santa

Christmas shop fun!

Following on from my post last week about the golliwog Christmas tree, I thought I’d share some photos and comments from a recent visit to a Christmas shop in Melbourne as they start gearing up for the 2017 Christmas period.

Santa was there with his naughty and nice list

A model Santa holding a list of children's names

A Christmas train for Santa around the top of a Christmas tree made me smile…

A Christmas train running around the top of a Christmas tree

And I loved seeing some Aussie Christmas items, too…

A kangaroo and two koalas holding Santa sacks of toys

Santa was also there with Mrs Claus and some reindeer…

Santa, Mrs Claus and reindeer photos in a collage

What do you most enjoy seeing at Christmas shops or Christmas displays in general shops?

Make Santa and his sleigh!

Last Christmas, my daughter’s grade 1 class made some Santa sleighs and reindeer in their art classes. I think they are very cute, and a clever idea on the part of their teacher.

COllage of kids craft work - Santa in his sleigh with a cotton reel reindeer

I love the Santa face and beard some of the children created! The reindeer are very cute but don’t really stand up very well unfortunately – you need something stronger than pipe cleaners really.

Two child-made Santa sleighs and reindeer, with Santa smiling

As this could also be a great craft activity for Christmas in July (and craft in the upcoming winter school holidays may be a good choice!), here is my break down of how to make Santa and his sleigh.

Making Santa and some reindeer is a fun kids' craft activity.

Materials

  • 1 cardboard box with lid (about 7cm long and 4cm wide)
  • sheet of plain paper (could be coloured or Christmas themed but that reduces decorating!)
  • scissors
  • textas, pencils, glitter, glue, etc for decorating
  • double sided tape (or glue)
  • two cotton reels (wooden preferably)
  • 1 brown pipe cleaner
  • 3 glittery red pipe cleaners
  • two googly eyes (you could draw them on if you wanted to)
  • gold elasticized thread or string
  • a golden bell (or a bead will do)
  • a couple of cotton wool balls
  • thick red paper

Instructions to make the sleigh

Cut out two sides for the sleigh, making them about as long as an A4 page.

One end needs to be about 15cm high and the other only 3 cm or so high. The shape in between is up to you – it can slope down quickly like a husky sled or stay high and then slope down like a sleigh (better for keeping Santa warm and his sack safe!)

CLose up images of Santa's sleigh made from paper and a cardboard box

Decorate the cut outs as you wish with colour and glitter.

Sit the box inside the lid.

Doing one side at a time, attach the sleigh sides onto the box with double sided tape (or glue). Leave 2 or 3 cm of the paper past the box.

 

Instructions to make SantaRed paper Santa face made by a child

Take the red paper – cut it into a circle of about 10 cm in diameter (ie 10 cm across the circle).

Cut a triangle wedge – about 1/5 of the circle.

Roll the piece of paper so that the two sides of the wedge overlap and can be taped or glued together.

Stick a cotton ball on the top of the cone and another near the base to be Santa’s beard.

Draw on some eyes and Santa is done!

 

Instructions to make the reindeer

Stick the googly eyes onto a cotton reel.

Fold the brown pipe cleaner in half and push the folded end into the top of the cotton reel with eyes. Depending in the size of the hole, you may want to add some glue to keep the pipe cleaner in place. Adjust the pipe cleaner to look like the reindeer’s antlers.

Cotton reel and pipe cleaner reindeer made by a child for Christmas

Push all three red pipe cleaners through the other cotton reel. Then, adjust them so that there are four ends are equal on each side of the cotton reel – these are the four legs and can be pulled into position.

One of the remaining ends can be shorter and bent upwards to form the tail. Take the remaining end of the pipe cleaner and put into the other cotton reel to join the two reels together, forming the reindeer’s neck.

Note you could make one pipe cleaner a different colour for the tail and neck – I just kept it simple!

Putting Santa with his sleigh

Stick one end of the gold thread onto the smaller end of the sleigh side with some sticky tape.

Thread the bell onto the thread and knot it in place about half way along the thread.

Loop the golden thread and bell around the red pipe cleaner neck.

Stick the other end of the thread onto the other side of the sleigh.

Sit Santa in the cardboard box.

Santa and his sleigh can now be put on a display as a hand crafted Christmas decoration or given as a gift.

Is your Santa black?

St Nicholas and Zwarte Piet at Sinterklaas

St Nicholas and Zwarte Piet celebrating Sinterklaas

With the exception of Zwarte Piet (Black Peter – Saint Nicholas’ companion in Holland), nearly all images of Christmas characters are white.

While I think it is ok to have a specific character be any particular colour/race/religion, there is no need for ALL characters to be one ‘type’ of person. It’s a bit like the old goodies in white hats and baddies in black hats – lots of good people actually prefer to wear black, and there are now stories of good witches and ninjas etc wearing black.

So is Santa black? Given he keeps himself hidden at the North Pole and comes into our homes when we are asleep, who knows what he really looks like? For all we know, he has purple skin and green hair!!

Teaching multiple stories.

I have just read an article by Peggy Albers about the impact of telling a single story. Called ‘Why is Santa black?’ the article explains that having a single story leads us to have a single perspective on things and can lead to narrow thinking.

Peggy suggests we read some stories from a different perspective and stories that show certain groups in different ways.

For example, I once read a version of Snow White told from the step- mother’s perspective. It told of her concerns about the teenager dropping rubbish everywhere (like a trail in the woods!), needing to be tricked into eating healthy food (like apples) and her relationship with the woodsman before running away. It was fun but children hearing that may get to understand that there is always another perspective, another side to the story – and that is certainly a valuable lesson to learn.

Peggy gives examples of Jewish characters being portrayed as poor, living with tension or fearful  of supernatural forces. The main reading I have done with Jewish characters have been set in or around World War 2 (so yes they were living with tension) or dealing with expectations based on deceased relatives (so supernatural forces) – so my own experience agrees with Peggy’s research. However, I also have some life experiences (and heard many other stereotypes) so have a broader perspective of Jews – but I can see how books give a limited view.

array of children's Christmas books

There are many books with Santa – mostly white and human, sometimes an animal.

I intend now to get and read ‘Twas the night before Christmas: An African American version* to broaden my Christmas story – and am glad I have read (and reviewed) some revised versions of Christmas stories such as:

Interestingly, there is a lot of debate about Zwarte Piet – many say he is racist and based on a book written in the 1850s while others say his origins are much older and relate to traditional European Santas having a black assistant who was invisible in the darkness and travelled through chimneys (so was covered in black soot). Accepting the book version of Zwarte Piet gives a different perspective of the character, whereas the historical version has more depth and fewer racist overtones – again, a single story impacts on the perceptions.

Does Santa’s colour matter?

The real symbols of Santa are a red suit, big belly and a white beard.

Yes, most images of Santa do have him as white but I don’t think that has to be the case (and will consciously use some other skin tones from here on myself).

And life is certainly more interesting when we have a variety of stories and cultures, so I’m all for some different Christmas and Santa stories (and there are a few around!)

So, what colour skin does Santa have in your mind? Other than it currently being unusual, would you have an issue with Santa being African or Asian in appearance?

 

* So far, I haven’t had much luck finding this book. It was written and illustrated by Melodye Benson Rosales, and published in October 1996.

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!

 

Christmas at the Zoo!

On Saturday night we were lucky enough to be amongst the Melbourne Zoo members who attended their Christmas party.

It was a lot of fun!

Visiting Santa

For our turn with Santa, a Christmas fairy greeted us and took us into Santa’s cave for a personal chat with Santa then a chance to take a photo. Each child also got an early gift, but only if they could answer a special question from Santa (like “how many reindeer pull my sleigh” and “name two of my reindeer other than Rudolph“.)

Santa at Zoo Member night 2016

Winter Wonderland

Within the winter wonderland, there were multiple snow machines, a couple of craft activities, a silent disco (we spent ages in there!), a family photo scene (complete with snow covered mountains and a Rudolph statue) and a chance to pose with the Penguins of Madagascar.

A jungle gym, festooned in tinsel and bells was very popular, as was an inflatable maze. There was also a little kids area with Christmassy playthings and dressups.

Zoo animals

We were at the zoo, so of course we also walked around to see some animals before enjoying the Christmas activities. Unfortunately, many of the animals had decided to have a nap or otherwise stay out of view so we didn’t see many, but it was nice to walk around in the evening and experience a different sort of atmosphere at the zoo.

Giraffes & zebras at Melbourne Zoo

Entertainment& other activities

To keep us all entertained outside of Winter Wonderland and Santa’s Cave, there were various entertainment options provided.

  • on the main stage, the Party Animals played three sets of mixed songs
  • children were able to write to Santa – there were child-sized tables and chairs, simple letter templates, pencils and a large red letterbox for mailing the letters
  • train rides around the zoo
  • wandering characters stopped and talked to children and had photos takes, and waved to other children as they walked around
  • some performers on stage interacted with children, including teaching them dance moves and handing out prizes

Christmas entertainment images from teh melbourne Z00 2016 party

Day eight is Christmassy!

collection of images from teh Lego 2016 advent calendars

“Mum, today’s calendar is really Christmassy!”

So yelled my six year old upon opening the Friends Lego calendar this evening and finding a snack for Santa and carrots for the boomers and reindeer.

Lego biscuits and hot drink plus a reindeer carrot

Getting a snack ready for Santa and the boomers!

Meanwhile, in Lego City advent calendar, my son found a boy with ice skates and hockey gear.

Lego ice-hockey player in front of advent calendar

Creating an ice-hockey player!

Back to day seven…

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.

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)

Make Santa letters a family tradition

Boy writing letter to SantaWriting letters to Santa is a long standing tradition in many places around the world.

It is a lot of fun and has many benefits for children, but it can also be a family event that is lots of fun.

Writing letters as a family

So how can you make it a family activity?

Basically, you just have to make the time to sit down together and write letters to Santa. But to get you moving, here are a few tips…

  1. make a date and time to do this so it will happen. if you make a date like ‘the first Saturday in December’ or ‘the third Friday in November’ it is easier to become a tradition that will last for years with little effort.
  2. get things set up first – have paper, pencils, textas, crayons and even special things like glitter and stickers. Spread them out on a table, turn on some Christmas or other loved music, and maybe have a yummy snack on hand so the letter writing time can be truly dedicated to being creative.
  3. let everyone ‘write’ their own letter. For very young children, you may write the actual words, but let them draw and write on the letter as well, and make sure they tell you what to write rather than deciding what to write for them.
  4. have a rule that nobody has to share their letter as they write, although encouraging sharing the finished letters can lead to some lovely times together. If someone (usually an older child) wants to keep secrets, maybe they can just read out part of what they have written instead.
  5. let everyone be creative – kids can draw pictures and decorate the letter, anyone can use different coloured pens/pencils for each sentence or even each word, and so on. This is for Santa, not a bank manager or lawyer, so make the letter beautiful!
  6. remember to include something nice for Santa in the letter, it shouldn’t just be a list of gifts you want
  7. have everyone write a letter, not just the kids. Parents can have fun, too, and it may help tip kids towards gifts you want instead of another pair of socks!
Great tips on making writing Santa letters as a family activity

Lessons to be learned

Smiling little girl writing a letter to Santa

Writing to Santa makes children happy! Writing with family is even better.

Writing Santa letters together has a number of advantages, including kids learning some useful lessons such as

  1. how to structure a letter!
  2. why it is nice to write letters and how people enjoy receiving letters. And in modern times, a letter takes more effort than an email or text so receiving a letter is even more valuable so it is a social gift to be able to write letters.
  3. practice writing, spelling and using grammar/punctuation.
  4. thinking about other members of the family – want they may want, what they think is important to tell Santa, and how they use their creativity
  5. using good manners (eg “Santa can I please have…” rather than “I want …”)
  6. Christmas and Santa – it is a great time to chat about what these things are and how your family celebrates them, and to answer any questions your children may have at that time of year.
  7. how to address and envelope and mail it – unless you leave the letters under the tree or in stockings instead of course!
  8. how to relax, have fun and enjoy tradition and magical moments. Remember the kids are given facts and goals all year so it is nice to have some magical and imaginative time, too (as stated by Michael Grose).
  9. having traditions like this help connect the family and set some rhythms that give kids certainty and security over time.

 

Has your family (present or in your childhood) ever written Santa letters together? Are they special memories?

Creating Santa in wood

I just came across a news article that is wonderful so I am sharing it here 🙂

Carving Santas

Ken Miller lives in the USA and literally carves Santas for a hobby and profit!

art of carving in wood with a carver working on the background

Carving wood takes patience, perseverance and practice.

He carves Santa’s face and body into wooden objects such as rolling pins, bowls and shoes (clogs), and then paints them. Some are given as gifts and others he sells at craft markets – what a pity none of those markets are in Australia as I’d love to see his work!

But what I think is really special is that he sometimes carves Santa into old wooden objects that have sentimental value to people. For example, taking the rolling pin of someone’s great grandmother and turning it into a Santa statue that can be placed on a mantelpiece with price each year – rather than keeping the treasured rolling pin locked away in a cupboard.

Do you have any old objects that could perhaps be given new life by being turned into a Santa? Are you game to try the transition yourself?

 

Making Christmas masks

I recently had a short time with my daughter when we had nothing planned so we pulled out a Christmas craft set and enjoyed making some masks.

A packet for making two Christmas masks

The Christmas mask set (from Kmart although the packaging doesn’t show it)

The kit was complete  – most of the decorations were foam stickers so no glue was required and allowed us to make both masks quite quickly.

COntents of the Christmas mask set

We decided to make the Santa mask first – and I’ll do a separate blog post for the reindeer mask.

They are very simple to make – start with the biggest pieces, peel off the backing paper, align it on the mask and stick it down. Depending on the child’s fine motor skills, the aligning part may be challenging and need some assistance – while things not being perfect is fine for kids’ craft, any sticky bits that are not attached will remain sticky and be a magnet for dust and fluff!

Child's hands peeling the bakcing of Santa's hat to make a mask

Child sticking a beard otno a foam santa mask

Adding Santa’s beard took precision to get it straight

The pom pom on Santa’s hat is the hardest part – there are many little bits of foam to remove and then aligning all the lines takes some skill. I would expect adult help is needed with this for most kids under 10.

images of the pompom on Santa's hat

The pompom on Santa’s hat requires fine motor skills to create

Then tie on the elastic and you have a mask to wear straight away – no need to wait for glue to dry! Note to add the elastic, poke it through the holes from the front and tie it behind the beard so when it is word, you can’t see the knots and there is less force on the edges of the holes.

Foam Santa mask over a girl's face

ta da! My daughter proudly wearing her Santa mask

Once the mask is finished, there is a reasonable bit of foam left over – certainly enough to keep my daughter happy with additional stickers to make something else with!

Completeed Santa mask with the left over foam pieces

Do you like our fun Santa mask?

It’s a quick and easy kit to have in the cupboard to pull out when you need some brief entertainment – or if you need a quick costume for a Christmas party!

If you can’t find the kit to buy, you could just buy a sheet of foam to cut out the face and then some adhesive foam to cut out the beard, hat, etc – but you may want to find a pattern for that if your drawing skills are anything like mine!

 

* I purchased this set and receive no rewards (money or otherwise) for reviewing this kit – I have no contractual or business arrangements with Kmart.

Santa’s busy night – Christmas book review

Santa’s busy night

Cover of 'Santa's Busy Night' picture bookThe Five Mile Press, Scoresby, 2015

Age group: preschool

The story

Santa prepares at home then heads out to deliver gifts before celebrating with reindeer at home.

My reviewSample illustration from 'Santa's Busy Night'

I like this board book. While it obviously needs to be simple for young children, it covers a lot of ideas through the text and images.

For instance, it includes colours, numbers and shapes within the story and introduces the idea of Santa being tired out by all he does on Christmas Eve.

The sleigh on the front cover in inset and texture for young children to enjoy feeling – it makes the sleigh shiny, interesting and special.Sample illustration from 'Santa's Busy Night'

I like the happy images of the reindeer, and I like the humour of Santa giving the dog and cat the wrong gifts. On the other hand, I’m not so sure it’s a good thing to give kids the idea that Santa may confuse gifts…

It is a happy story and sure to be enjoyed by any youngster, just as it was by my three year old nephew on Christmas Day!

 

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