Our first Christmas as a family of four {2016}

Our first Christmas as a family of four {2016}

This Christmas was a special one for the PJ family. Did you hear that?

The PJ family.

All four of us.

I’d lost count of the number of Christmases I’d spent in the past dreaming of having a family of our own. Having lost my mum when I was 24 and being estranged from my step-father, we’d spent most of our adult Christmases in the south of France celebrating with my Frenchie hubby’s father and step-mum. And while I loved it, especially the fact we got to celebrate on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in a lovely setting, it always felt like something was missing. I felt nostalgic about the Christmases back home in the North East and saddened by the passing of another Christmas (16 and counting) without my mum. I’d also look at all the Facebook pictures posted by my brother and my friends with their kids and feel a pang of envy and longing. When would it be our turn?

A very adult Christmas

A beautiful, yet lonely, Christmas card we received in 2013

That turn came in Christmas 2014 with the arrival of our gorgeous little Choupie just eight weeks earlier. The year after, I was then pregnant with mon Petit Pudding and we’ve now just had our first ever Christmas as a family of four. The past few years have been marked with a number of losses in the family. My hubby lost his dad in 2013 (he was the only parent left between us), followed by my sister-in-law losing both her parents within a space of a few months, so there was a time when it felt our numbers were dwindling. But with the arrival of our two little ones and our nephew’s twin boys last December, numbers are starting to pick up again.

Time to create new traditions

For various reasons, we decided to spend this year at home together on our own. One thing I’ve realised since having kids is that I now completely appreciate the effort my own parents put into making Christmas so magical for us in our childhood. We didn’t really put much though into what we’d like to for our kids this year, as they are still very young at 26 months and eight months. However, a few things did surface.

Five new traditions in the run up to Christmas

1. Christmas card photo shoot

My hubby has recently discovered a love of photography and this is the second year in a row that we’ve turned our living room into a studio to get pictures for our own Christmas cards. The thing I love most about this, once I get over the fact my job is chief snot wiper and gofer, is that you often get the best shots when you think the photo shoot is over. Here are a few that pics he got on the day and you can see the finished cards in my recent post about the custom of sending Christmas cards.

Petit Pudding 8 months Christmas

An unexpected pose after our photo shoot


Choupie Xmas 2016 baubles

The best photos happen when you don’t try too hard

2. Advent calendars

My hubby’s mum was Danish and when they were ydounger their advent calendars had a special design which my sister-in-law has recreated for each of the kids in the family. I love the fact that we’re handing down this tradition to the next generation and 11 kids in the family now all have the same one each year (even if four of them are more grown up now!)

Preparation for the advent calendar

Preparing the advent calendar for Choupie

3. The nativity

My father used to take my brother and me to Durham Cathedral every Christmas to see Baby Jesus in a manger, and it always felt very magical. Christmas has become so commercialised that I think it’s important our kids understand the true ‘reason for the season’. The year she was born, we received a gorgeous wooden nativity set from my daughter’s Godmother and we have loved playing with it together, re-enacting the nativity scene while singing along to ‘Little Donkey’. Speaking of which, I love a good sing-along and I usually make it to a carol service with my friends one evening. This year we were very badly organised so had a ‘festive’ gathering instead, which resulted in a few sore heads the next day.

4. Christmas books

Monsieur Bout-de-Bois (Stickman) by Julia Donaldson is already a firm favourite in the family, and not just with the kids. We’ve also been given a few French picture books from my sister-in-law which will help them to understand all the vocabulary around Christmas. What cracks me up is the fact that there’s a whole page dedicated to the Repas de Noël. And we’re not talking Brussels sprouts here. Oh no! It’s all about the foie gras, oysters and champagne. Hmmm, no wonder French kids don’t throw food…

Mr Bout-de-Bois

Reading the beloved Monsieur Bout-de-Bout in bed with papa

Choupie Xmas 2016 book

Reading Barbapapa – a French classic, not just at Christmas

5. Meeting Santa

I was pretty organised this year and made my hubby take the first week of December off work so we could all enjoy a lot of pre-Christmas activities, Santa included. I may have gone a bit overboard by booking two sessions, but it was worth it. Our first was at Chessington Garden Centre (apparently it’s well known locally) and the second was at Bocketts Farm. Both were amazing, and although Bocketts was more photo-worthy, I loved the first one the most and it will definitely be one we’ll return to next year. Choupie’s reaction to meeting Santa for the first time was priceless. She just rocked up like he was her old mate and said “Hello, Santa”.

Raphael meeting Santa at Bocketts

Waiting to meet Santa at Bocketts Farm


Choupie meeting Santa at Bocketts

“Hello Santa”

Christmas Day

Because we were at home this year, it was lovely to do it our way, even if I’d have preferred to be surrounded by a lot more family. Christmas Eve was marked with the unwrapping of new sets of pyjamas, some fizz for papa et maman once the kids were tucked up in bed, followed by us setting out all the presents and a half-eaten mince pie and carrot for Santa and Rudolph. I scattered a few stars on the ground to leave a trail where Santa had been and Choupie’s little excited dance once when she discovered all her presents the next morning was probably my best gift ever.

Choupie's Christmas dance

The true Jingle Bell Rock

The only thing I’d like to add next year is a stocking at the bottom of both their beds. My parents didn’t do this for my brother and I when we were younger, so the thought never crossed my mind. But I think it would be a lovely touch – even through I may regret it when they’re older and I’m being woken up in the middle of the night to gasps of “HE’S BEEEEEN!”

Petit Pudding opening presents

Petit Pudding’s first Christmas

The rest of Christmas day was a bit of kiddy fest if I’m honest. We had no water in the region until mid afternoon, so Christmas lunch was a cheese sandwich and we had the seafood and pasta dish that evening instead. Later down the line we may go with the traditional turkey lunch with all the trimmings, but while the kids are little (and fussy!) I didn’t want it to be a big drawn out affair. I guess you could say we have a blank canvas for a new tradition on the food front next year.

Desperate to steal your sister's toy

The two gorgeous babies that make us a family

Post Christmas

Next year I can’t wait to take Choupie ice skating a Hampton Court Palace and it’s something I’d like us all to have a go at once Petit Pudding is old enough. I’ve always done this with Frenchie ever since we moved in together back in 2000 and I’ve missed it these past few years. I’m also looking forward to going to a pantomime, re-establishing the tradition my mum started to celebrate my birthday which falls just after Christmas.

Today was our last day all together before Frenchie returns to work and it’s been so lovely to spend this time as a family without having to rush around everywhere. I’d hardly say it’s been relaxing – is it ever with two little ones? – but it was an amazing Christmas. It was our first family Christmas, our way.

How has Christmas changed since you’ve had your own family?


Hot Pink Wellingtons    Diary of an imperfect mum    Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
The Pramshed




  1. January 13, 2017 / 10:24

    Like the sound of seafood for Christmas dinner actually! Sounds like you had a lovely time as a family- such a special time to create your own traditions xx #ablogginggoodtime
    Sonia recently posted…10 Ways to Anger a 10 Year Old!My Profile

  2. January 12, 2017 / 23:14

    OMG! How cute are your little ones especially with the Frenchie outfit! Well done on the hubby for taking a passion into photo! Your pics are gorgeous! It looks like professional ones! You made so many things around your family. I can’t wait to start my own Xmas traditions with Baba too! You had such what seemed a lovely time! Thanks for joining #globalblogging. I hope you will join again next week!

  3. January 11, 2017 / 22:52

    Looks like you had such a wonderful time. You have some really gorgeous photos there – lovely to treasure them forever. i want to do stockings on the end of the bed next year. We never had them but I think there’s something nice about starting your own families traditions. Happy new year! xx #fortheloveofblog
    Susie at This Is Me Now recently posted…Recipe of the week: Chocolate Key Lime PieMy Profile

  4. January 10, 2017 / 22:44

    Ah this is such a nice and warming post to read, I love all the traditionsame that you’ve put together here and how you have a little celebration of Christmas Eve. It sounds that you’ve created the perfect Christmas. Sorry you had no water, I heard about that on the news. Thanks for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

  5. Laura Legge
    January 10, 2017 / 21:19

    Had a little tear of joy (ok a cry) for you there my love. You’re finally a four…well worth the wait. Your positivity and photos are great and it doesn’t get any better than Christmas with two kids – and it’s only the beginning. Happy new year family PJ XX

  6. January 10, 2017 / 13:18

    Sounds like a lovely Christmas. Since having the girls I have loved started our own traditions and making it all ours. There are things I’ve done for 4 years and things that I add each year. I will have a lot of traditions by the time they are 16! Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove x

  7. January 8, 2017 / 14:40

    It sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas and your photos are gorgeous! I love hearing about other people’s Christmas traditions. Both your Santa visits look fabulous too – I’ve made a mental note for next year. I don’t think two Santa visits is excessive at all – we were supposed to have a second on Christmas Eve, but sadly the chickenpox put a stop to that. I’m looking forward to our first Christmas as a family of four next year! Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    • topfivemum
      January 9, 2017 / 00:51

      of course! The chicken pox. Oh, your poor little man missing out on Santa because of it, the poor thing! Makes me think that everyone should plan two visits to Santa just in case LOL. An exciting year ahead for you my lovely!

  8. January 8, 2017 / 03:09

    There is nothing quite like your own Christmas as a family for setting Christmas on your terms with your own traditions. Sounds like your Christmas as 4 was perfect. #fortheloveofBLOG

    • topfivemum
      January 9, 2017 / 00:51

      definitely! There’s no place like home xx

  9. January 7, 2017 / 20:42

    Oh what a picture perfect Christmas, I really do love the sound of your new Christmas traditions. We also tend to have Christmas at home now that we have a child, and with baby number two due in Spring, I’d love to spend this Christmas at home too, but to be fair, I’m sure both sets of Grandparents would like us to visit them with the new bubba!
    Glad your first Christmas as a family of four went so well, lack of water withstanding!

    • topfivemum
      January 9, 2017 / 00:52

      Oh it sounds like you have so many lovely things to look forward to in 2017. I hope next Christmas isn’t too manic for you!

  10. January 6, 2017 / 14:34

    Sounds lovely, always nice to be able to do whatever you want to on Christmas day. The photos are gorgeous too, they look so cute amongst the presents. We changed a lot over the years and changed a few traditions when we’ve lost family along the way, now we tend to go to my mums but she is moving to France this year so I think next year we’ll do a quiet one at home. I’m quite looking forward to it actually!

    • topfivemum
      January 9, 2017 / 00:53

      We’ve been the same Hayley and you do just have to adapt with the times don’t you. Exciting move for your mum to France – hope 2017 has a few nice trips in store for you xx

  11. January 5, 2017 / 04:11

    Love this post idea and content. I am inspired to write my own. This was our first Christmas as a family of four as well. Thank you.

    • topfivemum
      January 5, 2017 / 22:27

      I loved writing it Suchitra. Give me a nudge when you’ve done yours and I’d love to have a read!

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