suze – I’ll update soon x watch this space

      • Bec November 25, 2011, 10:03 pm

        Did you use a special slow cook recipe or modify a normal one? I’m keen to give it a go!

        • simplybeingmum November 28, 2011, 9:21 am

          Hi Bec – I spotted a simple (ish) recipe in an old magazine that didn’t include mountains of ingredients so I modified it to make it simpler (of course) and adapted times etc so I could slow cook it instead of boil. To be honest the time difference between boiling and slow cooking is only 2 hours anyway and the beauty of slow cooking is you can leave it (even go out for the day) but you can’t when boiling a pud on the hob for 8 hours!… I’ll post the recipe once I’ve sampled one pud which will be this week, I want to make sure it’s ok first!

  • Suze November 24, 2011, 1:58 pm

    I would love to know how the slow cooked pud works out. We boil ours in cloth and in the Australian summer it is very steamy process I would love to avoid. Thanks.

    • simplybeingmum November 25, 2011, 4:07 pm

      Suze – I’ll update soon x watch this space

      • Bec November 25, 2011, 10:03 pm

        Did you use a special slow cook recipe or modify a normal one? I’m keen to give it a go!

        • simplybeingmum November 28, 2011, 9:21 am

          Hi Bec – I spotted a simple (ish) recipe in an old magazine that didn’t include mountains of ingredients so I modified it to make it simpler (of course) and adapted times etc so I could slow cook it instead of boil. To be honest the time difference between boiling and slow cooking is only 2 hours anyway and the beauty of slow cooking is you can leave it (even go out for the day) but you can’t when boiling a pud on the hob for 8 hours!… I’ll post the recipe once I’ve sampled one pud which will be this week, I want to make sure it’s ok first!

  • Suze November 24, 2011, 1:58 pm

    I would love to know how the slow cooked pud works out. We boil ours in cloth and in the Australian summer it is very steamy process I would love to avoid. Thanks.

    • simplybeingmum November 25, 2011, 4:07 pm

      Suze – I’ll update soon x watch this space

      • Bec November 25, 2011, 10:03 pm

        Did you use a special slow cook recipe or modify a normal one? I’m keen to give it a go!

        • simplybeingmum November 28, 2011, 9:21 am

          Hi Bec – I spotted a simple (ish) recipe in an old magazine that didn’t include mountains of ingredients so I modified it to make it simpler (of course) and adapted times etc so I could slow cook it instead of boil. To be honest the time difference between boiling and slow cooking is only 2 hours anyway and the beauty of slow cooking is you can leave it (even go out for the day) but you can’t when boiling a pud on the hob for 8 hours!… I’ll post the recipe once I’ve sampled one pud which will be this week, I want to make sure it’s ok first!

  • Kate November 28, 2011, 3:42 am

    What the heck *IS* a pud?

    • simplybeingmum November 28, 2011, 9:19 am

      Hi Kate – A Christmas Pudding – if you take a look at my No Waste Tastes Great Post Friday there’s a photo – but tell you what I pop one of Facebook just for you as I think you’ve joined the fan page? 🙂

      • Kate November 28, 2011, 2:01 pm

        Yes I did! I saw the pic but it doesn’t help really haha!!! What is the consistency? What’s in it? Pudding is something you make from a Jello box where I’m from!!

        • simplybeingmum November 29, 2011, 10:28 am

          Hmm let’s see – it’s a bit like a steamed pudding but a thicker consistency. Lots of dried fruit, alcohol, and quite heavy! I’ll be posting recipe soon 🙂

  • Kate November 28, 2011, 3:42 am

    What the heck *IS* a pud?

    • simplybeingmum November 28, 2011, 9:19 am

      Hi Kate – A Christmas Pudding – if you take a look at my No Waste Tastes Great Post Friday there’s a photo – but tell you what I pop one of Facebook just for you as I think you’ve joined the fan page? 🙂

      • Kate November 28, 2011, 2:01 pm

        Yes I did! I saw the pic but it doesn’t help really haha!!! What is the consistency? What’s in it? Pudding is something you make from a Jello box where I’m from!!

        • simplybeingmum November 29, 2011, 10:28 am

          Hmm let’s see – it’s a bit like a steamed pudding but a thicker consistency. Lots of dried fruit, alcohol, and quite heavy! I’ll be posting recipe soon 🙂

  • Kate November 28, 2011, 3:42 am

    What the heck *IS* a pud?

    • simplybeingmum November 28, 2011, 9:19 am

      Hi Kate – A Christmas Pudding – if you take a look at my No Waste Tastes Great Post Friday there’s a photo – but tell you what I pop one of Facebook just for you as I think you’ve joined the fan page? 🙂

      • Kate November 28, 2011, 2:01 pm

        Yes I did! I saw the pic but it doesn’t help really haha!!! What is the consistency? What’s in it? Pudding is something you make from a Jello box where I’m from!!

        • simplybeingmum November 29, 2011, 10:28 am

          Hmm let’s see – it’s a bit like a steamed pudding but a thicker consistency. Lots of dried fruit, alcohol, and quite heavy! I’ll be posting recipe soon 🙂

  • The Frugal Girl November 30, 2011, 1:53 am

    Oh, your box looks super pretty! I’ll have to keep that in mind for next year.

    • simplybeingmum November 30, 2011, 3:57 pm

      Thanks Kristen – I was embarrassingly impressed with my own handy-work far too much with this one!

  • The Frugal Girl November 30, 2011, 1:53 am

    Oh, your box looks super pretty! I’ll have to keep that in mind for next year.

    • simplybeingmum November 30, 2011, 3:57 pm

      Thanks Kristen – I was embarrassingly impressed with my own handy-work far too much with this one!

  • The Frugal Girl November 30, 2011, 1:53 am

    Oh, your box looks super pretty! I’ll have to keep that in mind for next year.

    • simplybeingmum November 30, 2011, 3:57 pm

      Thanks Kristen – I was embarrassingly impressed with my own handy-work far too much with this one!

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