This post has some musings from me about my thoughts, our values and what we celebrate at Christmas. I hope it conveys the message that we are very respectful that what is true and right for us is definitely not going to be for the next family. Each family has their own beliefs and what is ‘truth’ for them. That is the beauty in our world. My thoughts here do not pass judgement on what others may do, there’s definitely no right or wrong – only what ‘feels’ right for each individual person and family. All Blessings.
When Chilli was first born and through her early childhood days, it was ‘The Christmas Angels’ that would visit her at Christmas time. They would bring one main gift and maybe 1-2 other smaller things. We were passionate from the beginning about the story of Christmas and the messages of the time being the main focus for her as she grew. Of course there was gifts from grandparents, relatives and close friends – but the receiving of these was spread out over several days as we visited various gatherings. Presents from those that had been sent in the post, were slowly over the 12 days, left out to be enjoyed. We’ve always been mindful within our home, not only at Christmas, but even at birthdays, Easter and other times through the year when gifts are exchanged – that this is done in a calm manner. We hoped the gifts that were given and received would as much as possible be exchanged personally and for our family to sit quietly as the gift was opened – appreciating that gift and the person it was received from. Today in our home with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we try to still bring a quiet and reverent mood to the Festival and especially any present opening times.
When children are young and the world that surrounds them is predominantly of similar values to your own, it is easy to live with the mindset “This is what our family does” – and this is what the children see, believe and take as their truth. But as children grow, it is our experience with Chilli that with that increasing awareness of what other families celebrate, seeing what is around at Christmas time and as their consciousness expands, that it is necessary to be flexible and flow like the river with the story that is held as the family truth.
We’ve never told our children anything negative about what other people believe or celebrate, we’ve just said that this is what our family celebrates and that is what their family celebrates. Each person is visited by the people or beings that their family believes in. If you ask the Christmas Angels to visit, that is who comes to see you, if you ask Saint Nicholas to visit, he will come visit you and if you ask Father Christmas to come then he will be the one to visit you on Christmas – each of them has their purpose and each of them brings their own story. Obviously the question arises at sometime through the years “Why doesn’t St Nicholas visit this friend or that person” and the answer for us has been simple – because he only visits the families that ask him to.
While we are mindful to keep Christmas as uncommercial as possible and as focussed on the story and meaningful coming together through the time, there are also some traditions that are beautiful and that we as parents hold special and dear from our childhood memories. A few years back, I remember deliberating over The Christmas Stocking. I have such fond memories of opening those tiny little parcels on Christmas morning. I’d wake through the night and look over at my door handle to see if the stocking was bulging yet – Had he been? I’d wonder…. I remember the immense joy that was held in each tiny little piece of tightly taped wrapping paper. I remember the feeling of my hand reaching down into the very tip toe of the stocking, hoping and praying that there was just one more teeny tiny little something. Not for the greedy want of ‘more’ but just for that joy of opening those tiny little parcels. Anyone who is a parent knows what joy is held in tiny little treasures for children. Pockets and pouches are filled with any and all matter of tininess. Delicate pieces of coloured paper fold into tiny little fairy notes. Mini jars are filled with tiny little bits and pieces lined up on shelves as thought they hold the most magical contents – because they do! These precious little treasures. There is something magical about the tiny for wee ones. I can tell you that I have vague at best memories of opening any other Christmas gifts through the years, but I can vividly remember sitting year after year alongside my brother unwrapping those tiny trinkets. So I meditated on this Christmas Stocking. Why do we have Christmas Stockings, what is the meaning of them? Would it increase the expectation of ‘more’ and then feed a ‘greediness’ at Christmas time? After much deliberation, conversations with special friends I turn to as mentors and chatting it over with Graham, we decided to include a Christmas Stocking in our celebrations. We also include a lovely little book with a gorgeous story holding the meaning of why we hang stockings. It was the same with candy canes. I stumbled upon organic candy canes and remembered with such fondness the traditions around candy canes when I was younger. It took me again, a lot of meditating and pondering to arrive at the decision to weave these and the story of them, into our family’s Christmas.
Then there is all the fun of the Elf on the Shelf. We never had this as a child, but over the past few years I’ve watched on social media the fun families have with these little folk and thought about including this in our Christmas Festivities. It can be a hard balance – not buying into the commercial hype yet still having fun and giving children modern day relevant experiences. Sure the vintage, Victorian, yesteryear traditions have so much beauty – but our children also live in the world of today. Even if they homeschool, they go to extra curricula activities as they get older where people talk about this movie, that activity and the other new fun thing. I actually didn’t realise the Elf on the Shelf had been around for as long as he has. I thought he was a relatively new little being. Of course I knew if we did the ‘Elf on the Shelf’ thing that I’d not be buying a pre made one, nor bringing the story as is to our children – but I liked the idea of fun weaving through what can sometimes, despite our best intentions for serene and calmness, be a busy preparation time in Advent. There was however a few things about the ‘Elf on the Shelf’ concept as is, that didn’t sit right for me and I couldn’t see it being meaningful or a right ‘fit’ for our family.
I stumbled upon the ‘Kindness Elves’ idea and read these posts. This was getting closer for me – but it still wasn’t ‘there’ as such. I think whatever we bring to our children has to feel ‘just right’. It has to have thought, meditation and mindfulness behind it. Just like Santa, Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas or the Christmas Angels – no one thing is perfect for every family, each one will put their own ‘spin’ on it, add their own personal ‘flavour’. I liked the idea with the Kindness Elves – thinking of others, bringing the message of giving into the preparations rather than thinking about ‘getting’.
Whether we talk about it or not, our children are thinking about what they’ll receive for Christmas. They know gifts have been organised and they know on Christmas morning, they’ll wake to fun things to unwrap. So while we don’t need to put a focus on it and make the season solely about this – it is still a part of the season, and I think to weave some magic into this – however a family chooses to do that, also keeps a sense of reverence to the festivities. I remember as a young child (who wasn’t really that young, I was the oldest in my family and amongst my cousins we celebrated with, so I had the magic kept alive for me until I was quite old!) standing on the front lawn in the dark of Christmas Eve, looking up at the sky in awe as we all watched Rudolf’s blinking red nose go travelling across the sky! I couldn’t believe we were actually lucky enough to see that! I am sure I could even hear the sleigh bells! Really and Truely! I remember my Oma telling me how as they walked through the snowy Spring woods of Germany that my Father and Uncle marvelled at the little white flick of the Easter Hare’s tail that they saw as he hopped off behind the tree from delivering their eggs in the woods. Our Easter egg hunt when I was younger was often amongst big old pine trees, because that is what Oma and Opa identified so strongly with where the Easter Hare left his gifts.
Back to the Christmas Elf idea. I knew I wanted to bring this fun to our Christmas. As I said the preparation period can be busy and I think it’s nice for the children to have some fun amongst that. It helps to keep us as parents grounded as well, by keeping hold of that magic in our daily preparations.
There’s also the consideration that as Chilli is getting older, we watch the occasional movie with her. There are so many lovely Christmas movies that I’d like to watch with her – but of course they all have and talk about Santa. So it’s foreign, strange and meaningless for her. It’s also slightly awkward because there is that question that starts to come up now – “Who is Santa”, “If there’s Santa, well then how is there also the Christmas Angels and who is Father Christmas”. I know she’s getting older, but I really want the magic to still live in her for a little while longer yet. She still does live so much in that early childhood Sanguine realm and magic really does make her Melancholy dissolve and let her take joy in a sense, to ‘Jump Up And Live Again’! It’s beautiful.
So after much meditating, pondering and consideration, as is always the way – I sat doing something focussed today – and the idea on how to answer some of these emerging questions, weave in the beliefs of others that Chilli’s starting to become aware of, open up the lovely opportunity for us to enjoy a Christmas family movie with her and to bring the fun of The Elf on the Shelf with the mindfulness of the Kindness Elves into our Christmas celebrations. I had this story take shape in my mind. The story will be brought in the form of a letter that sits on the laps of our Christmas Elves when they ‘appear’ on the morning of sometime around December 1… Notice I say ‘sometime around’ – yes, I still need to ‘bring them to life’! 😉 Here’s some fun ideas I’ve been saving on Pinterest to help these little beings come to life in my mind! I especially like the inspiration from Anna Bradford’s blog.
Hi Chilli and Marlin.
What a lovely home you have. We hope you don’t mind us visiting. We spoke with Mumma and Papa to see if it would be alright if we stopped in for a little while and they said they were sure you’d enjoy a visit from us.
We are Christmas Elves. We have been busy in the workshop this year, not only making some very precious and exciting gifts for you this Christmas, but also helping out some of the younger Elves that don’t work as fast or are still learning home to do certain things. Gosh, we’ve been; knitting, sewing, painting, sanding, glueing, felting, building and printing. There are so many different things that children from all over the world would like or need this year, that even we’ve learnt some new skills! And we hear you’ve been working on some new skills here as well. Marlin you’ve been learning to stitch and Chilli you’ve been doing some beautiful weaving and knitting. We even hear that you’ve been doing fantastically at school this year with learning to write, read and do maths. Our favourite lessons at school used to be the Science lessons. We love learning all about the rain and the clouds and the flowers and the snow. The bees that buzz and the butterflies that dance. Even the frogs that croak and the lizards that scurry make us giggle. For a large part of the year, it is very cold where we live. It has to be, because we are so busy we need it to be cooler. Running here, there and everywhere, tending to task after task, we get quite warm ourselves. When it is really cold, we get to sit around the log fire and do quieter activities like knitting and stitching as well. Marlin – you’ve been doing some beautiful drawings this year we hear, and your watercolour paintings are beautiful as well Mumma tells us. Chilli we heard that you’e been doing some crayoning drawings of your stories. We hope you can show us some of your work while we are here.
Well, since we’ve finished all our gift making now and everything is prepared in the Cottage for Christmas Eve, we’ve been allowed to come and visit you. Each year we’re allowed to choose some children we would like to go and visit if we’re ready early enough. We hear you still have some gifts to make, cards to decorate, baking to do for relatives and friends and that you’ll be going to some fun Christmas events. We’d love to stay with you a while if you’d like and we could help you with the preparations you are still working on. We’d also like to go along to some of the fun events you’ll be visiting, if you wouldn’t mind to take us. Make sure to keep us safe and close by you when we are out. It can get so busy at Christmas can’t it? We’re not really for playing with a lot, we’re not like your babies in Pumpkin House, we are rather delicate us Elves, so please remember to be gentle with us and just sit us beside you while you play or work.
We’ll have to go back home on Christmas Night, but we’ll enjoy to be here with you for Christmas Eve and Day. We hear you’ll be having a great party Christmas Eve and we’ll be excited to see how you spend Christmas Day. When we go back home Christmas Night, there is a great celebration for us after all the hard work we’ve done through the year. There are so many children in the world that we like to send special gifts to, that really we are working for most of the year. When we arrive home, Father Christmas has a big celebration for us. Everyone has normally arrived home by then – The Christmas Angels, Saint Nicholas, Ruprecht, their White Horse, Father Christmas, all his Helpers and The Reindeer that pull Father Christmas’ sleigh. There are so many of us that help to make Christmas special for the children of the world, you’ve probably seen a lot of Father Christmas’ helpers sitting in shopping centres, walking around town ringing a bell, riding on the back of fire trucks in Christmas parades or helping out at Charity events. We used to only need one helper in every town but now-a-days towns are getting so big we often need several! They even sometimes ask us to send Helpers to be in movies about Christmas! Often these helpers are called ‘Santa’ because it’s an English shortening of the original Christmas gift bringer Saint Nicholas who visits you early in Advent to bring the message that soon the baby will be born. Aren’t the stories about him fun. He loves to tell us about the time he threw the bag of coins down through the chimney hole for the girl who needed a dowry to be married. We laugh every time when he tells us how the bag landed in her stockings. We think he is so special, such a caring man, who sailed across the waters to take gifts to the people who had no food. Saint Nicholas and Father Christmas really are, well – The Fathers’ of Christmas! The Feast we have is filled with the most delicious food you can ever imagine. What is your favourite Christmas food? Ours is peppermint bark – but we have to wait until after dinner for that. We like to eat honey glazed ham and Father Christmas always finds the sweetest carrots to roast. That night we sit around the log fire (because it’s cold where we live remember) and we have warm spiced milk with tiny gingerbread houses. The Elves that choose to stay back at the Cottage and watch over everything – tending to any last minute preparations that need to be done, they normally make those tiny little houses for all of us who go to help the children with their final Christmas preparations.
Oh and Mummy tells us that she told you a special story about Little Parsley’s Star Crown – is it just like the Star Crown that Mother Mary wears on Epiphany? Hopefully you’ll be able to tell us that story sometime during our stay. We always like Epiphany – it’s the last Feast before we go back to work the following Monday – Plough Monday … Is that when you start school again? That was traditionally the day when the farmers returned to the fields as well after their Christmas Celebrations and rest time.
We better get busy then. What do you have on today? What can we help with? We’re excited we can help you get ready for Christmas. Oh and we’ll try to behave, but you know us Elves we can occasionally get into mischief, we don’t mean to – we just like to have fun – just like you do! Hopefully we won’t make too much mess while we’re staying. Perhaps if we do, you could help us clean it up so Mumma and Papa don’t get too cranky!
Let’s have a Happy Advent together and enjoy a fantastic Christmas.
Love from – Well, we actually don’t have names! You see, when we’re at home, we’re just called ‘Elf’ so if you could give us a name that’d really be wonderful – we always think it’s so amazing that children have their very own names! Please, could you give us our own name – make sure you think of something special. We’re excited to see what you come up with.
Do you have a magical Elf that comes to visit your children through the Advent and preparation period? What is your favourite thing abut these Elves, and what is the story that follows your little friends?