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Wednesday
Nov272013

Your Holidays, Your Way

If the calendar and the holiday shopping advertisements weren't enough to tell me that Christmas is approaching, the big dump of snow that we got this week certainly did. Things turned, all of a sudden, from the kind of bitter cold that makes you, well, bitter, to a white fantasyland that sparkles and brings promises of magic. 

As the snow fell and my children were snuggled under their warm blankets, I put the last coat of paint on their new advent calendars. In past years, we've had chocolate advent calendars, Playmobil advent calenders, and Lego advent calendars. This year, however, I wanted a change. I didn't want the special surprises hiding behind those little doors to be determined by a company. I wanted the advent calendar to be one of the little ways that I make the holidays magical for my family. So I bought a wooden advent calendar with little drawers, painted it in Christmasy colours, and have been plotting the little surprises that will be contained within. Things like:

  • fair trade chocolate
  • a dollar coin
  • a note promising a special activity that day
  • a Lego mini figure
  • a bottle of nail polish
  • a tiny puzzle
  • permission to download a new app to their ipads

Each day, a new surprise basically. I'm hoping it will add more magic and anticipation, since each day will be about more than just "what shape is my chocolate today?".

If you head over to Pinterest, open a magazine, read a blog a post, go on facebook, talk to other parents or even think back to your own childhood, you may be overwhelmed by all the things that you could do, or that you feel you should do, to make the holidays special. You may also be overwhelmed with invitations and expectations from work, family, friends, neighbours, your children's friends' and more.  It is normal to feel overwhelmed or inadequate in the face of it all. But it doesn't have to be that way.

One theme I'm seeing this year among my friends is a desire to refocus what the holidays mean to them.

On The Stir, Kristen Chase wrote about a conversation she had with her friend Julie.

But this year, I'm going with a different mantra that I've newly inherited from my dear friend Julie.

When she first explained her new approach to the holiday season in particular, I first exclaimed, "So basically learning to say 'no' more" because, well, I totally get that. 

But she corrected me, and I'm really glad that she did.

The whole idea behind my new holiday rule (and her mantra) is that you're not necessarily passing on the commitments and expectations, but rather you're choosing the ones that you really want to do.

On Blue Eyed Bride, there is a list of 25 Christmas Traditions that your family could adopt. The suggestions are very Jesus and Santa slanted, which may or may not be right for you and your family. What will be magical and fun for you is really dependent on your family's values and interests and abilities and budget. Just because another family makes homemade Christmas decorations as a family activity, doesn't mean it is something that will make your family happy if you hate doing crafts and your children lack the patience to get through them.

So no, dear inbox, I don't want to "Cook up some homemade hostess gifts". No, Pinterest, I won't be sewing Christmas-themed coffee cozies. No, as much as we loved it once in the past, we will not be spending a lot of money and using up a valuable weekend to see the Nutcracker this year. But we will be doing things that are right for us, some that are special and new this year, and some that are carry-overs from past years. Our traditions will be religion-free, but will include helping others, going outdoors (both in the Canadian Winter and on a sun vacation), making and eating food, spending time with friends, making fires both indoors and outside, and enjoying those new advent calendars full of surprises.

What should your family do? If you have it all figured out, that's great. I'd love to hear about your plans and your traditions in the comments.

But if you're not sure, I have something that may be able to help. My friend Magda from Ask Moxie created a fabulous workbook called Get Christmased. You can order and download the workbook online for $19. It is a detailed, but simple, workbook that will help you to plan the holidays and traditions that are right for your family. From selecting and planning activities, to dealing with stress, to choosing the right gifts, this workbook will get you through.

[Disclosure: I have had the chance to review the workbook and I really like it. I am also an affiliate and will make some money off the sale of the workbook, so this is a great way to plan your Christmas, support my blog, and support Magda].

Tell me about your holiday plans? Whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Festivus, something else, or just possibly enjoy a few days off of work and school, what will your family be doing?

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Reader Comments (4)

Exactly!
I think it's lovely and meaningful that you created this advent tradition for your family.
The rest of your post is why I will not. I've embraced many commercialized traditions because they hold special meaning for the very fact that they have been traditions in our family. The waxy, tasteless, chocolate, cardboard advent calendars, the movies that come to theatres, the santa at the mall that was decorated the morning after Halloween, where the christmas music started way too early...these are all things that were part of my childhood, and so have been given some special status as, "things I'd never have started, but never will stop."
Also, we used to run around trying to see our families and friends, and were left exhausted and grumpy. So we stopped making the trips and traveling. And guess what? We didn't get to see our friends and family, and it sucked worse than being stupidly busy. So this year we're embracing our commercial Christmas traditions, overbooking ourselves, and overspending again, because it holds a lot of meaning for our family.

November 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

May I ask where you found your wooden advent calendar? I'd love to use something like this with our toddler. We're trying to figure out what traditions we want to have as a family, as I come from a family where Christmas was about Jesus and Santa and my husband comes from a family where Christmas was about food, friends, and wine but no Santa and no Jesus. We want to blend the two without including the more commercial aspects of the holiday, which our own families managed to do fairly well. This year we'll spend the day with my family, open presents, and eat good food. I hope to go to church, but this is still under discussion. Santa is not in the cards this year.

November 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoanna

@Joanna:

I got the advent calendar at Michael's. It was plain natural wood and I painted it the colours I wanted. Good luck with blending the traditions and finding something that works for your family.

December 2, 2013 | Registered Commenterphdinparenting

@Melissa:
Have a fabulous time and enjoy it all. :)

December 2, 2013 | Registered Commenterphdinparenting

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