Christmas with the Maddens* family

After the year we’ve had, there’s a lot of talk about celebrating a ‘normal’ Christmas this year. But is there really such a thing?

Across the UK, many families will be celebrating in December with their favourite food, their preferred time to share gifts and their own traditions. The chances are that no two households will celebrate in exactly the same way.

As we recognise that sometimes Christmas, New Year and other holidays need to look a little different for the families of care-experienced children, we want to celebrate the beauty and the joy in the fact that there’s really no such thing as a ‘normal’ Christmas.

"I can’t begin to talk about Christmas in our house without thinking back to my own childhood. I have so many fond memories. In our house, we were big into tradition. We did the same thing every year, all our own little rituals. We never opened any presents until after breakfast. My parents had a big curtain in their house that separated the dining room from the lounge, and I remember peeking through it every year to see if Santa had been. Nat King Cole would always be playing on the record player – that crackly soundtrack to every classic Christmas movie. We’d go to church after opening our presents, and we would spend the rest of the day eating.

When my husband and I got married, I was in for a shock. They did Christmas so differently! They were straight into opening gifts, as soon as they were awake. Their dinner looked different to ours too – while my family took our time, taking little breaks for games and conversation between courses, his family had everything all at once.

Bringing our Christmases together was a funny thing. I got my way with the presents; we wait until after we’ve eaten. I’ve compromised to allow for one or two of his things too… And we’ve added a few new traditions into the mix – every year we have crepes for Christmas breakfast!

When our adopted daughter came home, our Christmas traditions stayed largely the same; there wasn’t much that was different, except that we had the enormous joy of another little smiley face around our table, and an extra stocking to hang up! But I was incredibly aware that for her, so much was different. We adopted her through concurrent care (meaning we fostered her when she was a very young baby before we adopted her), and so while in those early years when she still had contact with her birth family, she would have two Christmases; one with us, and one with her birth family a few days earlier. She’s experienced a lot of festive fun in her wee life! Similarly, I was aware that Christmas would be different for the teenager we fostered last year. She had moved on from our home just before Christmas Day, but we made her up a stocking full of presents, and we facetimed on Christmas Eve.

We’ll likely be fostering another little one over Christmas this year. We’ll hold on to our traditions and our favourite things as always; but I’m aware once again that this will be a different Christmas for her. I think it will be one full of mixed emotions. There will be fun, but there will also be sadness due to not being with her mum and her sisters. We’ll navigate that together.

It’s easy to hold on to your version of Christmas. It’s easy to cling tightly to your traditions, your rituals, your favourite time to open presents, your preferred time to eat dinner. But at the end of the day, none of those things matter too much. The things we enjoy most are the games, the silly charades, the quality time together as family. And no matter how different this Christmas is for the children we care for, I know that with love we will draw them into those things too."

*name changed for anonymity

Related pages

Christmas with the Walker* family

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Christmas with the Hobbs* family

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After the year we’ve had, there’s a lot of talk about celebrating a ‘normal’ Christmas this year. But is there really such a thing?

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Christmas with the Abbott* family

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After the year we’ve had, there’s a lot of talk about celebrating a ‘normal’ Christmas this year. But is there really such a thing?

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