Family traditions at Christmas

Elf on a Shelf
Elf on a Shelf
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TRISH TAKES FIVE: By Trish Burgess

There’s a new kid on the block this Christmas or, should I say, an Elf on the Shelf. This new tradition - now there’s an oxymoron for you - began in the USA and over the last few years has gathered momentum here in the UK. The idea came from a book about Santa’s scouts who check to see if children have been naughty or nice in the run up to Christmas.

The little toy elf arrives during Advent and, at night, moves around the house. Children have to find him the next morning to see what they he has been up to. Sometimes he’s just having fun with other toys but often elaborate scenarios are created: the elf might be covered in flour, having tried baking in the kitchen.

Elf on the Shelf is a little like Marmite - there are strong opinions for and against. But I find it interesting how, probably due to social media revealing so much about what we all get up to, there are so many family traditions at Christmas that are completely alien to me. New pyjamas on Christmas Eve: who knew that was a thing?

When I think back to Christmas when I was a child, family traditions consisted of buying the Radio Times and TV times and religiously circling the programmes we wanted to watch even though there were only three channels. Mum would always take me into Newcastle to admire Fenwick’s department store windows before trotting round their toy department looking for inspiration. TV on Christmas Day consisted of Top of the Pops, Billy Smart’s circus and Morecambe and Wise plus numerous films none of us had ever seen before.

The extent of the menu on Christmas Day was inversely proportional to how much brandy and Babycham Mum had quaffed in the morning. One memorable year, after a jolly visit to our cousins, the only vegetables we had with our turkey were peas.

Christmas traditions for our own son always involved a visit to see Santa at Baytree Garden Centre and occasionally seeing the old fella somewhere else, such as the Nene Valley Railway. On the day itself, dinner has always been at home, with the grandparents, followed by a few rounds of charades, quizzes and, in recent years, dubious comedy DVDs.

Over the last 60 years NORAD has tracked Santa across the world’s skies on Christmas Eve. Children can now go online and see where he is, a great way to shoo the kiddies up to bed so they are asleep before he comes.

I’ve found a way for adults to enjoy this same treat, pre-Christmas. Buy something which is delivered by DPD and you will be able to track your parcel. I had great fun the other morning, shrieking as I was just out of the shower when he was already in Whaplode. I managed to get dressed while keeping tabs on his progress. I was so excited when he eventually knocked on the door, I was tempted to offer him a glass of sherry and a mince pie.

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