We love living in Bristol, but it does have its downsides, like not being near family – especially as Christmas approaches. We would love to spend a relaxing Christmas at home with Caspar, cooking Christmas dinner for our families (we both make a mean Christmas dinner, they’re missing out!) and falling into our own beds after too much eggnog, but they are in London and Brighton. So every year since Caspar was born, we’ve made the exodus, with Caspar and pets (before Elmo the cat we had two dogs!) to be with our loved ones at Christmas.
We don’t really mind this, as it’s lovely for Caspar to see his grandparents, great-grandmother, aunt, uncles and honorary family, as it is for them (I dread to think how my mum in-law would react if she couldn’t see her beloved grandson at Christmas!), but we discovered after Caspar’s first Christmas that it can make things tricky when transporting presents to and from different locations around the country. Do we take Caspar’s presents from us with us? If so, how the hell will we fit them in on the way back plus all the generous but large gifts from relatives? Do we save them for after Christmas? By then it’s all a bit of an afterthought. Not buy him anything from us? We’re grinchy but the festive ice around our hearts has melted somewhat since Caspar came into our lives!
This year we decided to do something a bit different. We have only bought Caspar stocking-sized gifts that will go in his stocking for him to open on Christmas Day with his family, but this year we also have a DIY advent calendar, that we have filled with chocolate coins and some of said stocking fillers, for him to open throughout advent.
This is the first year Caspar has really understood the concept of advent, of Father Christmas and presents, and Christmas being a time to spend with loved ones and helping those who don’t have as much as us. We’re not religious, but when I was a child, my dad used to take us to the children’s hospital on Christmas morning, to donate toys that we had chosen and wrapped up for the sick children there. I’m not sure if that sort of thing is still allowed (they probably need to PAT test the presents or something nowadays) but I will be thinking of ways for Caspar to understand that Christmas is also about giving and remembering those in need, and we will be making new traditions in this vein, as well as our new advent presents tradition.
I’m hoping that with this new tradition, we won’t have dogs and cats wedged into tiny, unsuitable spaces in the car on the way back to Bristol this year, and that we won’t end up living under a mountain of toys we have nowhere to put. Also that with the presents being a bit more spread out, Caspar will appreciate each gift more and be less overwhelmed and overexcited on the actual day – last year we had to save half his presents for his birthday as he lost interest and got overtired after the first twenty gifts! Because he is our only child, and the only grandchild of both sets of grandparents, he tends to be a bit spoilt. Not anymore!
His advent calendar and stocking this year contain gifts such as a new toothbrush, Peppa Pig (newfound love of his life) toothpaste, a new sponge and Fireman Sam (an ex love) bubble bath, which are things he needs but that also have his favourite characters’ faces on, so they’re exciting for him to unwrap as presents. There are also some fun things like a mini wooden puzzle, a couple of toy animals for his farm/zoo/dinosaur museum, a set of Snap cards, and a mini solar system to hang from his ceiling to teach him about space. I’m hoping this year we’ve struck a good balance between function, learning and fun with his gifts, because let’s face it, at almost three years old, he’ll probably still be more interested in the boxes! I’m hoping we’ve got another couple of years until he starts begging for the must-have toys he sees on the (outrageous!) TV ads that will make him fit in with his school friends. We’ll reevaluate then, but for now, the advent fairy has been, and so far, he’s very pleased with day one’s Peppa Pig Christmas DVD and chocolate coins! Now to put up the tree and the decorations, and embrace the festive kitsch aesthetic of the season! Deck the halls and all that…