christmas

Christmas bon bon jokes

How many times did you pull on a bonbon this Christmas?

three Christmas bonbons with Santa and Rudolph faces

Santa and Rudolph bonbons

We had them at two family functions, and actually found different jokes in each set. Not that they are necessarily jokes we haven’t heard before, but at least there was variety!

So to add some post-Christmas cheer (or groans as you may be inclined!) here are some of the jokes I came across this year… and they are all family friendly, too!

Christmas and Santa jokes

What do you call a bankrupt Santa?

Saint nickel-less

What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus?
Claustrophobic

Who delivers presents to baby sharks at Christmas?
Santa Jaws

What do you call a kid who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus?
A rebel without a Claus

Where does Santa go when he’s sick?
the elf centre

What did the sea say to Santa?
Nothing! But it did wave…

What do reindeer hang on their Christmas trees?
Hornaments

Boy in Christmas elf costume

Making someone smile makes you feel good too

What do you call a dog who works for Santa?
Santa paws

What do Santa’s little helpers learn at school?
The elf-abet

What do monkeys sing at Christmas?
Jungle Bells, Jungle Bells

What goes OH OH OH?
Santa walking backwards!

Why is it getting harders to buy advent calendars?
Because their days are numbered

Why does Santa love gardening?
Because he goes HO HO HO!

What is the best Christmas present in the world?
A broken drum – you just can’t beat it!

What nationality is Santa?
North Polish

What do you get when Santa stops moving?
Santa Pause

Why is it getting harder to buy Advent Calendars?
They’re days are numbered

Who is Santa’s favourite singer?
Elf-is Presley

Other jokes…

What is green and goes camping?
A Brussel Scout

What’s the difference between a boogie and a Brussel spout?
Kids don’t eat sprouts

There were lots of non-Christmas and non-Santa jokes in our 2014 bonbons if you want some more to read or share!

 

Swap old or unwanted presents?

So how many unwanted presents did you get for Christmas?

Most of us try hard to give gifts someone wants to get, but not everyone gets it right so we sometimes (often?) get gifts that are not useful or not suitable for us.

Christmas presents under a tree, caption 'dealing with unwanted presents'

What do you do with unwanted presents?

Seriously, what do you do with those presents? Let us know in the comments as we all come across this issue from time to time!

I can’t say I’ve tried all of these, but here are some ideas for those presents when you can’t openly improve the situation…

  1. take them to a shop and exchange them – particularly useful for swapping clothing sizes/colours or book titles.
  2. regift them if someone else would truly appreciate the gift
  3. swap the item with someone who wants it – maybe they got a present you would like!
  4. go to a swap shop session where the community can exchange unwanted gifts, such as run in Stevenage, UK, for Christmas 2015
  5. put them in a cupboard to collect dust – not my preferred option and not really a good use of resources…

Advent calendars are up to day 13!

collection of images from teh Lego 2016 advent calendars

We’re now past half way through our advent calendars and Christmas is definitely feeling closer now…

Tonight, we discovered some chairs and a plate of cupcakes for Emma and Naomi, and a man with a remote control device in Lego City.

Collage of day 13 Lego advent calendars

Remember you can read the introduction to our Lego advent reviews or catch up on day 12. And if you’re interested in using a Lego advent calendar after reading our reviews, I don’t think it’s too late – the kids will just have the fun of opening lots in one go, or maybe make it two a day until you catch up. Especially as some places may have reduced the price a lot by now…

What’s cooking on day twelve in Lego calendars?

collection of images from teh Lego 2016 advent calendars

Oops – I’m a bit late with last night’s advent calendar review so apologies for that 🙂

Anyone hungry? The Friends calendar provided my daughter with an array of cooking utensils – plate, knives and forks, along with a hand mixer, frying pan and spatula. Emma was quickly whipping up dinner for Naomi and the two ice-hockey players from Lego City 🙂

Lego cooking utensils and people

Emma using Lego cooking utensils to provide dinner for friends

Over in Lego City, we’ve got a bit more Christmassy light to enjoy… An old fashioned lamp post (not the same as the one we got in last year’s calendar as this one has two lights and a circular wreath) decorated with a Christmas wreath is pretty and welcoming.

Lego Lamp post with a green wreath

Lamps and a Christmas wreath to decorate the Lego City

Which would you prefer to have discovered behind flap twelve – the cooking things or the lamp post and wreath?

If you missed days ten and eleven nine, they are still available – in fact, every day of our Lego Advent Calendar reviews from 2015 and 2016 are online for you to catch up on at any time!

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:

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?

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?

Santa for all

Santa loves all children (and adults!). No exceptions, he’s just a loving person.

So it is always special when others help Santa reach other kids than those who manage in mainstream situations.

girl sitting on Santa's lap

Sitting on Santa’s lap is a delight for many children and all should have the opportunity.

Quiet Santa times

There is a shopping mall in Novia Scotia, Canada, where autistic children can have private chats with Santa in a quiet room that has fewer decorations.

I think that is a wonderful idea to allow those children to experience sitting on Santa’s lap (or beside him), knowing that the noise, movement and crowds in a normal Santa situation could easily overwhelm children on the autism spectrum.

I have heard of other places in the past doing this, too.

The Sensitive Santa Project, run in Nillumbik Council in Victoria is a similar program being run this year. And Sensory Santa 2016 is encouraging shopping centre to hold more quiet Santa visit options – it lists centres across Queensland, NSW and WA that will offer Santa visits this coming Sunday (20 November).

Santa signing to deaf children

Last year, I was just as moved by the story of Santa using sign language to chat with Tilly in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and to communicate with a three-year-old girl, Mali, in Cleveland, USA.

That Cleveland Centre will have Santa signing again this year, as will a school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.

Back in Australia, some 2016 Christmas and Santa events including Auslan are:

Other inclusive Santa experiences?

Have you ever experienced an inclusive Santa experience somewhere? Did you see it make a difference to children who may otherwise have missed out on something that most other kids take for granted?

Santa writing with a quill

Writing letters is one way Santa shows his love for children.

Do you know of any others coming up in Australia this year as I’d love them to be shared and become more common.

Important notes

Santa of course loves all children and will communicate with them as best he can (writing letters to children is obviously a key way he communicates!). But because he is such a busy many, he has some other Santa helpers who take his place in some shopping centres and the like so more children can experience being with a Santa. And that’s why not all Santas you see can use Auslan, other sign languages or communicate in other ways and languages.

I am sure there are many more inclusive Santa events in Australia (and outside of Victoria!), but the ones above were the only ones I easily found via Google. If you know of others, please share them in the comments.

For or against Christmas…

I just think of Christmas as it is now – a family-focussed time of colour and magic, with religious meaning to some. So it’s interesting to find out about how Christmas has been viewed in the past.

An article by Gerry Bowler covers some of the key changes in Christmas celebrations, such as it taking about 300 years after Christ’s birth before his followers celebrated his birth at Christmas.

1911 painting of a family around the Christmas tree

Albert Chevalier Tayler’s “The Christmas Tree” from 1911 is the type of traditional family Christmas many of us imagine for Christmas past.

And I found it fascinating that Christmas was banned during the sixteenth century and actually disappeared from places like Scotland, the Netherlands and even England for a while. it amuses me that “in England and America it had become an alcohol-centered season of low-class rowdiness.”

I guess it is the reappearance of Christmas in the early 1800s that has given us the images of English families sitting around a Christmas tree and building the values of sharing and togetherness I now associate with Christmas.

Of course, there are still many opinions about Christmas – it is not religious enough, it should be removed from religion and be secular, it is too commercial, and so on – but I can’t see Christmas disappearing again and agree with Bowler’s closing words “We may expect [Christmas] to be celebrated and attacked for centuries to come.”

 

* Image is in the public domain

Family time over Christmas

To me, one of the highlights of  Christmas is time spent with people you care about, whether they are family or friends, we all tend to make time to catch up with people during December.

But what sorts of things can you do with your immediate family as Christmas activities? Or with a group you are catching up with?

Thanks to Clair’s comment about finding some family activities for Christmas somewhat challenging, I got inspired and am trying to give everyone lots of celebratory ideas!

Simple activities at home

There are many things you can do, of course, but here are a few categories and specific ideas to get you thinking about how to entertain the kids and family at home in the lead up to Christmas…

boy and two women cooking Christmas treats in Santa hats

Family cooking together is a lovely preparation for Christmas

Outings and other activities

Sometimes you just need to get out of the house or you want the excitement of doing something different, so I’ve also listed some Christmas activities you can visit…

  • walk around your area and check out the decorations and Christmas lights – or visit another area and check out their lights!
  • visit your closest city and admire the displays and activities – for instance, the Myer windows in Melbourne are a popular outings for families. What can you find in your city?
  • take a break and visit another city and check out all their Christmas attractions – don’t forget regional cities can be fun, too, so you can fit a trip into a day or a weekend
  • have a picnic in a park as an informal Christmas party – invite all your friends and tell them to bring their friends
  • get a group of kids together so they can all write Santa letters and Christmas cards together
  • find out where Santa is visiting in your area and go visit him, maybe even get your photo taken with him or some of his elves
  • go for a walk in the bush and see which trees would be good to decorate – or not!
  • look around for some celebrations of other cultures – maybe there is a display or event for Hannukkah, Eid-as_Adhe or Bodhi Day near you
  • deliver some Christmas items to a nursing home, hospital or charity
  • arrange to visit some people in a nursing home, community home, hospice or hospital – just a friendly chat will brighten them up, or you could perform some carols or a Christmas story for them

    Christmas in July displays in Maldon - Mrs Claus, carollers, wombats, kangaroo pulling a koala in a sleigh

    Some of the displays in historic Maldon were well worth the drive.

Add some excitement to your Christmas plans

Set up a family advent calendar where each day you select an activity (eg have them on pieces of paper in a jar – maybe have a weekend jar and a weekday jar though to allow for different amounts of time available) to do as a family.

As well as doing anything in the above lists, what else would your calendar could include?

 

* Images courtesy of 123rf & LoveSanta

BHG Christmas edition review

Better Homes & Garden Christmas magzineSo the latest edition of Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) magazine is out and it is based around Christmas and includes a Christmas cookbook attachment. I grabbed the magazine for inspiration (and witches fingers – see below) and thought I’d share my thoughts on the magazine as I did last year.

BHG “Hello Christmas” December 2016

It does feel a little ridiculous calling it a December edition when I bought it in October, but that is fairly common practice these days… Ironically, the editor writes as if the magazine isn’t published in October (she refers to some people starting Christmas preparations in October as if that was a while ago!) And yet the Priceline advertising feature (6 pages at one end of the magazine) talks about October being Breast Cancer Awareness month

The magazine includes some delicious recipes such as a chocolate orange fruitcake, prawns with hazelnut mayo and seared eye fillet with gado gado-style salad – I’m looking forward to trying some out 🙂

I really like that it includes some Christmas crafts and ideas that are not budget busting, like making coloured linens instead of paying a fortune for pre-made tablecloths and napkins.

On the other hand I just rolled my eyes at the December events calendar – all very interesting if you are in NSW or Queensland but not inclusive for the rest of Australia. Actually, there is a listing for Christmas Melodies in Melbourne (never heard of it before!) but ignoring Carols by Candlelight at the Myer Music Bowl  and other states is a bit nauseating.

If you are looking for recipes and craft ideas for Christmas, then this magazine will help you – and also give you some gardening and decorating information.

BHG “Your amazing Christmas cookbook” 2016

This 36 page cookbook has both recipes and tips for cooking meat beautifully for your Christmas events.

It starts with recipes for chicken, ham and pork (complete with crackling!) then moves onto side dishes such as whole roast cauliflower cheese and roast beetroot with figs, goat’s cheese and thyme. Of course, it finishes off with a Christmas pudding and brandy custard, and some pav stacks.

I haven’t tried the recipes yet, but they are written in clear steps with pictures so I think they will work fairly easily.Better Homes & Garden Cookbook

Witches fingers

witch finger shaped healthy biscuits

Biscuits that look like witches fingers suit Halloween more than Christmas!

Ok, this is definitely a Halloween recipe rather than Christmas but I had the magazine in time for Halloween and my kids had seen these made on the TV show and were keen to try them at home!

It is a simple recipe in that you throw everything in together and mix, but I found it more challenging and it took a lot longer than 10 minutes to prepare them! The mixture is quite thick and sticky while also needing to break up the nuts and fruit. I didn’t use a food processor but tried a vitamiser and hand processor – it was hard work! I’d suggest reducing the size of the nuts before adding everything else.

Santa shaped biscuits

Colour used as eyes and mouth instead of witches nails!

I couldn’t resist trying them in Christmas shapes, and will play with this recipe a bit as I can’t send these to school as they are (no nut policy) – so watch out for a Christmassy adaptation of Fast Ed’s witches fingers!

getting on Santa’s nice list

Everyone wants to be on Santa’s nice list when we get to Christmas Eve!

12 month calendar

Santa decides if you were naughty or nice for the whole year…

But how do you make sure you are on that list?

Remember it is all year

Santa doesn’t just decide who’s naughty or nice on Christmas Eve, or even the last few days before Christmas – he remembers if you were mostly nice throughout the year.

So it’s important to try your best ALL YEAR not just near Christmas time 🙂

 

 

Doing good deeds

It’s a nice idea that we can be nice or good all the time, but in reality we’re human so we make mistakes and sometimes are not so nice.

But the best way to make up for any mistakes or naughty things is to do some good deeds whenever we get the chance.

Most good deeds can be done very quickly and with little effort, but can have a huge impact on the people around us (and our chances of making it onto Santa’s nice list!)For instance, smiling at a lonely person can lift their spirits and picking up a dropped pen for someone with a bad back is very helpful.

Nobody has to know about it for it to count as a good deed, either, so picking up rubbish in an empty park is just as relevant as holding a door open for someone.

Nice things that Santa notices

In case you are wondering what good deeds or nice things you could do (or to acknowledge in others), I thought I’d share some of the good things Santa wrote to Aussie children about last Christmas.

cartoon boy owing grass

Mowing the lawn is one way to help at home

  • being a great brother/sister
  • writing cards/letters to a sick person
  • giving away some toys and books to children who need them
  • doing your best at school/kinder/sport
  • teaching something or helping others learn
  • tidying your room
  • looking after pets
  • being kind to others
  • helping Mummy/Daddy/other at home
  • listening to your teacher
  • making people smile
  • always looking after your friends
  • using good manners most of the time
  • doing homework without being asked
  • sharing your (special toy/game)
  • watering the plants or helping in the garden
  • working hard to learn new things
  • collecting the mail each day
  • being affectionate (giving mum/dad/others cuddles and so on)
  • being reliable and honest
  • helping dad train
  • being brave at the doctor/hospital
  • being generous
  • not giving into yourself (staying clam, not loosing your temper)
  • making things for people (especially drawing pictures)
  • writing thank you notes
  • including everyone in your games

 

*Image created with images from 123RF ( ragnarocks & nazlisart)

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