We know that waiting for the big day can seem like an eternity, especially for little ones. Will they actually get to see Father Christmas, or at least hear the sleigh parking on the roof?
Will he give them everything that was in their letter, or just one or two very special items?
And how much of the snacks we left out for the reindeer will they actually eat this time?
It’s all just so exciting that the wait and mere thought of Christmas morning is hardly bearable, which is why the idea of the Christmas Eve box – a collection of small treats for your child to open on 24 December – has become oh-so popular recently.
Where did the Christmas Eve box come from?
From Norway to Germany, a number of European countries celebrate Christmas on 24 December rather than the following day, and as well as enjoying their Christmas feast, they also exchange presents on this day too.
The box idea is thought to have spread from our cousins across the water, as a way to incorporate multiple traditions.
It’s also partly a natural evolving of present-giving in general at this time of year, and an extension of advent, which traditionally ends on 24 December.
What goes in a Christmas Eve box?
You can put anything in a Christmas Eve box for your child, but we recommend using it to include things that you might be getting for your kids anyway, like a new pair of pyjamas.
Our top tip is to include anything that will help them get to sleep the night before Santa’s arrival, which we know can be a tricky endeavour!
Little gifts that can encourage their usual bedtime routine, such as books or even a toothbrush – so they’re excited to use it – are good ideas.
There is some controversy around Christmas Eve boxes, though. The reason behind this is that some people think they involve spending even more money during the festive season, which is already the most expensive time of the year anyway. But if you do put one together, it doesn’t need to be at an extra cost. Include small items you’d be giving your child anyway, such as one little present that you would have put in their stocking, for example. It is also a good way of helping spread out presents as some children get overwhelmed.
Christmas Eve boxes for adults
It’s not only a nice idea for children though. These early gift boxes can also be great for adults and teenagers too.
If you’re thinking of putting one together for your partner or older child, again we recommend popping in a gift you might have given on Christmas Day so you’re not buy extra gifts. Include something that will be nice for them to use on Christmas Eve, like pyjamas, a family game or a scented candle for a pre-Christmas Day soak in the tub.
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Personalised Christmas Eve boxes
If you’re thinking of starting the Christmas Eve box tradition for your child, you might want to look into buying a box that you can re-use every year.
We haven’t reviewed this personalised wooden box (Joules, £34) but we have featured plenty of products from the brand, including clothes in our best Christmas gifts for 6-year-olds,so we know this is a name you can trust. Measuring 24 x 24 x 10cm , the pinebox feaures a hand drawn design that’s digitally printed on.
Otherwise there are plainer, less expensive ones from retailers including Hobbycraft. Costing just £9, you (or your children) can decorate yourself. It’s 30cm x 20 x 13cm and is said to be good for pyrography (decorating using a heated implement to craft designs). You can also use paint or varnish to jazz it up.
Pyjamas are a natural fit for the Christmas Eve box, and are something you’ll probably want to buy for your child at some point in the year anyway. We think warmer, thicker ones as the weather gets chillier are great to get them nice and comfy for the most exciting sleep of the year.
Our reviewer noted that “the woven cotton fabric is remarkably soft and cosy”. They’re a polyester and cotton mix so will be nice and warm, and the elasticated waist means they’ll fit for a while before you have to buy new ones.
And once your little one’s in their pyjamas (and at least thinking of the idea of bed), the next stage to get them ready for a good night’s sleep before Santa’s arrival is a lovely bedtime activity.
We don’t advise anything too loud or fun (no games with lights or loud beeps) but a calming interactive book could be just the thing to get them feeling tired.
For toddlers, a cute board book is a nice option: we think publisher Campbell’s My Magical Snowman (Waterstone’s £5.99) story could be a good option, as it has push and pull mechanisms and a sparkly foil cover wheel.
It’s hopefully engaging enough to keep them entertained, but not too long (10 pages) so you can wish them goodnight and have a bit of Christmas Eve left over for any final prep you might have to do. Campbell has a huge range of books: its My Magical Unicorn book made it into our rundown of the best educational and fun books for kids.
For older children, something interactive but quiet and relaxing will hopefully get them to settle down to bed. Usborne is a name lots of parents love for its children’s books, and we spotted a Christmas-themed one which looks perfect for children aged five+. This Christmas rub down transfer book (Amazon, £7.99) has more than 1,000 transfers and scenes to colour in.
One thing we would advise is setting a limit to the number of scenes your child colours in before they go to sleep (say, two or three) otherwise they’ll inevitably want to finish the whole book before they settle down for the night.
And just because it’s Christmas, doesn't mean we can’t keep up good habits like brushing our teeth. If it’s part of your usual bedtime routine, do make sure you do it. To help, you could include a new toothbrush in your child’s Christmas Eve box so that what can be a bit of a chore will be a little more exciting as they’ve a new toy to do it with.
This cute Aquafresh toothbrush (Amazon, £2.75) made into our guide to the best toothbrushes for kids, with our seven-year-old reviewer being “thrilled with the size of the brush and the fact it had a suction pad to enable it to stand up all on its own”. It’s designed for children aged six+ and the handle’s nice and chunky for small hands.
If all of the above looks nice, but you simply don’t have the time to think about putting together a Christmas Eve Box, don’t worry: there are some ready-made options available, for example, this lovely Christmas Eve Box (Orchard Toys, £12.95).
The 20-piece puzzle has a really lovely Christmas scene on it and the game sounds fun and thankfully easy to explain: you turn over cards revealing a picture of a present, and the first to get every gift on their playing board wins (sounds a bit like Bingo, right?!).
It’s for ages three to six and two to four people can play the game, meaning if you have more than one child and don’t want to buy individual Christmas Eve boxes for your children, just this one will do if they’re close enough in age.
Orchard Toys is a go-to kids’ brand for us, and its Magic Maths game made it into our rundown of the best educational games for kids.
Christmas Eve boxes: Ideas for adults
Let’s face it, everyone gets excited for Christmas. A scented candle is a really nice gift to give on Christmas Eve as it can be lit to get the festive vibes going with a gorgeous smell in the home (perhaps as you wrap any last-minute presents by the tree).
With that in mind, we really like this Neom Christmas Wish scented candle (John Lewis, £32). We’ve not tested this exact Neom scent but the brand’s bedtime hero three-wick candle made into our round-up of the best scented candles with our reviewer commenting, quite simply, that “it’s bliss”.
This particular one has a mix of mandarin, cinnamon and tonka bean, which we think sounds like it has all the Christmas vibes, though it also has another 10 essential oils blended in too. While it’s on the pricier side, the burn time is said to be 35 hours, meaning you (or whoever you buy it for) can have more than a month’s worth of nice hour-long baths while it glows.
Cosy pyjamas for adults
And of course, once you’ve had a bath, popping into some nice new pyjamas would be nice too, Remember it’s not just children who love new, soft pyjamas come Christmas: they’re a great gift for adults, too. Which is what we reckon makes them so perfect for any grown-up Christmas Eve box as well.
For men, we love these long-sleeved grey pjs (Piglet, £100) which we featured our guide of the best men’s pyjamas for 2020. They’re made with 100 per cent stonewashed flax so they regulate body temperature brilliantly. They have lovely details on them too, which our reviewer noted: “Added touches like white pearl buttons and navy piping make the pyjama top in particular feel like something that needn't be confined to your bedroom.”
For women, we love these cotton pyjamas (Their Nibs, £20) which have a lovely foxglove design on (so they’re not just for Christmas!). These pyjamas featured in our guide to the best loungewear of 2020 with our reviewer commenting that “they are the ideal accompaniment for early nights in front of your favourite boxset or long lazy mornings spent lounging at the weekend” which sounds a lot like Christmas to us.
They’re made from 100 per cent cotton, and our reviewer does suggest it’s worth buying a size up, just for that extra slouchy/comfortable vibe.
Bath done, pyjamas on, next for a milky drink before bed. We’ve included hot chocolate as an “adult” gift but if your child likes hot chocolate and you don’t mind them having a bit of something sweet before bed on Christmas Eve this could go in their box too. For a real treat, why not try Willie’s Cacao (£5.99 for 250g)?
It’s made from Peruvian single estate 50 per cent dark chocolate powder and Barbados raw cane sugar, meaning it’s pretty much the finest, purest hot chocolate you can get.
It won the Best Buy award in our round-up of hot chocolates, with our reviewer commenting that they enjoyed it with full fat milk, but that it would work well with a vegan alternative.
A cup of this before bed and we reckon you’ll get a good load of zzzs in before Santa’s arrival. And if you do want to top with a load of marshmallows, well, ‘tis the season. Enjoy.