Wednesday, 14 December 2011

simple and special celebrations

I think a lot about celebrations at this time of year. One of our daughters has a birthday this coming weekend, and then there's Christmas. I struggle between wanting celebrations to be simple yet special. Sometimes my wish to be special drags me down the not-so-simple road. Sometimes my plans start out simple, and then snowball. Sometimes simple and special feel like 2 very different paths.

This year we're trying to keep things simple as far as gifts go - pjs and stocking stuffers. But today we're leaving for a 2 day mini-vacation to a hotel that's anything but simple, and very special with an indoor waterpark attached to the hotel. Simple goes out the window.

I've been thinking about what was special to me as a kid. When I was about 5, my parents woke me and my brother up in the middle of the night, packed us in the back seat of the pickup truck, and drove to beat a winter storm. We were off to Disney World, and I couldn't imagine anything more exciting than beating a storm to get there.

I still remember things about that trip - like watching the movie "Bambi" at the outdoor theatre at Fort Wilderness Campground, and crying when Bambi's mom was shot. And going on the "It's a small world" ride. And seeing the Country Bear Jamboree.

Kids get so much these days (mine included), and I sometimes wonder what is special. Candy from Hallowe'en hangs on til Christmas (sad but true in our house), Christmas candy til Valentine's, Valentine's til Easter. And food too - what foods are truly special when we, in our northern climate, can get oranges all year round?

How do you celebrate in simple, but special ways?

What are your memories of simple, special holidays?


  1. A simple tradition that we've adopted as a family is our Christmas Eve time together. Usually Pete has to work that day but once he comes home everything changes. The candles get lit, and we enjoy a supper of finger foods that my four girls and I have made. The simple change from our traditional meat, potatoes and veggies kind of supper is such a big deal to the girls (they have items that they really look forward to every year like homemade bacon wrapped sausage, deviled eggs, cream cheese balls, chocolate covered nuts) and it's a great change of pace. We can just nibble all night as we spend time together and then open our family gifts to each other. It's a simple change in our pattern that makes a big difference in slowing us down and giving us time together. For us, maybe it's not really the food that is so special but the way it's prepared and presented.

  2. your candy hang-around sounds much like ours :)

    yes, this idea of simple and's a path i try to walk this time of year (and other times as well), but not easy. i think i never keep it quite as simple as i really hoped it would be.

    christmas eve for my husband was always homemade pierogis. now that we live in a different state from our families, that tradition continues with our little family of four. they're not hard to make from scratch, but fairly time-consuming; so, with respect to preparation time, they're not simple. but the meal is pretty much pierogis with brown butter. (not the healthiest, but soooo yummy). it's very special for me to be able to continue this tradition with my husband, to pass it on to our children (because it's a tradition i enjoy myself).

    growing up, i remember loving our tradition of opening up a small gift on christmas eve; this followed a special christmas mass - i always loved the special music at church this time of year. i also remember hot chocolate in our santa claus mugs.

    a simple tradition with my children - not one my husband or i grew up with - is to mark the winter solstice in some pay tribute to the rhythms of nature. last year we made luminaries by punching holes into aluminum cans (magical and recycled!); this year we are planning on making treats for the birds in our yard.

  3. Uncle Bob's. That was our family tradition growing up. Our family of five would join our grandparents & some close friends at my Uncle Bob's (who didn't have a family of his own). He would cook a fancy gourmet meal (he was a chef & anything that wasn't meat & potatoes was gourmet to us). He always had a beautiful tree with sparkling glass ornaments (as I mentioned, he had no kids). Ours at home were always homemade. After dinner was cleared up, we would sit around the Christmas tree & sing carols while my grandma played the piano. Finally, the children would open our gifts from Uncle Bob & Grandma & Grandpa. We always got a new pair of pj's which we would change into for the ride home.

    Great memories spent with a family that has since past, but the memories & warm feelings last forever.

  4. Roseanne: Hello! So good to see you here! I love this finger food tradition on Christmas Eve, and sounds like your girls do too. We've done a fondue on Christmas Eve (growing up, and now as our own little family) as a simple/special xmas eve meal - something to look forward to. I like how you talk about that tradition slowing you down as a family and giving you time together.

    Michelle - pierogis are in my husband's background too - they call them vereneke. So yummy, but I haven't attempted them yet. Some day. I love how you celebrate the changing of the seasons. We had a solstice party at my brother's place last year - hearty French onion soup, candles lit, and fun times around a bonfire. We're doing it again this year - I think it's a lovely tradition as part of this time of year - celebrating the coming of light on the longest night of the year. Love the hot chocolate in Santa Claus mugs.

    Uncle Bob sounds like Santa. Wonderful memories!