Thursday, December 2, 2010

Keeping the Holidays Sane, Meaningful and Fun!

This post is the first in a series on our seasonal or festival life that begins with Thanksgiving (in the United States) and ends with Epiphany or Three Kings Day in January, sort of...

Days we celebrate include:


Advent ~ began Sunday November 29

Saint Nicholas Day ~ December 6

Santa Lucia Day ~ December 13

Christmas Eve

Christmas Day

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Epiphany or Three Kings Day

What a great number of days to celebrate. How do we keep it sane, meaningful and fun for the children and for ourselves? These are a few tips I have picked up over the years that have made our life more simple and meaningful at the holidays:

Stay Home
  • If you have children under the age of ten, stay home, let others come to you.
  • Consider requesting or giving gifts that can make a difference and ease financial pressure on a family: a tank of heating oil, an insurance premium payment, a tuition payment
  • Consider gifts of service: babysitting, snow shovelling, errand running
  • Consider a gift of one big thing, is there something really special your child has been longing for, a season's ski pass? ski school? a kayak? a pair of play stands you want for your child?
  • Consider gifts made in the name of the recipient to a charity: Heifer International, Oxfam, Knitting 
  • Consider gift certificates for lunch, driving, chores, back rubs, walks, a list of books to enjoy with a trip to the library, cleaning up a room, re-organizing a closet

Serve Others
  • Consider volunteering at the local soup kitchen, volunteers and meals are usually welcomed
  • Consider Christmas carolling at a local home for the elderly
  • Consider helping at a Ronald McDonald house or Ronald McDonald room at the local hospital
  • Is there a mom with a newborn preemie who needs clothes for her tiny baby and has no support?

Create a time out of time
  • Make it a season that lasts forty days. Let this season be a time of spaciousness. Spread the festivities, activities and get togethers over forty days. Festival life has it origins in days where people took time to rest, gather together, sing songs, tell stories and prepare special foods.
Make two lists
  • First the " I should" list all things we heap on ourselves to do, to say, to be, then release them, tear them up, burn them, let go of them. 
  • Then make the " I want" list. How do you envision the holidays? What makes meaning for you? What is realistic? One special moment together, truly present with our children is worth more than lots of hurried, harried events. How can you bring stillness, look inward and set the mood for your children?
Danielle Epiphany has a lovely piece sharing her insight on this topic here.

My next post will be on the Meaningful. What do you like about the holidays for children? What do you remember from the holidays and your childhood? What traditions do you wish to continue? What do you wish to create?

Until then, Bright Blessings!


  1. What a Surprise Lisa! I was copying this wonderful article to send out to my families. Now I'll have to go back and read what I wrote;-). I can't say enough about spreading it out. For us it's really a season from Michaelmas to Epiphany. Lot's of time that way. I was not familiar with Advent before being introduced to Waldorf. Fortunately, that was when my son was 1 year old and early on was able to put into practice traditions that kept ours (and my life), sane. I love the anticipation of the season and having the time to build slowly, meditating each week and adding elements to the home. Christmas Eve is when we put up our tree and then Christmas lasts for 12 days. In this way we have time to make gifts, deliver them, see friends whom we couldn't see leading up to Christmas. Instead we get to take in special shows or events, read stories, sing and be out of the loop of commercial madness- Here in CA one of my favorite shows is The Christmas Revels, and of course the Winter Spiral events. Sometimes on the eve of St Nicholas we are his 'helper' and drive around or go to neighbors homes. When the season is spread out this way, we have lot's of time to enjoy it. It is bittersweet on the eve of the 12th night, to sing all of our last carols. Sometimes too we prepare a big feast with prime rib and invite friends to do a 3 Kings Play. It is a joy to celebrate Epiphany in this way and has made Christmas a much richer Holiday than what I could've imagined. During Advent I hunker down with wonderful books- My favorite is Christmas Roses- Legends for Advent by Selma Lagerlof. Probably best suited for children ages 6/7+, and so meaningful to me. Cheers, Lisa! Thank you for posting on this topic.

  2. Lovely piece, and great blog! Thank you for your comment on my blog about my article in ROTH. I'm glad we have connected and I look forward to reading your words in this space.


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