There’s hardly any more fun time to be a parent than Christmas morning! It definitely feels just as – if not more – exciting as the creator of Christmas magic. But that doesn’t mean it can’t sometimes get a little stressful!
We’ve honestly had all kinds of Christmas mornings – really sweet and happy, and ones with a number of tears. Every family is so different in what works for them, but these are some things we’ve figured out really help our family have a peaceful Christmas morning with our little ones. No Christmas is perfect I hope they help you, too!
One of the very best things we’ve done to ensure a happy, cheerful, grateful, and peaceful Christmas morning the last couple years is to set expectations in advance. On Christmas Eve morning, we have a conversation with our kiddos about the kind of Christmas we ALL want to have – where everyone is grateful and enthusiastic and helpful and kind. And the thing is, they want that, too! Our kids look forward to Christmas for making it special for us and their siblings at least as much as they look forward to it for the presents, so everyone is invested in wanting it to be a happy day.
With that settled, we talk through ways we can all work together to make that happen – choose happy attitudes, choose kindness, choose to be helpful, choose to be grateful. We talk about the thought and effort that everyone put into preparing for the day and in thinking of others, and how we are all so lucky to have one another. We also talk about specific ways to show kindness and also gratitude – cleaning up wrapping paper, pausing to say thank you enthusiastically and giving a hug if desired, choosing to smile and be happy.
Just having that 5-minute conversation has been incredibly helpful in setting the tone for the entire day. Everyone wakes up ready to do their best to do what they can to make it a special day for everyone else.
And with expectations, we also remind everyone – especially the adults – that it’s perfectly okay if things don’t go perfectly. Sometimes we have such high expectations that it feels like if something goes wrong or someone does one rude thing, the whole day is ruined. That’s just not true! We can set expectations and also lower our standards of perfection at the same time. It’s okay if someone feels a bit overwhelmed. It’s okay if someone messes up. We can still love each other and make the most of the day and get back on track. We remind everyone that apologies, repentance, and trying again are beautiful parts of the day.
Get Enough Sleep
It’s so tempting to stay up late on Christmas Eve! This is hard one especially if we’re with family. But since we’ve celebrated Christmas Eve with just our immediate family the last several years, it’s been easier to make sure everyone gets to bed on time on Christmas Even – including the grown ups. In fact, I find that I’m the biggest factor in this! If I can set a tone of being cheerful and not being bothered by little things, my kids are often able to do the same.
This can sometimes be tricky if we need to wrap presents, and is part of why we almost always try to be done with our wrapping beforehand. We might have just a few things to do while we watch a Christmas movie before heading to bed ourselves.
We usually start our Christmas Eve activities around 4:30 or 5, and finish up with a movie at the end. Everyone is in bed by their normal bedtimes, between 7:30-8:30. That way, even if they wake up a bit early from excitement, they’ll still have had a decent amount of rest.
Get Some Movement
There are very few days in the year when we lounge the entire day in our pajamas, but Christmas is one of them! But that doesn’t mean that we don’t still need a bit of movement for our bodies to be happy. This is especially true the day before, and really helps with getting to sleep on time, as well.
We try to go play at the playground, go on a hike, or do some other sort of exercise on Christmas Eve especially so we can get some solid rest the night before. We also like to go on a Christmas Day walk – even if we are in our matching family pajamas!
I remember one Christmas spent with extended family when I was a kid when my two significantly older cousins wanted to want until Christmas NIGHT to open presents. They also wanted everyone to get all dressed up and fancy. I thought that was absolute torture as a kid! I wanted the traditional run down the stairs at the crack of dawn in our pajamas present-opening experience and vowed I’d never do that to my own kids.
So we definitely open presents early in the morning, but we make sure to eat a warm breakfast beforehand. We always put some candy in our kids’ stockings, and there’s just a lot of excitement that morning, of course. So we all do a lot better if we have some real food in our bellies, including something with protein. I always prep everything the night before so it’s easy to bake the rolls on Christmas morning right when I first open my eyes. I always bake the slab pie in advance so it just needs to be reheated and we can start on it while the rolls bake. We also get our family photos in front of the tree taken care of while we wait for breakfast to finish up!
It’s actually really beautiful and lovely to savor the morning and extend it a bit, and it feels so lovely and slow and peaceful. We follow breakfast with opening presents one at a time and enjoying the time together and it’s my favorite. And fortunately, my kids enjoy sitting together to eat before opening, too, and haven’t been bothered by the delay so far. 😉
Open Big Gift and Stockings Last
I know this seems totally counterintuitive, but hear me out. Like most people, we used to always do stockings first. They were fun and easy – and honestly, one of my kids’ very favorite parts of the morning. They LOVE stockings and are filling them with little notes and treats and handmade items the whole month of December, and are just thrilled to see everyone open them up. And they just love all the little things that usually come in their own stockings. (Here’s what’s going in our kids’ 2021 stockings!)
But here’s the thing – they often were so excited and distracted by the stockings that they lost enthusiasm for the other gifts! And that tended to disappoint the gift givers, including me. I didn’t want the special experience I chose to be usurped by a new pen and a box of jelly beans! Plus, I didn’t want them distracted by candy all morning long and fidgeting with al of it.
So the last few years, we’ve done stockings last and it has been the absolute BEST. It allows everyone to stay excited for the thoughtful gifts (including from siblings) without losing steam. And it lets them have something to really look forward to at the end. We always do their big gift (almost always an experience gift) right at the end of all the presents so it’s very exciting, and then let them go to town on their stockings. The stockings keep them occupied for quite a while after while the grown ups relax for a while and everyone watches a Christmas movie.
What are some things you do to make Christmas a special morning that goes relatively smoothly? I’d love to hear!