“You do too much.” , my mother-in-law said to me in our kitchen about how much I do for the holiday celebrations. I know she meant it in love, and I admit it. I sometimes not only make a big deal about holidays and birthdays, but sometimes I go overboard in celebrating these festive occasions.
But before anyone jumps on me for advocating consumerism, let me assure you, that “going big” in this sense doesn’t necessarily refer to spending a lot of money and resources on such days. Instead, what I mean is that I go out of my way to ensure that these days are special – and memorable – for my kids, and that I create a sense of family, roots, and tradition centering around the calendar year and the changing of the seasons so that life has an ebb and flow to it from an early age.
Traditions Make Family Memories
The things I remember most from childhood aren’t the day-to-day happenings. Sure, there are bits and pieces from my childhood day-to-day that I remember. But what I really remember is the times when things were different – Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, April Fool’s Day, my birthday.
Each of these holidays came with a set of traditions our family would follow – putting up the fake tree, getting baskets filled by the Easter bunny, seeing fireworks, having an over-the-top feast, making doily hearts.
These little things, the traditions surrounding the various holidays and birthday celebrations – these are the things that shared family memories are made of. Think about it for a moment. What are the things that you remember from your childhood? Go ahead and take a moment to make a list. If you like, share your favorite memories in the comments section.
Going Big Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive
We’re lucky to live in a city, now, that has a lot of free and low-cost festivities around all the holidays. I keep an eye on the newspaper and the various local blogs that cover such events, and I make a list of the things I think we would all enjoy as a family.
Then, I discuss the events with my husband and we put some of these on the calendar. For Christmas, things like going to the Mayor’s tree lighting, looking at Christmas lights in neighborhoods, and heading to a Christmas Eve service don’t cost a thing. For holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, it’s always fun to head to the community parade.
Make Service a Priority
Every year at Christmas, we participate in a few community service projects – The Angel Card Project, Salvation Army’s Angel Tree, and Toys For Tots. We also donate to the local food bank and do other things to help others in our community and nation. We actually try to do this year-round, but we have certain things we do at the holidays every year. For the Angel Tree, we select a child in need around the age of each of our children, then have each child pick out the gift for that child. For Toys for Tots, we do a similar thing.
Make it About the Celebration, Not the Gifts
We do have gifts at Christmas and birthdays, but it’s not about the gifts. It’s about togetherness and the celebration. Some years there are a few gifts, some years there are many gifts. What’s consistent, though, is the festive air surrounding the holiday or birthday – the decorations, complete with ornaments that have been passed through our families and that we grew up with. I get excited thinking about how the decorations I put out now will be looked forward to by my kids in the years to come.
When we put out the Halloween decorations or we deck out the mantle for Easter, my kids will feel not only the changing seasons, but the changing tides of daily life.
Throw in Holidays from Other Cultures
It’s so important to me that we raise children who are worldly and who are sensitive to other cultures, thus, I think it’s important to celebrate such holidays – even better if I have a friend who invites us into his or her home for such a celebration! What better way to learn about other people’s religions than to spend time with their own beautiful traditions?
Go Big Because Childhood Is Short
I hold my napping 6 month old in my arms as I type this article, knowing that soon she will be 7 months…and then before I know it, we’ll be celebrating her first birthday. I am weeks away from having a 2 year old and a 4 year old. My 19 year old is already off at college. It goes so fast. By creating big celebrations and traditions, it helps to create that sense of belonging long after my children grow up.
My oldest mentioned that he got to have pumpkin chili on Halloween at a professor’s house, and it reminded him of home. I still remember the time from Halloween through New Years as the happiest time of the year in my house as I grew up. These are still my favorite holidays. I can’t think of them without feeling warm and nostalgic for home.
What kinds of traditions do you have in your home? Do you “go big” for holidays?