One of the many great things about starting a new family when you marry and have children is that you are able to take the best Christmas traditions from each childhood and also make new ones. When I was growing up we always had an Advent calendar. Sometimes it was made of cardboard and behind each number, from 1 to 24 was a picture. Later on we got the chocolate ones which carry their own risks in an Australian summer. All three children wanted to open the very first one but, being considerably older than my brothers, I worked out that if I graciously let them go before me that I would always end up with number 24 which had the biggest chocolate. There have to be some perks associated with being the oldest. Another was that as long as I kept quiet, Santa gave me presents much longer than he might otherwise on account of my younger siblings.
A few years ago I asked my lovely sister-in-law, Sarah, to make me a lasting Advent calendar. The numbers are embroidered onto little bags and on the back of each bag is a card with part of the Christmas story on it. The first year we did it, the children were much smaller, I'm afraid I did the very modern thing of not letting anyone miss out and had three little treats in each bag. We don't do that anymore, there is one chocolate in each bag and they are very good at taking turns but in the 25th bag there are three. Each bag has been turned over after it has been opened so on Christmas morning we read them all out together and thank God for the greatest gift of all, his son.
We don't keep many presents under the tree as the temptation is too great. Nobody would dare open one early, but they do get handled rather a lot.
Our newest tradition is gingerbread house making. Last year I bought a silicone gingerbread house mould which couldn't be easier.
Last year we made several houses and gave them as presents. This year is rather more manic thanks to the addition of a ballet concert extravaganza (more on that later) so we have just made the one for ourselves.
One day I would like to decorate one by myself and make it colour co-ordinated, understated and elegant. Children prefer to go for the more is more design theory.
They keep for ages if you don't want to eat them in the end but we definitely did want to eat it so we ate the front of the house and it collapsed into delicious chunks of gingerbread, royal icing and lollies.