Another Made Up Tradition


made up Christmas traditions  
Apparently there is a new trend, nay even a tradition in town that in all my years of celebrating everything Christmas, including putting up outside lights in near arctic conditions, I have never come across before, The Christmas Eve Box. I’m no Christmas Grinch but isn’t it about time we got back to the real meaning of Christmas?

I really thought I had the whole Christmas thing wrapped up until I read a few recent articles on the web and took a look on Pinterest only to discover that even as a child I had been neglected of an extra set of presents on the night before the big day.

I have absolutely no idea who invented this idea, nor have I any clue who declared it as an official Christmas tradition but I can take a guess that it had something to do with the retail sector and a group of parents who bought in to the idea.

In fact we see so many traditions introduced each year such as be a Time Traveller Day (that happened on December 8th), on the 2nd January 2017 it will be Personal Trainer Awareness Day, and on Friday 13th January it will officially be Blame Someone Else day. I really couldn’t make this stuff up. These are all real days celebrated globally. You read that right, ALL OF THEM ARE OFFICIALLY RECOGNISED AS HAVING A SPECIAL DAY! You need to look them up, because I was stunned that there are serious websites dedicated to organising your calendar and pointing you in the direction of appropriate gifts.

Going back to Christmas, I was under the obviously misguided impression that Christmas Eve was purely about stuffing the turkey, putting some half chewed carrots on a plate next to a glass of sherry, and digging out the presents from the attic once the kids had gone to sleep. What I mean by that is preparing for Santa to somehow climb down a chimney that you just don’t have in a modern house.

These boxes go from one extreme to another. I read stories of children getting a new set of pyjamas, some hot chocolate, and a board game, and I read others where the lucky recipient would receive a Rolex, luxury coffee, luxury chocolate, a gold plated games console and a Lamborghini.

Christmas shopping is difficult enough without the addition of yet another suite of presents that you need to source and of course fund, so I am still asking the question, when did this even become a thing?

There is something elf (else), that I obviously missed in the list of long-running Christmas traditions too. Elf on a Shelf. You buy a doll/elf and sit it on the shelf that you spent so long getting around to putting up. Children cannot touch it because it will lose its magical powers (it’s a doll folks), and the doll cannot move or talk whilst the humans are awake. So Toy Story but stay with me.

The elf/doll then leaves on Christmas Eve catching a ride back home with Santa. Now I might be missing something here, you take a much loved toy away from a child on Christmas Eve and expect that a five year old will fully understand any adult reasoning. All of this at the very same moment that you are peeling potatoes and stuffing a turkey and waiting for the now distraught child to go to sleep so Santa can climb the ladder to the attic where the presents are stored? For those under the age of thirteen, the attic is in the North Pole. 

But it isn’t even that fact that you have taken the Elf away that causes me some consternation, it is the fact that this elf/doll is supposed to ensure that children behave all through December and you are supposed to unravel a toilet roll, spill food, pull the baubles from the tree, and make a general mess of the house you spend so hard keeping clean all year, to provide some comedic impression that the Elf has misbehaved and you do this every day for a month. Shelf your Elf people, this is Instagram marketing at its best and I know it would scare the stuffing out of my child even at fourteen to see a creepy doll creating havoc, let alone the turkey. I watched Childs Play, I know what happens when you play with dolls.


Going back to these Christmas Eve boxes and still I know not of, where or when this tradition became an official thing, if you must keep up with the online Joneses then there are things you can do to reduce the overall cost of keeping the kids entertained whilst you prepare the dinner and drink quantities of Rosé for the following day.

1. Utilise a cardboard box from the local shop and print out personalised labels to stick on the side.
2. Use some off cuts of material and wrap up some cereal, either in a small clear polythene bag or in a piece of hessian cloth and tying a length of ribbon into a bow to create a bag of magical reindeer food. You can even add a sprinkling of glitter or some confetti Christmas shapes for added magic and sparkle.
Print out a note that says that it is Magical Reindeer food and to sprinkle it outside on Christmas Eve.  As Santa’s reindeer fly and roam, this magical food will guide them to your home.
3. We all have old keys sitting somewhere around the house. Mix some paint and glitter together and dip the key in to the mix. Wait for the key to dry, and then wrap up in a piece of hessian cloth, you can tie a ribbon around it too. You will then have a magical Santa key for homes without chimneys which you can leave outside for Santa to use.
4. You can also include a letter from Santa. In the UK you can write to Santa via the Royal Mail but the closing date has passed, it is usually around the beginning of December. There are lots of online templates which can be used though.
5. Sign up for International Space Station alerts and get the time that the ISS will pass over you at then you can take the little ones out a few minutes before and tell them that it is Santa! Of course you will need to be in an area where you will be able to see it, but if you are, the look on their faces will be magical.
6. Mason jars are everywhere and you can often buy the smaller mason jars in packs of two or three. What’s more, many of the discount stores sell them for very little. Add some candy sweets or marshmallows and you will have a sweet jar that can be reused for craft ideas such as snow globes using glitter and small Christmas figures.
7. Buy a Christmas DVD which the family can watch together before the little ones go to bed. Titles such as Elf, Home Alone, and Miracle on 34th Street are classics, but I absolutely love Cool Runnings, and National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. Best of all, many of these can be streamed on Netflix, so why not print a cinema admission ticket with your child’s name on,  sit them in front of the TV, and serve up some Ben & Jerry’s.

elf on a shelf 

Of course Christmas isn’t just for the kids, adults love the festivities too, even if they are hard work. So here are a few things that you can do to add a little extra magic to your celebrations.


You can pick up clear glass salt shakers for next to nothing but if you want to add a Christmas touch, half fill them with salt, and add in a small plastic Christmas tree or Christmas figure.


I had a few old baubles that were past their best so last year I decided that as I had been working with chalkboard paint on a project I would cover them in that. Now the baubles can be written on with chalk and the message can be changed whenever you want. It turned in to an advent to do list in our house, chores were written on and each time they were completed the chores would be wiped off and replaced with Christmas greetings.


If you are looking for ways to spruce up your dinner table there are a few things I have tried in the past and the results have been pretty great!

No one can ever decide where they should sit at Christmas dinner so to take away that hassle I painted some old baubles in matt white and used a Sharpie to write each person’s name on the bauble. The look was completed with the addition of a bow and now they are used every year as name cards. You could also create edible ones and use apples and pears, place a cocktail stick through a piece of card and write the name on the card. Certainly easier than spending half an hour while everyone has a think about where to sit.

Napkins, now these are things that never mind how hard I try I cannot turn napkins in to shapes, they always turn out to look like rolled up snowballs. So I figured the easiest way is to roll up the napkin and use a strip of left over wrapping paper as a band around the napkin, secured with tape or ribbon. It works best if you glue the wrapping paper on to strips of card first and they can be used again.


I managed to buy a large bag of pinecones for around £3 UK from a discount store, and I picked up a plain glass bowl for around the same price. I had some left over spray paint from a project I had started last Christmas and sprayed half of the pine cones in cranberry coloured paint, and the other half in metallic silver. If you want to give the display a modern vibe, you can use colours like bright lime, or whatever colour your Christmas theme is.


If you want a hanging centre piece they can be very expensive. Popular in Nordic countries they really do add a touch of pizazz to any table. This practical tip will also save your mobile phone battery too.

Firstly you need to put the phone on the table and go out for a walk. Suddenly your battery will last longer and you will get some exercise too. While you are walking look for two or three long branches at least one third shorter than the length of your table.

Take the branches home and glue them together on top of each other, then get the remaining Christmas baubles out that you have never used, or use the ones you have covered in chalkboard paint. In fact if you do this you will be able to suspend the name card baubles above where each person is sitting.

Hang the bauble from the branches and tie a length of ribbon at each end that will reach the ceiling. Secure in place and you will have an attractive hanging table centre complete with name cards and you can add some additional decorations too if you want.

Christmas gift ideas 

So there you have it. Despite the many made up traditions you can still have a great Christmas without breaking the bank. I often wonder why people would go out and buy expensive table decorations when sometimes something homemade is not only unique, but also looks better than some of the options available in stores.

This will certainly help to get you in to the festive spirit, and it will bring back some of what Christmas should be about. In fact Norman Wesley Brooks said it all in a poem he wrote in 1976;

Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself.

Peace on Earth, good will to men,
kind thoughts and words of cheer,
are things we should use often
and not just once a year.

Remember too the Christ-child, grew up to be a man; 
to hide him in a cradle, is not our dear Lord’s plan.
So keep the Christmas spirit, share it with others far and near,
from week to week and month to month, throughout the entire year!

Norman Wesley Brooks - U.S. Design Engineer (1923–2002)

Coffee Mugs

Never one to go without at least seven, sometimes eight cups of coffee before I even begin to function, all of my artwork is now available on Coffee Cups! Available in two different sizes and with a 30-day money back guarantee, you will find exactly what you are looking for on my artist site and fulfilled by Pixels here. Choose from more than 200 artworks! Here's a taster, minus the coffee of some of my recent works. 

roller coaster Coffee Mugs cups 
Brexit coffee mug by Mark Taylor kingfisher art by Mark Taylor  

Have a great Christmas everyone!


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