Christmas is my absolute favourite time of the year! I start planning as early as possible, not just because I enjoy the build-up to Christmas but also because I have so many people to buy for and so much to plan for events throughout December.
I always plan people’s Christmas presents way in advance so it gives me enough time to really think about what people would like. This means they get something they want, need or are interested in, and I don’t end up wasting my money buying presents which will ultimately end up in someones bin, at a car boot sale or on eBay for a fraction of the price that I paid for it.
Another reason I plan so far ahead is because each year for my family, Christmas has a different theme. This theme comes in the form of surprise gifts for the family which they are usually given on Christmas Day before we all sit down together for Christmas dinner. Other themes have stretched across the entire month of December! Previous themes include Silly Slippers, home made Advent Calendars, personalised Snow globes and Christmas jumpers.
As the years have gone by I have found it more and more difficult to choose suitable presents for people. I find it especially difficult to choose presents for couples, like my husbands Mum and Step-dad and his Dad and his Dad’s girlfriend. Throughout the year, if there is anything they fancy, of course they just go off and buy it! This usually leaves little to no choice of things to buy for them when it comes around to Birthday’s and Christmas.
I decided in around September 2016 that 2016’s family Christmas theme was going to be Christmas Eve boxes. A craze which originally started in America and is quickly becoming very popular in the U.K, the idea is that children would be given a personalised Christmas Eve box to open early evening on Christmas Eve. Children’s Christmas Eve boxes contain a few stocking fillers, for example a DVD for the family to watch together before the children go to bed, Christmas pyjamas, popcorn or other treats to eat whilst watching the film, a Christmas story book, games and puzzle books and so on. My first thought was why does this have to be limited to children?? I could put an adult twist on these boxes and almost put together a mini hamper for friends, family and couple’s I was struggling to think of suitable presents for. They would be hampers full of treats, games and stocking fillers for people to enjoy before the big event!
I did a lot of research into the boxes – Pinterest and eBay were my main sources for ideas. I found many on eBay which were already pre-made and would be personalised once they were sent. The prices for the boxes ranged from £30 to around £50 dependant on the design. Although I thought these prices were relatively reasonable considering the amount of work which went into the boxes, the cost was too much for me to pay out before I had even begun to fill them! The other thing was, although I wanted all the boxes to be the same size as they would likely all have similar contents, each recipient was an individual, and I therefore wanted each box to be individual.
The first thing I needed to do was to figure out a rough idea of what was to go in the boxes so I could buy appropriate sized boxes to fit everything in. This blog (Part One of my Christmas Eve box blog) will look at items you can use to fill your boxes, whilst also keeping it within your set budget. Not one of my recipients had exactly the same contents in their boxes, and some boxes were for individuals and some for couples, but contents included the following:
- Miniature (20cl) bottles of Prosecco. There are many varieties available from a range of supermarkets, I chose the Plaza Centro Prosecco Doc Brut from Tesco which was £2.25 a bottle.
- Bath bombs. Again, loads of places to get these from, especially if your town is lucky enough to have an annual Christmas market. I got all mine from Lush, prices vary depending on which bath bomb you go for but are around £3.75 to £4.25. I started buying these relatively early (in October) but if you do the same, make sure they are stored in a cool dry place or over time they will absorb moisture and start to dissolve and lose their scent!
- Pyjamas. Primark is my go-to place for stocking filler pyjamas. I managed to get a couple of lovely themed nightshirts for women for as little as £5 and then flannel or fleeced 2-piece pyjamas for £8-£10. I found the men’s pyjamas more difficult to find as Primark didn’t seem to have a very impressive range this year. I ended up buying the men’s from Asda (a brilliant set of men’s Cookie Monster pyjamas for £14!), Tesco Direct (a lovely set of flannel chequered pyjamas for £10) and eBay (a bit more expensive but a much bigger choice of larger sizes XXL and above). Remember, if you are buying thick or fleecy pyjamas and particularly if you are doing a Christmas Eve box for two or more people and are giving them pyjamas, they will take up the vast majority of box space!
- Yankee candle. I thought these were a nice idea as you can get so many lovely Christmas scents including Christmas Eve (of course!), Bundle Up, Cosy by the Fire, Candy Cane Lane, Sparkling Snow, Cinnamon Stick, All is Bright…. you get the picture. They bring out new flavours every year too. I bought the small jars for my Christmas Eve boxes but, costing around £7 to £9 each even on eBay, they were one of the most expensive things in the boxes! You may wish to buy the Yankee Candle melts which start at around 99 pence each on eBay. Imagine finally sitting down on Christmas Eve with the kids in bed, everything wrapped and the food all prepared and lighting your Christmas smelling candle in your Christmas pyjamas after having a relaxing bath with an amazing smelling bath bomb! Magical!
- Slippers. Only a couple of my box recipients had slippers but if you are unsure of buying pyjamas then slippers are a great alternative. Again, Primark have a great selection of slippers and bed socks etc ranging from £2 to £5.
- Chocolate, sweets and other treats! I used a really wide variety of these depending on what sort of thing people like. Most people had a Terry’s Chocolate orange in their box (my sisters and I always had one in our stocking when we were younger!) and there were a few large Toblerone’s thrown in for good measure (milk, dark and white chocolate versions). Marks and Spencer’s really do have some amazing treats – Prosecco or Buck’s fizz flavoured crisps, ginger and dark chocolate popcorn, cookie dough bites and beautiful boxes of chocolates. Asda and Tesco’s also have some brilliant stocking filler treats for £1 or less, the options really are unlimited! Always, always check the best before label on the food items you are buying – most items should be ok but some may have a short shelf life and expire before Christmas Eve (yes – despite being Christmas themed items! This has happened to me! Annoying!)
- Book, CD or DVD. Depending on how much you want to spend on someone, you may want to include one of these – Christmas DVD’s such as Elf, Fred Claus and Home Alone which have been out for years can be picked up brand new from places like Amazon for only a couple of pounds. Places like The Works have great book stocking fillers – puzzle books and quizzes, and this year they had brilliant themed baking books called Game of Scones and the Walking Bread for only £5!
- Silly Christmas hats or head boppers. eBay, Primark, Asda, most Poundshop’s and even Claire’s Accessories have had some great ranges over the years including Elf Ears, Reindeer Antlers, Christmas pudding bobble hats, Turkey hats… the list goes on.
- Silly Christmas sunglasses. These also appeared a couple of years ago alongside silly Christmas hats and should be available from the same places. So far I’ve come across mistletoe sunglasses, Christmas Tree sunglasses, Reindeer sunglasses and Santa sunglasses which have a hat and beard attached! I’m sure you will find many more with just a quick Google, eBay or Amazon search.
Of course you can add absolutely anything to the boxes that you choose! The list is never ending! A friend of mine makes gingerbread houses with her children every Christmas Eve and said she would make them a Christmas Eve box and start including gingerbread house kits and decorations in them every year.
One piece of advice – start with a list of what you are going to buy and cost it up first! Once you have costed it and you know your budget, do your very best to stick to it! It is so easy to get carried away if you don’t have a list to focus on, and then when you are packing up the boxes nearer Christmas, you realise you have spent £30 on sweets and chocolate per box!
You may end up changing some items on the list or adding a couple more if you find some good deals but bear in mind you will spend around £20+ buying and making your box in the first place, so if you had planned on only spending £30 per box this leaves you with limited funds to fill it! Don’t be disheartened though – in this instance you can still buy ten items from places like Poundland and B&M and still fill the box with some lovely items! Of course in subsequent years you can reuse the box and focus a lot more on the contents rather than worrying about what the box has cost to make!
Now that you have made a plan on what to fill your box(es) with, find out how to buy, make and decorate your Christmas Eve box in Part Two of this blog!