Twinkling lights, cheerful music, the smell and feel of a chill in the air and increasing hustle and bustle around us are all indications that Christmas is fast approaching. It is indeed beginning to look (and sound and smell) a lot like Christmas. I have always been a huge fan of this festive season, when I was younger my parents banned me from even mentioning Christmas before bonfire night because I used to get so excited! Christmas has definitely changed in the last four years. Doing Christmas takes a lot more thought than it used to.

Doing Christmas involves less of the build up than it used to, and doing Christmas involves avoiding many of the sights, sounds, smells and general hustle and bustle than it used to. I try and remind myself that one thing that stays the same throughout all of the changes is the meaning of Christmas. For me keeping our Christian faith at the centre of all of our celebrations has remained my focus. Traditions have been adapted and new ones started to help us 'do' Christmas in a way that suits my children's needs.

My four year old son, Billy has sensory issues, mal-absorption problems and a long list of allergies. Because of Billy's extra needs many of the things that I once considered to be essential parts of Christmas celebrations can not be done, or at least not to the same extent that they were; but this seems to matter less each year.

Popping to the shops is never an option as the sights, sounds, smells and general busyness are too much for Billy to cope with at any time of the year, and with all of the Christmas extras thrown in it would just be a recipe for disaster. Most of our Christmas shopping is done online, and I think I might actually be beginning to prefer it this way. Christmas parties and social events are kept to a minimum and I usually choose the few where there is another adult to go with us or look after our younger son. I use visual aids as much as possible to help prepare Billy for what might happen during outings and he has ear defenders for when things get too noisy. Fortunately Billy's aversion to change and new things means that he is fairly good at avoiding contact with food (which gets everywhere!) that he knows he shouldn't touch. To my surprise, we are managing to do all of this without compromising any Christmas fun for our younger son, although he is only two at the moment so I am sure that this is something that will need more thought in years to come.

The aspects of Christmas which I am currently giving extra thought to are church services and Christmas dinner. Christmas morning at church last year ended in meltdowns and tears, and as Billy is on such a limited diet it would be unrealistic to expect him to last the duration of a Christmas dinner at the table. Fortunately our church family and our family members that we will be spending Christmas Day with are usually very understanding and are learning with us as we discover how to include Billy. Our church have offered to send us an order of service which I will be looking through in advance and making into a visual timetable, we will arrive early so that we can choose our seat and be there as people arrive rather than rushing into a packed church. One of my favourite new traditions is the biscuits which my mum makes for Billy to collect and bring to the dinner table to eat with his rice cakes, and I am on the look out for some activities for him to do.

All in all, as I am learning to change my expectations of Christmas and focus on the things that really matter rather than focusing on what can't be done, I am beginning to see that Christmas can still be full of festive cheer. So here is to fond memories of old Christmas traditions, a growing love of new ones and supporting each other as we try to take these on board.

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