If you’ve followed me for more than two minutes, you’ll know that Christmas is a very Big Thing for me. As soon as November hits, I start thinking about, and shopping for, Christmas. For the sake of my husband, I don’t start decorating until December 1st, but believe me, my brain is already all Christmas, all the time (which makes it very difficult to concentrate on anything).
This year my brain has got a bit of a reindeer theme going on. I’ve ordered some matching reindeer PJs for the kids and myself:
And I’m planning to transform our car into a reindeer for our local Christmas parade:
So it made sense, at least to me, that I should include this whole reindeer motif in the kids’ advent calendar this Christmas too.
Last year my three biggest kids (i.e. the children who might actually remember the effort their mother put into making their December totally awesome) each had their own advent calendars, DIY’d by yours truly.
This is what I made my son. So much time, so much effort, so much money.
This year I thought, Nah f**k that, and promptly decided I’d do one shared calendar. I considered doing the Socks on a Line thing I put together in 2015:
This idea is so simple and cost effective that I’d actually recommend it to others.
But then someone shared with me their idea of wrapping books – some old, some new – and letting their children unwrap one each day from December 1st until Christmas. Genius, right?!
As my kids already own a whole bunch of Christmassy books and DVDs (yeah, I’ve decided to throw some screen time in for good measure), and because the Lucky Book Club catalogue is full of cheapo holiday stories right now, this has turned out to be a fairly inexpensive way to celebrate the countdown to Christmas. And, because we actually have fresh ink in our printer for a change, I figured I’d just search out some free reindeer-themed (gotta be reindeer themed) advent numbers. Well.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any reindeer advent calendar number printables.
Fortunately, I have the ability to make things myself.
Now this is something for which I can actually take the credit. Well done, me!
Truth be told, it took bloody forever to make these labels, and by the time I’d reached Day Eight I was ready to call it quits. But, as I’d already invested so much time, I persevered. And because I persevered, I decided I may as well take the extra time to add 24 Santa hats to 24 tiny reindeer faces just because finally reaching Day 24 is pretty much the best feeling in the world. Did you even notice I did that? Did ya?
Because I don’t want anyone else out there to waste as much time as I did making ridiculous Christmas labels, I figured I’d share the love by sharing the PDF. Yep. For nothing, nothing at all, you can get your mitts on my hard work, and pass it off as your own. Go on! It’s free! You can download it right here.
I feel like a real blogger would’ve already put together their advent calendar, perfectly photographing every step they took so they could inspire others with their brilliance. But I think we all know I’m not a real blogger. I designed the printables, and I printed the printables, but the actual advent calendar is not likely to exist for quite a few days yet. Most likely I’ll forget to even update my blog to show you how it turns out. Your best bet, if you’re interested, is just to ahead and subscribe to my YouTube channel. Vlogging seems to take less effort than blogging, and less effort makes me happy.
You know you’re moving up in the world when you start taking part in blogging collaborations…
This December I’m joining in with The 12 Days of Christmas, a blog collab. by 13 women who fit into the “Kiwi Mummy Bloggers” category (but please don’t call me a Mummy Blogger).
The 12 Days of Christmas: Day Six Santa Claus vs. Sinterklaas (and why my kids are visited by them both)
My kids are Kiwi Kids. There’s no denying it. They run around in barefeet, they eat Weetbix for breakfast, and they end a lot of their sentences with, “Eh, Mum?”
But my kids are also Dutch Kids. It’s not easy to spot, but it’s in them. Their dad was born in The Netherlands, they call their paternal grandparents Oma and Opa, and you can practically see their ears prick up everytime they hear the word, “Holland.”
I don’t feel like I’m doing enough to teach them about their roots, to be honest (not that I feel like it’s really my place to anyway – I’ve never even stepped foot outside of New Zealand). But I do try to talk about their heritage as and when I can. And so, when I learned a few years back about some old guy called Sinterklaas who brings presents to Dutch children in early December, I knew I had to adopt the tradition for my own kids.
Sinterklaas has made annual visits to our house since 2011. But who is he?
I referred to him in this (old and incredibly embarrassing) YouTube video as “the Dutch Santa”, but apparently that’s not quite right. A Dutch viewer left me the following comment:
It’s funny, Sinterklaas is not the Dutch Santa. Santa is the American Sinterklaas. When New York was still New Amsterdam, the Dutch people that lived there celebrated Sinterklaas in the US. Other people took over that holiday and over the years that turned into Santa Claus with his own story.
So then I felt bad, because it seemed people thought my description meant that Santa existed first and the Dutch people copied them. But then I thought, Actually, I’m going to keep saying that. Because it’s the easiest way to get non-Dutch people to understand what the hell you’re on about when you mention Sinterklaas. I mean, call me lazy, but if there’s an easy way to make people understand me, then I’m taking that path. You know?
Whoever came first (not that I should say whoever, because it was definitely Sinterklaas, I fact-checked), there’s no denying that Sinter and Santa have a lot in common. And feel free to call me crazy, but I just thought it’d be kind of fun to compare them. So here we go.
Santa Claus vs. Sinterklaas
Santa: A random old dude who lives in the North Pole year-round. Sinterklaas: An actual saint who lives in Spain, but travels to the Netherlands by steamboat in mid-November, where he stays until December 6 (his arrival is a big deal; his departure not so much).
Santa: Relies heavily on his special helpers, the elves. Sinterklaas: Relies heavily on his special helper, Zwarte Piet (AKA Black Pete, AKA The Guy I Don’t Mention To My Kids Because Black Face Is Never Okay)
Santa: Leaves gifts in children’s stockings on the eve of the 24th of December. Sinterklaas: May leave small treats in children’s shoes (or clogs) on any night from the time he arrives in the Netherlands, while bigger gifts are delivered on the eve of the 5th of December.
Santa: Rides in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Sinterklaas: Rides a white horse named Amerigo.
Santa: Has a long white beard, a big, round belly, and wears a thick red suit with matching hat. Sinterklaas: Has a long white beard, an unremarkable belly, and wears a saintly red robe and an equally saintly red hat.
Santa: Does his own dirty work (i.e. he climbs down the chimneys himself). Sinterklaas: Employs others to do his dirty work (i.e. he sends Zwarte Piet down the chimneys – a lot of Dutch people will argue that this is what makes Black Pete black; I stand by my Black Face = Not Okay Ever stance).
Santa: Children leave him cookies and milk, and sometimes something tasty for his reindeer. Sinterklaas: Children leave his horse carrots and hay, and sometimes something tasty for the Saint himself.
Santa: Keeps track of whether children have been naughty or nice by writing their names in lists. Sinterklaas: Keeps track of whether children have been naughty or nice by writing their names in “The Book of Sinterklaas”.
Santa: If children are naughty he will leave a lump of coal in their stockings. Sinterklaas: If children are naughty he will tell Zwarte Piet to put them in a sack and take them back to Spain (OMG, that’s worse than the Black Face thing).
So why do my kids get both?
Like I mentioned at the start of this post, I just want my kids to grow up with at least some idea of what it means to be a Dutch kid. It’s highly likely that I’m getting it all wrong, or that I’m placing emphasis on the things that don’t really matter, but I’m all about making Christmas as fun and magical as possible. And if I can get away with doubling up on Santa just because I happened to marry a Dutchman, then hell yeah I’m gonna double up on Santa. Why wouldn’t you?
I do have to admit, however, that I’ve never made much of an effort to get them to believe in Sinterklaas. I actually reckon they’d all forget about him if I didn’t mention it. But my kids are so willing to believe in things, so ready to accept magic, so eager to receive presents, that I’m going to keep going with it: At the start of December they get a little something from Sinterklaas. At the end of December they get quite a few somethings from Santa Claus. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s an excuse to squeeze as much Christmas out of Christmas as possible.
Every year I wait for my kids to start questioning why they get Sinterklaas and Santa Claus; for them to figure out that there are just too many similarities between the two dudes for any of it to actually be real. But so far my kids haven’t expressed any doubt as to the existence of either of their Santas, and I’m happy to keep it that way. My eldest is eight and a half. There’s a good chance she’ll be a non-believer this time next year. I’m more than willing to allow her to hold onto the magic of Christmas while she can…
Last night, on the 5th of December, my kids made gingerbread for Sinterklaas, and left carrots in their shoes for Amerigo.
This morning, on St. Nicholas’ Day, they woke up to find someone had crept down the chimney to fill their footwear with surprises and treats. And just as they believe in magic, I believe that it’s moments like these that will stick with them forever. If nothing else, they’ll always be able to boast that they were the kids who were visited every year by not one, but two Santas. It doesn’t get much better than that.
– Fern xxx
Want to see all the Dutch Christmas magic unfold?
Tonight’s “Vlogmas” video is dedicated to Sinterklaasavond… It’s worth a watch!
Tomorrow’s 12 Days of Christmas blog post will go live at 12pm over at dorothynada.com
If you like the sound of Christmas in a Jar then make sure you head over to Dorothy Nada so you can read all about it.
I’ll also be sharing the link to that on my Facebook page, so why not go and give that a Like now?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a seamstress I am not. But, it’s Christmastime. And Christmastime makes me want to make things.Like advent calendars. Remember? I made three of them this year. Three. And because they actually turned out kinda, sorta okayish, I felt inspired to make more Christmassy things. And so: Stockings.
Usually we do santa sacks, but we’re having my brother-in-law and his family over for Christmas this year (I AM SO EXCITED), and their kids do stockings. It’s a good thing too, because to be honest we really don’t need Santa bringing sack loads of gifts for the kids. I have just dedicated 100 days of my life to decluttering and clearing sh*t out after all…
Because we don’t own enough stockings to go around (welcome to life with four kids), and because I already had Christmas fabric in my possession, and because I now feel like I shouldn’t buy things unnecessarily, I decided I’d try and sew my own stockings. We’re big on elves around here, so I went with an elfy sort of theme. I mean, who would want a boot shaped stocking when you could have an elf shoe shaped stocking, right?
If you watch the video you’ll see what I came up with, and how you can have a go at making something similar yourself. If you’d rather just get the gist of what I’m going on about, then there’s no need to watch. Just look at that thumbnail. That’s all you need to see.
What Santa traditions do you have in your house? Do you hang stockings, or put out sacks? Do you leave the old man snacks? I wanna hear about it in the comments section, okay? Because Christmas is more than just one day…
I’m cramming two days into one blog post again, because the project is almost over so I’ve kind of mentally checked out already. You’d probably do the same, if you were me. In fact, you would do the same if you were me. Because I am me and that is what I’m doing. And if you were me then you would be me, you know? Yeah. It makes sense.
So anyway, I have done more than two things, actually. It’s just that I didn’t take photos of the vege gardens that I weeded, or the vege bin I cleaned out. Plus those jobs felt kind of nothingish to me. You know, because I’m all on top of things these days. But let’s just get on with this, yeah?
Okay. First thing. I went to the post office.
I’d just like to say that I hate going to the post office. But I did it. I got sh*t sorted and I did it. I posted a Super Special Secret Santa gift (eek!) and I posted an Incredibly Important Items package. The important items came from my secret gift cupboard, the cupboard I sorted earlier in this project. The important items are being donated to some important people who are having a tough time in life, and who need some help to have a Happy Christmas. I really like helping people to have a Happy Christmas.
Now there’s a bit more space in my bedroom. So that’s good too.
Also good is that I got stuck into the Biggest Kid’s photo album again.
There were a lot of photos left to sort through. And there was no glue stick. So I just pulled out the double sided tape, and I put Jingle All The Way on the TV, and I got stuck in.
It took forever (i.e. the entire duration of a PG-rated Christmas movie), but now that sh*t has been officially sorted too.
I like to pretend that I am really good at arts and crafts, but the truth is I’m really not. I’m not particularly patient, and I very rarely manage to get anything I make to end up looking like the creation I had envisioned. But, because I love Christmas so much, I usually end up giving crafty things a go at this time of year. It doesn’t always end well, but when it comes to advent calendars, it does. It really, really does.
Last year I left the whole advent calendar thing until kind of the last minute. That meant I needed to come up with an idea that was super quick, super easy, and super shareable, because who wants to make three different advent calendars only a couple of days out from December 1st?
In the end I decided I’d give the old Socks on a String idea a go. I’m pretty sure I spotted it on Pinterest originally. But I made it my own…
The video quality isn’t the best, after all I’d only just started YouTubing and I was filming everything on my very crappy iPhone. But hey, the content is still acceptable. I think…
The kids loved it. I loved it. Everyone was happy. And we probably would have been happy with the exact same sort of advent calendar again this year. But…
I had this amazing idea after spotting a Christmas wreath inspired advent calendar on Pinterest. What if, I thought, I make a train-themed Christmas wreath inspired advent calendar, using Mr. Three’s Thomas tracks joined together in a circle?
For some reason I am the sort of person who can’t think about anything else after she gets an idea like that. The next thing I knew I was obsessing over Thomas the Tank Engine wrapping paper, and phoning pretty much every shop in town to ask whether or not they stocked it. They all said no, but (to cut a long story short) Kmart was lying. So I bought Thomas the Tank Engine wrapping paper (from Kmart). And then, after a bit of trial and error, I put together a truly impressive advent calendar, using old cardboard rolls, paper, string, and a couple of corkboards. Genius!
It’s not the shortest tutorial video ever, but it’s easy to follow and you’re encouraged to do things your way. It’s kind of fun, I reckon.
So then I had an enormous DIY advent calendar for one of my four children, and nothing for the other three. Hmm. Well, the baby isn’t even quite one and a half yet, so I’ll just cross him off the advent list for this year. But the older two? Miss Eight and Miss Six? Yeah there’s no way in hell I could get away with not making them an advent calendar each. So I went back to Pinterest, and I pinned a few bits and pieces, and then I came up with a plan.
For Miss Eight I created a Shopkins advent Christmas tree. It was so easy! I bought a tree for $5 (guess where I got it from), and then, after hiding a wee Shopkins surprise inside each one, I wrapped 24 cardboard rolls in pink paper with white spots, carefully taping a loop of string to the roll first. After whacking a number on the front of each parcel, I hung them on the tree. And then, because I am clever, I wrapped an extra roll in the same paper, and taped a Shopkins sign to it. Ta da! Done!
So that left one child needing an advent calendar. I just had to come up with one more idea…
Turns out I had an old, square frame just hanging out in the garage. I’d been planning on donating it, but the glass broke under the weight of all the other donations so I’d been forced to bring it back home from the charity shop with me. At the time I was annoyed, but suddenly the smashed glass was practically the best thing that had ever happened to me.
I took the frame and filled it with a piece of thick, gift wrapped cardboard. Then I took 24 more cardboard rolls (smaller ones this time), wrapped them in the paper too, and hot-glued them to the board. After tucking more Shopkins surprises inside, I glued square sheets of wrapping paper to the top of the rolls, and popped a loom band over each one to hold the paper down, like a cute little jar of jam. Once they were all numbered, and I’d added some themesy fun to the frame, my masterpiece was complete.
Miss Six reckons it looks like an advent calendar you could buy at a shop. High praise, indeed!
So the moral of this story is that even if you are handicraftily challenged, you too can make your own advent calendar that actually looks kinda, sorta coolish. You too can post photos of your creations on Instagram and have your friends leave you comments that include the hashtag winningatparenting. You too can live The Fern Life.
It’s really fun, I promise*.
– Fern xxx
*I can’t actually promise that, because to be honest I didn’t have that much fun making these advent calendars. But it was fun enough. And also it gave me an excuse to think about Christmas even more than I already have been. So you know, we all win in the end.
Let me know if you want more detailed instructions for how to make either (or both) of the Shopkins themed advent calendars!