Wednesday, November 25, 2009

From Mitten Strings: Making The Holidays Simple

I've been thinking a lot about the holidays, and ways that I can make things memorable for my children, but also enjoyable for them. So often, I have grand plans for things that we are going do every night of Advent, and then 6 or 7 days in, the children are whining about it, asking when we are going to be done, etc. Or I decide to build a gingerbread house, only to have them leave after 5 minutes, or erupt into sobs because it won't stand up. Or having me stay up too late, and then yelling at them because I'm so tired, all so that I can make them homemade presents.

This chapter on Simplicity from Mitten Strings had some really helpful suggestions for me to help make the holidays more of what I want to have for my family. Maybe it will be helpful to you too. Here are some excerpts from the chapter:


"So often, it seems, we are the ones who make our own lives more complicated than they need to be. We set the bar too high, take on too much, turn small doings into big ones. Why settle for food coloring and vinegar when you can make Ukranian easter egg masterpieces? Why stop at birthday cake and ice cream at home when you can rent an indoor playground and invite the whole class? Why spend the Saturday before Christmas sledding with the family when you could all be attending the annual downtown holiday extravaganza?

It is not enough, anymore, to pull together a Halloween costume from the dress-up bin, add a few extra touches, and head out the door to go trick-or-treating. There are decorations to buy, light shows to orchestrate on the front lawn, haunted houses to visit, and a week's worth of pre-Halloween activities to attend.

It takes conviction to say: "This is enough" - whether it be enough holiday events, enough guests at a party, enough presents, or simply enough activities for next Saturday. And it is hard to feel confidence in our own choices, in our own sense of limits, when everyone around is seems convinced that more and bigger is better.

We CAN choose simplicity over complication. And what relief there is in simplicity. Here is a start:

* Downscale holiday celebrations. Keep the focus on family, on meaningful rituals and traditions, and on simple activities. Give fewer gifts, and take more time to enjoy them.

* Set a limit on holiday activities. (One Easter egg hunt is enough!)

* Don't feel guilty about skipping events that everyone else attends. Your children need you and your attention, not more activities.

* Celebrate birthdays in a way that honors the qualities that you love in your child. They don't have to be big productions; make them expressions of love instead: a special meal, an outing with a friend, a birthday ritual carried on year after year.

* Remember that the process is more important for your child than the outcome. Keep the process simple, and your child will enjoy it more.

* Set limits and stick to them. In our house, no one is allowed to wear their Halloween costume until Halloween night. Although it is hard for the kids to wait, it's worth it.

* You don't have to prove anything to anybody. Christmas is not a competition, a seder is not a cooking contest, a birthday doesn't need to be a blowout, a dinner party can be potluck.

* Celebrate small blessings and offbeat occasions. Once, my son and I made a birthday cake for Curious George. Half birthdays are reason enough to enjoy a special meal. For children, every day holds potential for celebration and ceremony - the first day of spring, the first snowfall, the harvest moon. A song, a poem read aloud, a ritual or a special snack - it doesn't take much to create a celebration that affirms life.

In Simplicity there is freedom -
freedom to do less and to enjoy more.
May there be magic in your holiday season. But let it be the magic that comes from the simple joys of doing things together and just being together.

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