Christmas time is one big celebration for us.
We live in Canada with our two girls, but both my husband and I are from the Czech Republic. We only speak Czech at home, visiting our country every year with our kids and it’s really important to show them as much about our country and traditions as we can.
Our Christmas is pretty similar to a Canadian Christmas but one of the most important thing is, Czech Christmas is all about Jesus and celebrations of his Birthday. But! Because we live in Canada, Santa is visiting our house as well, and my kids are very happy about it. As they say, they’re most lucky kids to get the best of both worlds.
We do many crafts and traditions, and because I have new ideas every year and because my kids remember all the things we did the previous years, it may get pretty busy. And messy 🙂 But always with happy kids and mama at the end.
Our Christmas time starts officially on the first Advent Sunday which is the first of four Sundays before Christmas. We make an Advent wreath, lighting up the first candle and starting the decorating.
1. Walks for Christmas decor
We love to go for walks. It may get pretty cold here in Ontario, but we are used to it and enjoying the true seasonal weather. We pick up winter greens, pine cones and just any gifts from mother nature. We like to go to Czech church where the kids can meet St.Mikulas-Nicholas – yes, this man later became Santa Claus. He visits kids in Czech on December 5th, often with an angel and devil, to check on kids if they were good that year. Our kids put their stocking outside and get little gifts like fruit and treats from him.
2. Advent calendar
The Advent calendar is, of course, a very favourite tradition for my kids. Every year we make a gingerbread one and last year I also did a Books Advent calendar. I pretty much collected all the books through the year from thrift stores and then spent the whole night of November 30th packing and hanging them on our stairs; yeap I’m bad with deadlines! What’s different here is that our Christmas day is December 24th, so our Advent calendars have only 24 items.
3. Vintage ornaments
I have many vintage ornaments and we also make some new ones every year. My favourite are those made from mother nature gifts. Dried apples on a string of garland or single rounds or alone (image below), pine cones, garland made of cranberries, dried oranges as round slices or whole “cloves orange”. The oranges are a Czech classic, I make a pattern with a fork and the kids put cloves in; they love to do it and it smells amazing! A true Christmas smell for me! When you put the finished orange on a dry warm place, it will dry out completely and you have it forever. We are adding new ones every year to our bowl on the table.
4. The nativity set
This nativity set is a super simple craft, learning toy, and gift to make. We sent 5 of these last year to family overseas. My six year old just simply drew the nativity scene; since we have many books about it, she had lots of inspiration. We cut them out and glued them in little boxes.
5. Salt dough ornaments
Salt dough ornaments were a huge hit last year. The kids painted some of them for their little Christmas tree in their room and we left some natural because I like our big tree pretty boring and natural 🙂 Recipe is:
- 1 cup of salt
- 2 cups of flour
- 1 cup of warm water (you may not need a whole cup of water, it’s better to add it slowly)
- Bake slowly for about 1 hour at 200F
6. Homemade angels
I have been making these Angels since kindergarten as every Czech kid did I believe. Again, super simple pattern as you can see. The kids cut it and draw the face of the angel along with other details. Then you glue it at the back and wings. Angels are a big part of Christmas in Czech because they came to tell people that Jesus was born.
7. DIY wrapping paper
We make our Christmas wrapping paper every year. I use regular brown paper, roll it out from the living room to the kitchen and let the kids have fun. They stamp it with potato stamps, brush paint it, and splash paint. The painting is pretty messy but entertaining for everyone. We then put our paper roll outside for Jesus or Santa to take and use for our gifts.
8. Christmas Day on Christmas Eve
Christmas day is December 24th in our house. We have Christmas dinner by candlelight and a sparkling Christmas tree – it’s magical! We do some more traditions like cutting the apples to see who has the best star which means you will have the best health next year. After dinner, we go for a walk or simply leave the room with the tree. It maybe be a little difficult for one parent to go back and get the gifts under the tree, especially with bigger kids because they have eyes everywhere. We wait to hear a tiny bell ringing – Jesus telling us he was there – and then we go back to the room and everyone unpacks their gifts. We usually sing a couple Christmas carols to thank Jesus for all the gifts too.
I’m posting many more images of the “craft in progress” on Instagram here. I would like to tell you about the Christmas cards we did, deer heads. We stamped the kid’s feet and then used Q-tips or pencil erasers to do round lights on the antlers.
I hope you will have fun with some of our craft! The most important for me is to spend time together while waiting for this big day. It never occurred to me that kids wouldn’t like to do crafts or read books but maybe that’s because I have two girls?! It maybe be hard to do such things in that busy time and I know I also don’t want to be exhausted at the dinner table. I try to take it easy with work in December and don’t overdo it with all the baking (another big Czech tradition is to have many different Christmas cookies ready), cleaning, and preparing. Christmas time should be exactly the opposite – calm, slow, and enjoyable – even if it’s sometimes (aka every time) hard to do!