We know baby is the best gift you've ever gotten -- but how to make this special time of year special for someone who won't even remember it? You'll remember, so go for the magic. Here's what to do -- and what to skip -- for baby's first holiday.
Get a New Holiday Game Plan
You've been through this before: When you got married, you had to figure out how to split up the holidays (alternating Thanksgiving and Christmas with his family and yours every other year; Hanukkah shared with both, etc.). Now that you have a family of your own, this is the year to decide what's yours and what's your parents'. Where will you have the big holiday dinner? Where will you open presents? Make those decisions now and be clear with your families to avoid any hurt feelings later. Want baby to wake up in her own home Christmas morning? Invite family members to come to you (if you're comfortable hosting) -- if not, make plans to see them later.
Do some pre-holiday cleaning: Go through clothes and gear and pluck the things baby no longer uses or needs (toys she's outgrown, the co-sleeper you no longer use, clothes that don't fit). Give things to charity, pack them away in storage for the next kid, hand 'em off to a pregnant friend. That way, you'll have space for all the new stuff you're about to get.
To ensure that the gifts your baby receives have your seal of approval -- you're the one who'll be looking at, washing, and storing them -- set up an online wish list for her (on amazon.com or target.com for example). Pass it off to the grandparents and others who'll be buying gifts -- then pat yourself on the back come present-opening time.
You've got tons of people to see (and show baby off to), natch, but don't forget to make time for naps and playtime. You don't want your guy being Mr. Cranky Pants in every holiday photo you snap. Remind too-pushy relatives that scheduling some downtime is a necessity -- and is non-negotiable.
Even if you're not with relatives for the holidays, you can still surround baby with loved ones by laminating small photos of family and friends and using them as tree decorations -- or by just making sure lots of family photos are out around the house. Babies love to look at pictures, and this is a great way to give her a refresher on her family tree -- each night before bed, point at pictures and name names. Baby will take in more than you might think.
Start a totally new tradition this year -- something that the three of you will do this holiday and then make a lifelong family ritual. Don't stress over trying to do something big (Rockefeller Center and the Rockettes can wait); small, simple gestures can be just as meaningful. Fun ideas? Give everybody holiday pj's on Christmas Eve and then snap a pic of everyone wearing them. Open gifts from Santa -- just one for each of you -- at a special time when no one else is around. For Hanukkah, play hooky one weekday morning and go out for doughnuts. Do some volunteer work: Work in a soup kitchen, or donate toys to Toys for Tots. Baby won't be able to participate in the good deeds yet, but you'll start the "lead by example" idea early.
The best gift you can give your child? Time. Designate one day during the holiday season as strictly baby day -- and do family stuff all day, with her as the focus (no holiday shopping or errand-running allowed). Take a music class together in the a.m., go for a walk in the park, visit the playground, go out for lunch, and just hang together as a threesome. She'll love all the extra attention, and you'll love the opportunity to slow down and appreciate each other's company.
Our smart mom-sources report that the first year is the primo year to get your adorable Santa photo taken, so hit the mall. Stranger anxiety may not have set in yet, so you're likely to get smiles instead of shrieks when baby gets handed off to the fat, jolly guy. And splurge on a great outfit for the occasion, too -- use this as an excuse to get some super-cute, totally impractical duds for baby (forget about getting lots of use out of the outfit in the coming months; you want it to fit well now so baby doesn't look like he's drowning in his posh velvet blazer).
Take a monthlong break from Goodnight Moon. Buy a special book, then take it out every December from now on and re-read it. We love classics like The Polar Express, The Night Before Christmas, and Hanukkah!
Let the grandparents go overboard, but you and hubby can get baby just one special thing. Think about a gift that baby will one day treasure as an adult and hopefully pass on to her baby. We love the idea of a tiny gold bracelet, a gorgeous silver rattle (Tiffany's Man in the Moon version is a sweet stunner), engraved baby cup, cashmere stuffed animal, or even a quilt made from baby's too-small clothes (just send the clothes off and get the quilt back in the mail -- the elves at willowcreekbaby.com will make it happen).
Nothing says "holidays" like the smell of freshly baked sugar cookies -- but let somebody else do the baking this year. Baby won't get anything out of the tradition this time around anyway, and who wants to juggle a baby on one hip and a hot cookie sheet on the other? Save the cookie baking and decorating for when she's older and can enjoy helping and eating.
Instead of hosting an open house or a big party for the adults, invite other babies and their parents over for an afternoon baby-fest. Let the babies crawl all around and socialize with each other. Have them wear Santa hats or play with shiny garland -- you with camera at the ready -- and see them entertained by all the festive decorations. The grown-ups can sip something festive and swap strategies for upcoming in-law visits.
The old cliche "time flies" never seemed more true now that you're watching your child grow. Pick an object -- the family dog, the Christmas tree, the fireplace at Grandma's house, a favorite teddy bear -- and snap a pic of everyone next to it for the first time this year, and then every year going forward. Print up the photo in black and white and buy a handful of matching frames. You can start a cool, year-by-year display of your family (hey, maybe next year you'll have a bump!) and add a new framed photo every holiday season.
Babies love the glow and sparkle of Christmas lights -- so hang some in her room, whether or not you also put them up on a tree or elsewhere in the house. Just gazing at them together in the dark can make for some special quiet moments. And she'll appreciate the surprise change of scene in her room. Just make sure lights are well out of her reach!
Of course you want to send out holiday cards to show off your beautiful babe, but don't put pressure on yourself to get gorgeous and get in the picture, too. Let baby play with something holiday related -- a shiny ornament, a dreidel, or Santa hat -- and shoot away as she giggles and explores. If she's too little to play, stick her in front of a holiday setting (like a group of poinsettias -- just make sure they're out of her reach) or lay her down on some mod holiday gift wrap. Then upload your photo to a Web photo service (tinyprints.com is one we love), select a template, and get your address labels set. Some sites, like amazingmail.com, will even mail your cards for you -- a super time-saver.
You don't need to travel far to feel like you're in another world during the holiday season. Bundle baby up and walk or drive around town to check out neighbors' creative, kitschy holiday decorations and local shops' holiday window displays (and make sure you have the camera at hand). Baby will be into the bright lights and illuminated holiday scenes -- and you're always psyched for time outside the house.
Help baby experience the holidays through all of his senses. Let him touch and smell a clipping from the tree. Excite his eyes with the tree lights, menorah flames, or sparkly decorations. Jingle some bells for baby (just like on Santa's sleigh) and listen to holiday music. And if baby's old enough, give him a taste of some special holiday foods. He'll love the newness of it all, and you'll love watching him experience holiday fun for the first time.
Copyright © 2007 Meredith Corporation.