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No one invite the Elf

The elf on the shelf has been evicted. The chimney has been shut to the jolly fat man. There will be no more carrots for reindeer. Christmas with teenagers is a different ball game to Christmas with little kids. We don’t have family here in SA and although heading over the border is something we try to do as often as we can, the reality is that Christmases in our home have had to be reassessed.

The standard waking early to see what presents are under the tree just doesn’t hold the same appeal as it used to. I am a firm believer in Christmas having a ‘magical’ element to it, something that makes it special. But how do you achieve this when there are only five of us, and no-one buys into the jolly fat man any more? I decided to think slightly outside the square a few years ago to start a new family tradition that will ensure the magic will remain well into our kids’ adult lives.

I love cooking, I mean LOVE cooking, so the Christmas roast is a big thing for me. It is my gift to those I love. But as with most Australian families, Christmas Day lunch involves one person spending a great deal of time in the kitchen on a typically hot day while everyone else is having fun. Now we do our cooked Christmas lunch as a Christmas Eve dinner. The nights are usually still very warm and so an outdoor evening meal with fairy lights, candles (total fireban permitting) and a long leisurely feast can be pretty magical and exciting. Even by teenage boy standards.

By eating late, spanning a few hours, we have found that lengthy conversation, reflection of the year gone by and those corny bon-bon cracker jokes makes for lots of laughs and cheer. It is all about family. We decided that first year that instead of trying to wake teenagers up early (6am does not exist in a teenager’s life), we would give the presents at midnight. The thrill of staying up late has replaced the excitement once induced by reindeer and sleighs. The first time we did this

was the year I finally relented and bought the latest gaming console. The kids’ excitement was amplified when, after all the gift-giving, the show-and-tell of presents and the giggles of the dog getting tangled in the ribbon, I said: “Well, don’t stay up too late playing X-Box.” The stunned silence from all three spoke volumes!

They were rapt, and I was happy because I knew a sleep-in was guaranteed. They could stay up until 3am if they wanted to. Win-win!

As expected, Christmas Day started late. How good was morning snuggles with hubby? Bliss! Pancakes and/or bacon and eggs were not called for until later in the morning. Lunch was a simple seafood barbecue. Casual, jovial, stress-free and still all about family. This reinvented, teenage-friendly spin on Christmas means it will remain special and exciting for years to come.

When little kids are back on the books we will adapt again, but I don’t plan on being a grandma just yet! Until then, though, anyone need a freaky looking elf?

(originally published in SA Kids magazine)

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