Top 11 tips to make Christmas magical for your family

Guest post from: My Travels with My Mum

“Mum, is Santa real?”

It’s the time of year when the seed of doubt about Santa Claus is planted by (or for) older siblings and/or older kids in the school playground.

How do you deal with it? Do you just accept it had to happen one day, or do you try to keep the magic alive just that bit longer?

I’ve always liked Christmas, it may be crass, it may be commercial but it is also the only truly magical time of year in a child’s life.
Birthdays come and go with presents expected no if, but or maybe.
But Christmas... it’s all up in the air – the children don’t know whether they’re on the naughty or nice list!

When my children were little I didn’t have much money and was a single mum, so keeping the magic of Christmas was all the more important for me. Life is tough enough for kids without losing this sparkle too early.

In hindsight I may have gone a little overboard at times but it’s hard not to get carried away when you see just how excited the children are.

So here are my top 11 ways of keeping the magic of Christmas alive:

1. Write letters to Santa
Arrange an afternoon where the kids write letters to Santa.
Get them to think hard about what they have done to be good or even naughty, what they're grateful for or what made them happy that year.  I always tried to emphasise this part in the letters, rather than them just writing a list of wants. 
After they write a decent letter, or dictate a decent letter (I had the younger ones dictate to the older ones - helps with handwriting and empathy/listening skills) they then write their wish list.

When they were younger they either drew their wish list or cut and paste pictures from catalogues onto a piece of paper.

2.  Receive a letter from Santa
My kids loved receiving a letter from Santa in the mail.  I created a personalized letter from Santa by making sure certain things were mentioned: "I saw you helped your little sister fix her broken doll " or  "I saw you were nice to your big sister by not getting her in trouble for breaking your doll" (how did Santa know, Mummy didn’t know!?).  
Another great thing the kids love is a certificate that lets the child know they are on the Nice List.

3. Visit a Santa
Visit the Santa. You can explain the shopping centre Santa is one of Santa's helpers or let them believe he is the real Santa Claus.
They joy of a child sitting on Santa’s lap whispering secrets and being in awe is something special.

It’s the time to look at beautiful decorations in the stores and start feeling Christmassy.
Get a photo with Santa every year, it doesn’t have to be an expensive Shopping Centre Santa photographer, it could be a community Santa, a preschool or school Santa visit, they are everywhere. Just get a photo.

Even now that they have grown, my children and I love looking back at our Santa photos from each year. It’s a time capsule, a set photo on a set date every year and a chance to see how they’ve grown (and make jokes about funny outfits/trends/haircuts).

4. Christmas tree
Decorating the Christmas tree can be a delight. We always picked a weekend closest to the 12th day before Christmas (my house was small so 12 days before and 12 days after became my rule - enough to be festive but not too long so I lose my lounge room space).

The tree decorating day (in fact we decorated everything that day) became our first festive family fun day.
We put the Christmas music on as loud as we wanted, sang along, ate dips and chips, drank soft drink (all things we didn’t normally do). The kids chose the theme or colours on the tree. (I have three lots of decorations - red, silver/gold and aqua - all bought in the post-Christmas sales, so our tree can be different every year). It was a great, fun start to Christmas!


5. The Sneaky present

I started a tradition when my children where around 4 years old.
Every year my children had to ask Santa for one small present that no one in the world knew about.  They told no one of the special present, not even me. They had to whisper it in Santa’s ear when they were sitting on his lap. They had to explain it carefully to Santa so he understood and remembered as he sees so many other children each day. 

While my children were whispering their secret to Santa I would explain to photographer or Santa’s helper what was happening. She would get the information from Santa when we left and pass me a note when we stopped to wave at Santa later. The delight of the Secret Present appearing every year was magical.

6.  The gift of a forbidden present

In the months leading up to Christmas, every time the children would mention a certain toy (in my house it was a doll, like Barbie) I would say “No way! No more dolls, no more Barbies!”
I would complain they already have too many, don’t play with them enough and tell them there was absolutely no way they would get more dolls so don’t bother asking.
Then of course on Christmas morning a Barbie would be in the Santa sack. It would get responses like “Ha ha Mum, Santa likes us better than you do!”

It doesn’t have to be a big present just something that makes sense to reject then gift.

7. Santa’s own wrapping paper

Thank goodness Santa and his helpers in the North Pole used different wrapping paper so that Santa’s presents didn’t get mixed up with the family presents under the tree.
Santa would, no doubt, have a few rolls of special wrapping paper just for gifts from him (and would make sure no one would see any traces of it before or after Christmas).
I always pointed out the pretty paper or how it didn’t match our tree, or the pattern, just to reinforce the notion it wasn’t the same as the family’s.

8. The sounds of a visit
My children's eyes widening when they heard the sound of sleigh bells the night before Christmas are something I will always treasure.
I used an elaborate rig of fishing line that MacGyver would have been proud of to jingle those bells. I would wake them (I know! Who wakes children Christmas Eve!) to tell them I heard Santa nearby and pull this fishing line gently to shake the sleigh bells. They loved it.

9. Santa’s footprints
I would always reinforce the merrymaking with silly little things so the children could feel Santa's presence.
Sometimes, if Santa had dropped off the presents so well without leaving any other evidence, I would offer a helping hand so the kids knew he had been.

I made baking soda or talcum powder footprints in the garden and lounge room (no snow in Australia at Christmas).
I went to a charity shop to buy the largest men’s shoe they had, then either sprinkled powder around it to outline the shoe, or squirted a light misting of water over the soles of the shoe then pressed the shoe down into a tray of baking soda then pressed on the carpet. I made footprints coming in then going out.

I once got carried away and decided footprints on the roof would be a good idea.
It was 10pm, no one was in the house except for the kids, I was on the roof of a two storey house and of course… the ladder fell.
If I yelled out, the kids would have heard me. So I was trying to get the attention of a next door neighbour by whispering as he was unloading his car. Only to eventually get his attention by throwing handfuls of leaves from my gutter. It was the funniest thing you have ever seen. It took 15 minutes for him to notice me.
And after all that effort, the footprints had disappeared by the morning anyway.

10. Feeding the Reindeer
A favourite Christmas tradition in our house is to leave milk and a mince pie or homemade biscuits out for Santa. In the morning the milk and most of the mice pie, except for a pile of crumbs would be gone.

The kids would always leave carrots and lettuce and a bucket of water out for the reindeer. In the morning there would be ripped up lettuce and bits of chewed up carrots everywhere outside and even inside.

I would be so cranky at Santa and his naughty reindeers, the kids would be giggling and laughing as I grumble and clean up the mess that his reindeers made.


11. The mystery present
Do you have kids who shake or sneak looks at their presents under the tree before Christmas? 

Mine were like that; I saw sticky tape on a present restuck down when the kids were aged about 7 and 8. So I took all the real presents out from under the tree and wrapped empty cereal boxes and shoe boxes and put them under the tree.

In a few of the display boxes, I put sticks and rocks so they rattled when the kids shook them.

I explained I saw the opened presents so I returned them and bought other things, and that if the new ones were opened, there would be no presents. They kept shaking and rattling the presents asking “Mum, what did you buy us?” all the time. I would say “sticks and stones” and they would laugh. They never sneakily opened the presents but it’s still a family joke about sticks and stones.


The more you put into a child Christmas experience the more memories it will make and the more your children will be able to see the magic. They more they know you have nothing to do with the idea, the more they will think it’s the magic of Christmas!

Traditions like mine, is where the fun starts. I know I enjoy watching my kids now passing such traditions on to their kids and keeping the magic alive!

What are your Christmas traditions? How do you keep the magic alive?

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  1. I am all for keeping the magic alive and I go to a lot of effort for my kids too. Look out to the kid who breaks their little magical hearts. My husband thinks I'm a little nuts for making sure the wrapping paper santa uses is different to everything else we wrap but its the small things I think. Love the idea of whispering to santa - I might use that one next year.
    Thanks for joining in my Christmas Link Party

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  3. Take a boot or wellington and place it on the hallway floor.Clean around it with flour or talcum powder, and you'll have the ideal layout.Do a couple prompting the tree -your kids will love going in Santa's footprints!


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