Christmas today

We’re up to day seven of advent calendars!

Day seven and the kids had to open the calendars early today as we went to a Christmas celebration.

Do you tend to open the calendars at the same time each day, or just when you think of it? It feels right to us to do it a little before bed time so it is really counting down the sleeps until Santa arrives, but the principle applies whenever you open the flaps!

At first, my daughter was surprised to find a fireplace in the Lego Friends calendar, but then she realised you have to have a fireplace to have a chimney for Santa to come down, plus the calendar setting was cold so a fire would keep Emma and Naomi warm. The tiny instructions didn’t help with getting the fireplace together – it was beyond my six year old and I ended up making it for her.

A Lego fire under a wreath

A warm fire burning beneath and Christmas wreath

Lego City calendar, on the other hand, gave us a green wreath on a …fence? mantelpiece? building top? What do you think the wreath is attached to?

Lego City Christmas wreath

Lego City Christmas wreath

If you have missed them, you can start on day one of our advent calendar reviews, or go back to day six.

Christmas hair ties

My children enjoy making a small gift to put with a Christmas card for their classmates.

In the last couple of years, they have each made something different. But this year they are both making one gift for the girls and one for the boys.

Christmas hair ties

The girls will be getting a Christmas hair tie made by my children.

Four Christmas hair ties

Four Christmas hair ties

We started with a packet of hair ties and some rolls of Christmas ribbon. Actually, what I used was like a hollow string rather than a ribbon, but any Christmas ribbon will look pretty 🙂

green hair ties and Christmas ribbon cut into strips

Hair ties and ribbon are all you need!

I cut the ribbon into lengths of approximately 20 cm.

Then we simply tied a piece of ribbon onto each hair tie, making the two lengths equal.

child tying string onto a hair tie

Attaching the ribbon to the hair tie

We then tied the ends into a bow.

child's hands with a finished Christmas ribbon bow

A finished bow…

I say simple, but it was more challenging for my six year old than her brother or me – good fine motor skill practice though!

child adding finished CHristmas hair tie to a pile of hair ties

The resultant pile of Christmas hair ties is very pretty and festive! And hopefully will make  a number of young girls happy when they open their envelopes.

array of CHristmas cards and envelopes with hair ties included

Cards and Christmas hair ties ready to hand out at school

Other children’s craft

If you are looking for other ideas of things children can make as token gifts to classmates and the like, have a look at previous things I’ve made with my kids:

On the sixth day of Christmas…

Our Lego sets gave to us… A snow plough attachment and a little pet!

Just be glad you could hear yourself sing the 12 days of Christmas that rather than me!

So the Lego City advent calendar tonight was an attachment for last night’s machine so that we now have a snow plough and some snow!

A fire fighter driving a snow plough in Lego City.

A fire fighter driving a snow plough in Lego City.

And I think it’s sweet that there are lines on the diorama to match the
snow mobile wheels!

In the Friends calendar, my daughter discovered a small animal and a partial home for it – complete with a water bottle which is very cute.

Lego guinea pig and hut

Lego Friends gave us a cute pet!

Read all the days in the 2016 Lego advent calendars:

Little Miss Christmas – Christmas book review

Little Miss Christmas

Cover image of 'Little Miss Christmas'by Adam Hargreaves
from concept by Roger Hargreaves
Egmont, London, 2005

Age group: preschool

I recently rediscovered this book in our attic, so I read it a few weeks ago with my kids on a drive to a family outing, when Christmas still felt a way off!

The story

Santa’s niece, Little Miss Christmas, has the important job of wrapping the presents for Santa to deliver. However, she decides she wants a break so Santa and Mr Christmas have to wrap presents instead.

My review

This was typical Mr Men/Little Miss book and enjoyable to read together – my six and eight year olds both enjoyed it and said it was fun.

little_miss_xmas_innerAs well as being fun, I found that this book was good for starting conversations and thinking. For instance, I was able to get the kids to predict the next step of the story when Santa and Mr Christmas got distracted. Then we talked about whether doing jobs straight away was a better choice and a better way to care for Little Miss Christmas.

It took a team effort at the end to get all the gifts wrapped in time for Santa to leave the North Pole, which was a nice message and had the amusement of how different characters ‘helped’ with the wrapping (Miss Nasty had to be supervised and you can guess how Mr Messy went
).

However, Father Christmas and Mr Christmas hadn’t learned their lesson which was a little more disappointing – and didn’t make my kids laugh either. Readers could be left with a worry that some presents may not arrive on Christmas Eve if Santa and the reindeer take off late – I covered that up with the idea that Australia is so early on Santa’s route that he would not miss our place on Christmas Eve!

So this book was fun with a bit more depth than most of the Little Miss books, and can be enjoyed by a range of age groups.
'Little Miss Christmas' illustration

 

Day five of Lego advent calendars

Is your family enjoying the count down of opening an advent calendar each day?

I am certainly enjoying watching my children delight over their calendars each day – and it is fun to see what Lego items are revealed each day.

Day five…

The Lego Friends calendar gave Emma a friend in the form of Naomi.

Lego Naomi in front of advent calendar

Welcome to Naomi!

My son found a motorised sled in the City calendar and very happily put it together.

Lego motorised sled

Lego City allows for getting around in the snow!

As a reminder, on day four we revealed a fire-fighter with a trumpet and a campfire and flowers for Emma.

Lego advent calendars 2016 day 3

So last night we opened the third flaps of the Lego City and  Friends calendars.

Following on from day two’s guitar, Lego City impressed my son with a microphone and speaker. He is now wondering if he’ll get some more instruments before Christmas via this calendar.

Lego Firefighter holding guitar in front of microphone/

The guitar-toting fire fighter likes her speaker!

The third flap in the friends calendar produced a postbox and a letter! I love this day’s surprise – being able to write to Santa via an advent calendar is great!

Lego Friends cladnar includes a letter box!

Emma can now post letters to Santa – love it!

Check back on day two or day one of the 2016 calendars, or our summary of the 2015 Lego calendars.

How early should Christmas start?

A white Christmas tree with coloured baubles

A pretty Christmas tree display in a shop (taken during November!)

It’s now December and a lot more Christmas is around us.

For example, as of yesterday classrooms at our local school are decorated with tinsel and trees and Christmas parties are in full swing.

Obviously though, Christmas items have been on sale for a while now, along with decorated shops and Christmas centric advertising campaigns. And some will say it all started too early.

I’m ok with Christmas things around in October (on a small scale) and November, although I do find hot cross buns on sale in December a bit much in preparation for Easter!

Has Christmas got earlier?

But did you know that Christmas promotions stated in early spring (that is, during September) back in 1912 and even in August 1914? And complaints about Christmas starting ‘too early’ and ‘earlier every year’ were made in 1954 Britain and 1968 USA. So it’s not really a recent thing that Christmas is getting so early!

Ads for Christmas were published in November 1885, and retailers started with Christmas ‘events’ as early as November in 1888 and 1893.

 

Why have Christmas so early?

Well, it obviously works for retailers to promote Christmas earlier, or they’d have stopped it long ago.

Earlier promotion and reminders of Christmas encourages some people to shop earlier which means

  • less fluster and rush later on for those people
  • being able to spread the expenses of Christmas over a longer period
  • having more time to think of specifics gifts and finding it
  • spreading out the number of shoppers which is good for retailers as there are fewer crowds, less staff needs, reduced risks of stock run outs, and income is more spread out

I found it fascinating to learn that an American social reformer by the name of Florence Kelley strongly supported early Christmas shopping promotions to stop “the inhumane nature of the eleventh hour rush”. She felt that the shopping frenzy in December was “a bitter inversion of the order of holiday cheer”, and I must say I agree! From her essay in 1903, a huge campaign was waged to bring shopping forward as part of Kelley’s fight against child labour and abuse of overtime.

12 month calendar

When should Christmas displays start?

Some people like Christmas advertising to start well before December as it

  • inspires them to start Christmas shopping (to reduce the last minute stress and financial burden)
  • makes them feel good and builds the Christmas spirit
  • can give some good ideas, with time to implement them
  • is a reminder of better weather and holidays ahead.

So how do you feel about Christmas being presented to us from September? Would you prefer it started in November or December?

Day two for advent calendars…

And on to day two of the Lego advent calendars

Today, Emma found some ice skates (for her and for a friend yet to be discovered from the calendar!) while the Lego City calendar revealed a fire fighter with a guitar!

Emma seemed to enjoy listening to the guitar as she skated!

Lego advent calendar day two - firefighter with guiatr and ice skates

A female firefighter with a guitar and ice skates for Emma…

While my daughter was excited to find ice skates, I am aware that day two of 2015’s Lego Friends’ calendar was also ice skates and a little stand for them…

It’s the first of December…

First of December and that means it’s time to start opening advent calendars and counting down to Christmas!

Lego Advent calendars

Like last year, we have Lego City and Lego Friends calendars this year and will share the calendars as we work through December…

Two Lego advent calendars ready to open...

Two Lego advent calendars ready to open…

So today we opened up the day one flaps…

opening day one flaps in 2016 Lego advent calendars

Opening the first flaps for 2016!

Lego City had two snowmen – a dad and his son apparently! – with red scarves.

collage of Lego snowmen from advent calendar

And the Lego Friends flap revealed Emma.

packet and result of Lego Emma in advent calendar

What sort of advent calendar did you start today?

 

The cost of Christmas decorations

Lego Santa, surfboard and Christmas tree in Melbourne

Lego Santa, surfboard and Christmas tree in Melbourne

My family had a great time last year checking out Melbourne’s Christmas sights. And we’re planning to do it again soon.

We equally love Christmas lights and displays on homes, both in our area and elsewhere we manage to visit.

Benefits of Christmas lights

So what is so good about seeing all those lights and decorations?

  1. it’s fun!
  2. they can be very beautiful, and we all need beauty in our lives and to remember to appreciate beauty rather than being so busy all the time
  3. it is a great way to spend some family time, and that is valuable. I still remember Christmas decorations on the street near my uncle’s house form when I was very young – it was a clear sign that excitement was on the way!
  4. Christmas can often bring out the best in people – they tend to be kinder, more generous and remember to show appreciation to people who serve all year – and if decorations and lights help bring that about they are well worth it as peace and kindness is what the world desperately needs at the moment
  5. walking around looking at lights gets people moving, out of the house and interacting with others
  6. it encourages people to visit public resources and appreciate their cities and town centres
Some of the Melbourne Christmas displays from 2015

Some of the Melbourne Christmas displays from 2015

Costs of Christmas light displays

Obviously, every Christmas decoration costs money. And wide scale displays cost a fair bit, especially if you factor in the electricity costs to run a light display.

I was surprised to read recently that it costs about $3.78 million to ‘fund and promote’ the Christmas displays in the Melbourne CBD. I hadn’t really thought about how much it cost before.

It’s a lot of money, and if you add in that most (all?) local councils also spend large amounts of money, it seems somewhat decadent to spend it on decorations rather than spending more on other causes (like homelessness and health care).

So it is worth spending that much money on one month?

Cutting the costs

I love the lights and displays, and I can see benefits to having them. But I am struggling with spending that much money on them.

So for what it’s worth, here are some suggestions from me on how to cut back those costs while still celebrating the Christmas magic.

  1. cut back on marketing and PR – most people know the city has displays without having to be told in a marketing campaign so this seems a large expense for little return. And even then, maybe use designers and marketers rather than big agencies to keep costs lower
  2. invest in solar panels to power more of the decorations – and other things throughout the year of course
  3. swap decorations with other local councils/cities so that they get more use and the costs are minimised
  4. sell tinsel and baubles etc after Christmas to recoup some costs and reduce decorations reaching landfill. Or donate lots of them to hospitals and other child-centric places so they can give Christmas cheer next year
  5. only put large decorations on every second pole so the impact is still there but at a lower cost
  6. consider the necessity of ‘VIP events’ or what is included at them  – the city paying for food for lots of VIPs doesn’t help the city or the locals very much
  7. rotate decorations so each set is used again after 3 or 4 years
  8. get public involvement. For example, a big wall could be covered with kids’ drawings of Christmas trees instead of paying for fancy displays

How else could cities and councils cut back on their Christmas savings without cutting back on Christmas cheer?

Enjoying Christmas music

Christmas holly on top of musical notesWhat sort of Christmas music do you like?

I think of three, or maybe four, categories of Christmas music…

Rocking Christmas songs

A few days ago, Pitchfork put out a list of their top 50 Christmas songs ever which is really interesting as they give stories and information about the songs, too. There are certainly songs on there I don’t know so I may have to start checking out rock Christmas songs this year!

Santa hat on a muscial note Who knew Sufjan Stevens has released more than 100 Christmas songs since 2001, for instance?

Or that Frank Sinatra sang three different versions of “have yourself a Merry little Christmas“?

Or that Chuck Berry also sang a Rudolph song written by Johnny Marks (who wrote the original Rudolph the red nosed reindeer)? It was called Run Rudolph Run.

Beads for wildlife Christmas trees

Thanks to BeadWorks in Kenya, I have two lovely beaded Christmas trees to add to the Christmas tree and angel I bought last year.

Christmas trees and star earrings made from small beads

Beads for wildlife made Christmas trees and star earrings

I got these two trees, and a pair of green star earrings, from the Werribee Zoo – various Australian zoos run the Beads for Wildlife program. The program enables local women to create bead jewellery and decorations, thereby having an income (valuable for their families obviously) and reducing the need for large numbers of domesticated animals so there is less competition for African wildlife.

In short, my Christmas trees are contributing to their motto of More Beads = Less Livestock = More Wildlife.

Beaded Christmas trees hanging on a bottlebrush tree

Beaded Christmas trees hanging on a Bottlebrush tree

 

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