Mums on: Christmas survival

Mums on: Christmas survival

How to manage the pleasure and pain of Christmas? Ali Horsfall chats to three mums about their survival plans


Celebrating traditions old and new

Nifa, mum to Ivy, 9, Poppy, 7, Wilfie, 2 and Nancy, 6 months

There’s something wonderful about creating traditions your children will remember. Every year on Christmas Eve I give them Christmas pyjamas – I love it because they get a little present to open and it feels like Christmas has started. This year I want them to match – so my challenge is to find PJs to cover the whole age range! Last year I bought gorgeous stockings too – old-fashioned with hand- embroidered names on them.

Every year I get together with my book group friends and make wreaths. We’ll clear someone’s living room, sit on the floor and make decorations for our doors with ivy, cinnamon sticks, pine cones and bits and pieces we pick up from the local florist. It’s a real tradition that’s just for me – one that doesn’t involve the children.

The in-laws? Ah, they are wonderful. They do Christmas exactly the same way as my parents do. It’s all very magical and they love to spoil the grandchildren. They have the biggest tree you’ve ever seen and everywhere you sit, your hand seems to rest on a box of Quality Street. Having the extra adult help is good too, otherwise it doesn’t really feel like much of a break for me.

I do all my Christmas shopping online. The children would ruin that shopping experience for sure! I’ll go to ELC for quality children’s toys, and John Lewis is my saviour for just about everything else. But I live in London and I do love walking down Marylebone High Street to get that special Christmas feeling.

Get your children to write their lists early. This gives Santa time to get the presents together, of course. Not leaving it until December really helps – for both the budget and your stress levels.


The getaway gang

Emely, mum to Magnus, 3 and Lars, 1

We open our stockings on the 24th – that’s what you do in Scandinavia, and usually we’re in Norway for Christmas. They’ll have small things like magazines, sweets and little toys, to keep the boys occupied in the day. Magnus gets very excited, but Lars is still a bit young.

We decorate the house with lots of home-made stuff. It’s very Scandinavian: wood, lanterns, a lot of whites, reds and greens. But we put up a fake tree in England as we’re often away for two weeks.

I love turkey, but in Norway we eat dried, cured lamb, which I also love. And we make gingerbread – men, reindeer, hearts, all kinds of shapes. I have my great-grandmother’s recipe. Magnus and Lars really enjoy it.

I do most of my shopping on Amazon, to be honest. Magnus loves toy trains, and Brio’s are really good quality. My parents have been buying it for him, so he’s got a massive train track at their house. With my husband Shane’s family, we choose a charity to give to instead of buying everyone presents. It’s nice to be able to help someone. We’ll set a budget, but my sister always goes over it!

I really like the buzz in England running up to Christmas. But I think it’s good that we go to Norway and get away from it all too. Over there we get out and exercise, go up a mountain, run or swim. It keeps us sane.


Country life

Kate, mum to Felix, 6 and Sonny, 18 months

It’s nice to be with family at Christmas, but we also like hanging out on our own, doing things our way. We take it in turns to spend Christmas with my parents in Yorkshire, with Arlen’s parents near us in London, and at our cottage in Devon. The cottage is quite remote, so it’s just us and it’s really special.

I gather little stocking-fillers through the year. And I shop online at We’re both self-employed so how much we spend depends on what kind of year we’ve had. I have a rule though: it’s my birthday in October and I don’t think properly about present shopping before then, it’s too soon.

Father Christmas goes into Felix’s school, which is lovely. He comes to the village hall in Devon too, which feels special because it’s really personal and not too busy.

My sanity saver? A bottle of wine! Also, not panic buying. If you give yourself time to think about people when you buy gifts, you can get something personal, that feels more special.

We blow away the cobwebs by getting out. We walk on the beach in Devon, on the moors in Yorkshire, or just down the road in London. I insist on this, otherwise you go insane with cabin fever. Then you can come back and be ready to chill again.

Photography: Helen Marsden


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