Big Celebrations with Little to No Effort

Today I am going to weigh in on the idea of the "perfect holiday." I originally had another post planned for this morning, but I bumped it out to Friday after seeing the Huffington Post article, "Can We Bring The Holidays Down a Notch?" circulating on Facebook.

The basic idea of the article is that thanks to Pinterest and creative parents everywhere, our kids are bringing home ideas from school about how every holiday can become EPIC. Some examples:
  • Elf on the Shelf (seriously? what masochistic person came up with the idea of moving something every day during the busiest time of the year? And how did parents jump on board?)
  • Leprechaun traps, gold coins and chocolate and messing up the house.
  • Dinovember, an invented celebration where dinosaurs come to life for a WHOLE MONTH (again...really? So, after having Halloween and looking down the tunnel to Thanksgiving and Christmas....we managed to INVENT a holiday. Good job guys.)
  • Valentine's Day (for the record...that homemade card, with the sucker taped to it...that would be from our kids. Sorry it isn't a clever Pinterest project, or a giant goody bag)
  • 100 Day School Parties
  •  12 Days of Christmas (this one was new to me. Apparently a Christian tradition that starts after Christmas and extends to the start of the Epiphany.)
  • Time capsules on birthdays (another thing I only recently discovered that some crazy *ahem* I mean, thoughtful parents do for their kids.....probably parents who have less kids than I do)
  • Dr. Suess' birthday
As any anthropologist worth their salt can tell you, despite the pressure to celebrate every holiday at maximum levels, there really isn't a need. Holidays are about traditions, repetition, and marking time. They serve to provide a common gathering point for cultures. They don't have to be all-out magical extravaganzas to make an impact. As long as you choose a few things each year as a tradition that works for your family, your kids will have that magical childhood you long to give them. They don't need all the trappings, just a few. So, pick a few traditions or holidays that your family celebrates and then let the rest go.

And here is another tip. Holidays are about passing time, therefore it is okay if you miss something. This year our family has been very busy. Because of this we missed carving pumpkins at Halloween, putting out reindeer food at Christmas and dyeing Easter Eggs this past weekend. Guess what? That is okay. Five years from now my kids will be talking about the year we went to Disney World to celebrate Halloween, or they will say, "Remember the year we missed dyeing eggs." It helps them mark their own personal history. Missing a tradition (especially one that happens fairly consistently) actually has value. It's absence can highlight its presence.

So, relax. We don't need to compete to see who can make the most over-the-top holiday celebrations. Just pick a few great ideas (from the millions on Pinterest) and run with it. If you miss something, don't stress about. it. Just find some way to mark the year's passing. Having positive traditions (events that replicate themselves) is more important that what those traditions actually are.

Celebrate in a way that works for your family. Here are some low maintenance examples from our family's traditions:
  • New Year's Eve we watch Grease (a continuing tradition from The Husband's childhood) and play board games (a tradition from my childhood)
  • Valentine's Day we make our own homemade Valentine's. On the day I sneak out and buy heart shaped doughnuts.
  • We wear green on St. Patrick's Day...yep. That's it.
  • We dye eggs before Easter and attend our church Egg Hunt. The kids always get chocolate bunnies and new gardening gloves in their basket from the Easter bunny (along with a few other things that change from year to year) and he hides plastic eggs filled with candy and change during the night.
  • The Husband always takes a day off of work on his birthday because he shares the day with our middle child, Raindrop. We pick something "big" to do that day like a museum, the zoo or some other activity.
  • The Husband takes the girls to work every year for "take your child to work day."
  • We have the Grandmas over for dinner on Mother's Day
  • The Husband and the girls go to Daddy/Daughter date night at Chic-fil-a every year on Father's day
  • We don't have any real traditions for July 4th. We do different things each year.
  • Pi Day or Pie Day (actually a pretty darn awesome tradition from my nerdy perspective, but not one that I feel compelled to add in to our family calendar, both because I am too lazy, and also because I don't really like pie.)
  • Every Halloween The Husband watches Michael Jackson's "Ghosts" video with the kids. We carve pumpkins and Trick or Treat with the family down the street.
  • For Thanksgiving we eat breakfast together and watch the parade. Then Daddy and the kids play games while Mom cooks. The kids make the place cards/place mats for dinner.
  • For Christmas we paint ornaments and date them, decorate cookies, use 3 advent calendars (a count down, a count up and chocolate calendars for each child), put out cookies, milk and reindeer food. We have dinner with the cousins and my Mother in Law on Christmas Eve and then Dinner with my parents and cousin on Christmas Day.
As you can see, our traditions are not complicated, expensive or extravagant. They don't have to be. But I am confident that if you ask our children they will tell you that holidays are special at our house. So let go of the guilt and listen to your friendly neighborhood anthropologist, make sure you have something that occurs every year, that marks time, and I promise your children will have great memories when they grow up.