I really enjoy the lead up to Christmas. We've evolved a great family tradition that really helps to get everyone geared up for the season, using a refillable advent calendar. Ours is a pretty little series of hessian stockings with numbers printed on them, but we first did this using a stack of matchboxes which I'd covered in wrapping paper, assembled in a vaguely attractive pile, and painted numbers onto.
I have a lot of fun planning the filling of the stockings, and it's a great way of building up excitement. Some days I'll put chocolate or sweets in, some days it's vouchers and others little toys or (now they're older) little girly stuff like nail stickers, lip balms or charm beads. If something doesn't fit, I hide it somewhere and put a clue to what it is and its location into the stocking.
The vouchers are everyone's favourite though, and I print these myself. Mostly, these are family things and mark some kind of focused time that we don't always remember to build into our busy lives. Some of the things I included on vouchers last year include:
- trip into town on the bus to see the Christmas lights (and get a hot chocolate in a nice coffee place)
- baking session(s)
- crafts - making decorations or gift boxes to share the baking around
- family movie night (sometimes this is cinema vouchers, sometimes a new DVD)
- family games night (again, this might be accompanied by a new board game, or Wii game, or a set of pen and paper game ideas)
- trip to the zoo (when they were younger, we took them to the local city farm to see the 'reingoats'!)