// 21 December 2018
By Mairead Mackle
It's coming to that time of year where I've started to think about Christmas and what it means to me and what it means for the family. With seven kids it's a combination of love, kindness, tears, tantrums, hugs, kisses, presents and a sprinkle of crazy all in one. I would worry, only I don't think there is a house about that isn't the same as my own. I love the Christmas period - it's a time when after the stressful build up, the world actually stops and takes time out, even if only for 24 hours. Its precious.
I've noticed over the years that traditions have started in our house that have contributed in making Christmas even more special. Some years ago, we started Santa's Gatelodge in Milford, Armagh, as our annual charity event, which we run as the main contributor to iCare, our charity. In doing it, we spend a lot of time preparing to make it as magical and as special for families as we can. One of the things we've done is paint murals on the walls and windows of the Gatelodge where Santa comes to meet the children. When this started my younger children where fascinated with the Christmas window displays, so, we got the windows in the house painted with Christmas scenes, and this is something that has stayed with us over the years. My husband makes the 'secret recipe' mulled win for each night and it's my job to sample it. You could say the Gatelodge is now a Mackle family tradition.
Something my girls and I have started to do in recent years is attend the Georgian Day in Armagh each November. This year we took Caisi, who is now 5, and she had an absolute ball. We had an evening tea before making our way home and she said,
'Mummy that was such a great girls day out'.
Its made me smile to see her feel so involved in the family, and so this is now the start of a brand new tradition for us.
The reason I'm sharing this with you is because I think it's great to establish traditions. They create great family memories, give you something to look forward to and they don't actually have to cost money, although of course they can if you want. I've been on the search for new things to do and I've recommended a few for you here in case like me, you want to get the family together more over the festive period.
Although matching pyjamas isn't something we have got into the swing of, I do like the idea of it. I'm not sure how well it will go down in the family with the bigger kids, but I have a feeling that secretly, we'll all love it. I've been doing my research online and there is such a variety available. Pat Pat online is a website that's new to me, but they have such a wide variety of matching pyjamas for the whole family and are so reasonably priced. I adore Next for comfort and fit, although I know they can be a bit more pricey than other stores, so it really just depends. Of course Primark will have some fantastic options also, unfortunately they just aren't available online for me to go through! I'll definitely be doing a bit of PJ hunting this year, so be sure to share with me if you get to it before I do! Here are some that I have came across.
Christmas Eve Supper
Christmas Eve supper, or as a friend of mine would say, Christmas Breakfast, just on Christmas Eve night, really is a tradition I have taken from my Fermanagh roots, my mother and Father started it in our house when we were little. You know this could be as lavish as soup, followed by steak and mash with desert or it could be as cosy as tea, scones and jam, mmmmmmmm, my mouths watering at the thought! Either way, it should have family at the heart of it, and whether you spend a lot of money and time preparing or its low key and on a small budget, getting the family together and spending time just talking to and listening to one another is the key! I think everyone should take this on this year.
I have a friend and her husband, and, Christmas could literally fall down around them, but they would still make time on Christmas Eve to take their wee boy to the cinema to see the Christmas film of the year. I love that! After the hustle and bustle of all the shopping and last minute bits, they make time to spend together - such a nice idea! An alternative, which I prefer is, to turn the living room into a mini cinema! Here's Caisi and Lucie getting ready for the popcorn as we tune in to the Christmas movie... A firm favourite with me is 'The Sound of Music' & this year 'The Christmas Chronicles'.
Setting the Table
Another idea is to prepare the Christmas table together, set the Christmas Scene in the house with music and candles and get the spices and flavourings ready.
Theres nothing like stuffing the Christmas turkey to bring the best out in everyone! I found this photograph of our table from last year.
Easy Fudge Recipe
Why not try this easy fudge recipe from Warren Nash this Christmas. Made with sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar & butter. It's quick and easy to prepare and perfect to gift at Christmas.