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Posted by on May 31, 2012 in Blog, Celebrations | 4 comments

Simplifying holidays & special occasions: share your brilliance

Simplifying holidays & special occasions: share your brilliance

Vacations, celebrations, special occasions — they’re a big part of the fun stuff of family life. Unfortunately, they’re also prime candidates for “more is more” treatment. Over-the-top birthday parties, “graduation” celebrations at the end of every school year, and, sigh, the ho-ho-holiday season.

Celebrations of all kinds have become a source of stress and over-expectation. It’s time to take back the fun! A minimalist approach to special occasions keeps the focus on the “special” so you can dispense with the fuss, expense and exhaustion. We’ve got plenty of ideas in mind, but we’d love to hear yours as well. (It might even appear in Minimalist Parenting, credited to you, of course.) Feel free to answer any or all of the following questions:

  1. What are family’s favorite birthday traditions?
  2. Do you have any strategies for keeping holidays such as Halloween and Christmas celebratory yet relaxed?
  3. What do you consider to be the secrets of a happy vacation?
We can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
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  1. What are family’s favorite birthday traditions?

    One tradition I’d read about that I like is to allow only as many invitees for children as the age they are turning. So, if they are turning 4, 4 friends is plenty for them. I feel a little bad when we’ve been to so many parties through the year that we can’t return the invitation to everyone but in the spirit of minimalism and keeping the birthday enjoyable instead of a huge event, I think it works and people understand.

    With food allergies in the mix I let the kids pick their birthday dinner and birthday treat. Last year my son had asparagus on his birthday for dinner, it is one of his favorites! We also try to let people know that their presence is present enough.

    Do you have any strategies for keeping holidays such as Halloween and Christmas celebratory yet relaxed?

    Halloween is simple because we just dress up at home and pretend trick-or treat through our own house. It just isn’t safe to go out and risk all the nut exposure with “real” trick or treating. Christmas is simplified by NOT traveling. I know this seems a little antisocial but with little kids the number one thing that stresses me out is travel. I figure adults can travel to see us if they like. :) Entertaining may add a level of stress for some but luckily our family is low-key. Christmas dinner is a big veggie lasagna (a tradition from my husband’s family) and on Christmas morning I make cinnamon rolls (gluten free) for breakfast. In my family Christmas Eve was the big holiday so I make sure to call everyone in my family the day before Christmas. I love to send holiday cards and get them done on Thanksgiving weekend usually so I don’t fret about them and online shopping is the way to go when it comes to gifts. We upgrade to Amazon Prime around Christmas each year as well.

    What do you consider to be the secrets of a happy vacation?

    Not overscheduling! My family always joked I was the keeper of the “clipboard of fun” and I try to get away from the planning tendency these days. Just because you have, say, 3 days, doesn’t mean you have to do something each and every day. It is okay to have ideas in mind, like a rainy day option or a hot day option depending on the circumstances but if you over-do it you’ll need a vacation from your vacation. Also, bring two sets of swim clothes – swimming stuff never seems to dry fast enough in hotels. We pack all our pots, pans, and food and stay somewhere with a kitchen.

  2. One tip I learned from my SIL about birthdays — we only do ONE cake. So if my son’s “real” birthday is on a Tuesday, but his friend party is the following Saturday, his one and only cake will be with his friends on Sat. We will stick candles in the breakfast pancakes (or whatever he’s requested). I can’t believe I went so many years making TWO cakes. No more!

  3. As for birthdays, I love this website:
    We do “no gifts please” and just celebrate the kid. But also it seems like around here people only do X number of kids (matches the how old the kid is) or certain birthdays (odd or even years, first birthday in school, when they turn 12, 16, etc. so that it’s not a HUGE party every single year). I try to make a big deal out of my kids’ birthdays but not all about the presents.
    As for holidays–We have tried to make it so we have our own traditions and yet make sure our kids get cousin time (we are near both sides of the family) without overloading the schedule. My in-laws celebrate Christmas with everyone on the Sunday before Christmas with the dinner, gift exchange etc. Thanksgiving both sides trade having everyone ON Thanksgiving. My parents have us on Thanksgiving one year and on the Saturday after on the off year.
    We do a monthly dinner for both sides of the family–that gets a little crazy and the families are growing enough that this is probably coming to an end in the next year or two. We try to make time for family, celebrate each other, but not overwhelm everyone. It’s not a good get together if we hate going since the whole point is to spend time together!

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