It’s the first of December and the Christmas books are wrapped for our annual book advent calendar. There are outdoor lights waiting to be draped over the deck (whose entanglements nearly disentangled our marriage last year) and piles of tinsel that the kids have already started to use as reins – galloping wildly and nearly strangling one another whilst dropping shimmering, shining hairs all over the house. In short – all the old traditions are ready to go. Mess, madness, fun and frenzy! But, is it time for some new traditions?
We are really fortunate to be able to have a Christmas that is colourful and plentiful, packed with the kind of crazy we like best. Which mostly means hordes of family feasting for about a fortnight (slide into your stretchy pants, folks!) but also includes being able to afford gifts, including those from Santa, and all the extra expenses this time of year brings. We know it’s not the same for everyone. This year, in addition to the regular traditions we’ve grown fond of, I decided to set myself a new challenge to do something a bit different from the usual frenzy. Namely – to buy all our Santa / stocking gifts from charity shops.
Okay, so this personal challenge was initially driven by a sense of waste – all that fresh, new plastic! – and thought it would be great to get the kids secondhand presents, for old gifts to get a “second life”. But I was also spurred on by the challenge itself, to see if I could still find good gifts, which would genuinely suit each of the kids, in stores where I had no idea what would be available until the moment I stepped into them. Finally, I was very keen to donate funds to a charity I admire. Last year I was invited to get involved with raising funds for Hibiscus Hospice and I am very inspired by the palliative services , compassion and care Hospice provides for our communities. I had initially planned to limit myself to Hospice Shops only but in the end I also went to two other local Opportunity shops (affiliated with local churches). All in all I went to seven charity shops and spent $190.50 for all three kids stockings, with $180 of that total going directly to Hospice.
As for the process itself – reality hit me after the first couple of shops, realizing it would not be as quick and simple as popping into a big name store and filling up the trolley. It took more digging and lateral thinking than I am used to but I was really lucky (privileged!) to have time on my side. When I did find something that would work I was rapt, much more than I would usually be, and then knowing the money was going to support Hospice just added to the buzz. After a cheap thrill? Try shopping at a Hospice shop! In fact, I found so many great gifts it’s likely I’ll be putting some aside for their birthdays next year.
So, do you want to know what I found? Here goes:
B1 – Seven and a half years old:
Eldest kiddo was by far the most challenging child to shop for. She’s become much more discerning (ahem, fussy) and there was less available for her age range. However, I did manage to find: a beading kit with loom, a pair of flippers, a word association card game, a crafting book, a two person tent, two novels, a Footrot Flats DVD (Hello Kiwis, you know what I am talking about here!), a purse and a set of dominoes.
B2 – Five and a half years old:
Middle kiddo got more of the vintage / expensive things (#champagnetaste); I found for her: a kids pottery wheel complete with clay and paints, a cut-glass jewellery box, a green cardigan, a Roald Dahl novel, a colour-in puzzle, magnetic letters, beads, hair-ties, a silk scarf, a popcorn maker, a melamine plate with sweetpea print and a flower-embroidered tablecloth that fits perfectly over our round kids table for super-stylish tea parties.
B3 – Twenty-two months:
Bubs was hands-down the easiest kiddo to buy for. Charity shops have loads and loads of great baby toys. I found for our baby: a wooden train set, a wooden puzzle, a soft toy rhinoceros, a Pingu DVD and A.B.C. singalong CD, a lift-the-flap Spot book, a soccer ball, a toy remote, In the Night Garden stacking blocks, a plate shaped like an ice-cream and a toy shopping trolley.
To fill out the stockings we will be adding our usual suspects – a bag of chocolate coins and an orange at the toe. I still remember the amusing finality of the big old orange at the end of my stocking when I was a kid and the joy of peeling the wrappers off the chocky coins in two complete pieces, seeing which sibling would save his / her coins the longest. And it seems I’m not the only one to remember these traditions – here’s an explanation for the oranges and another for the chocolate coins (I found the coin one particularly fascinating). It’s probably no surprise when I say that I am a huge fan of Christmas and a huge fan of dragging out the old traditions and magic for my own kids. But there is always room for mixing things up and doing things a bit differently, folding in something a bit new, don’t you think? Adding new traditions where new traditions add something…
Now, someone pass me a hunk of fruit cake, untangle the outdoor lights, whack on the Michael Bublé and get this Christmas Party started…I am ready!
With love and best wishes,
P.S. Here is a handy link for finding Hospice shops within New Zealand. We’d love to hear all your old and new Christmas traditions, please drop us a comment below or on Instagram if that jiggles your baubles… x