Keeping Christmas Simple

We’ve taken a step toward a more traditional holiday this year. Our DIY Christmas tree has taken several different forms over the last few years–some of which barely resembled a tree at all–but the same idea was behind them all.  We wanted to use what we had to celebrate.  We wanted a holiday that focused on creative reuse rather than consumerism.  This year we were given a hand-me-down artificial tree, and we have a small collection of ornaments that have been gifted to us, so our tree is pretty traditional.

In keeping with the DIY spirit of our holiday, we made a few ornaments out of wrapping paper glued to cardboard.  A pre-publication copy (F&G) of Holly Hobbie’s new version of The Night Before Christmas made for a few cute ornaments in the same way.  They were simple enough for our almost six-year-old to do with minimal frustration, and I think they look charming too.

xmastree

 

In all honesty, my favorite traditions are the ones that are different every year.  They are familiar without being tired.  They grow with us, but keep us grounded to our values.  That’s all I really want in a holiday.  More than elaborate decor or expensive presents, I want to spend time with the people I love, share what I have, and think about what we value.

May your holidays be full of love, hope, and happiness. :)

This blog will probably be fairly quiet this month, but you may check out previous years’ posts for more holiday related content:

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Our First Holidazzle

My last post about Anni-birth-mas traditions neglected to mention our trip downtown to the Holidazzle parade.  We tried to go last year, but the weekend we had planned to go was the same weekend that we got 16 inches of snow.

Our first Holidazzle was just what I had hoped when I heard about the concept of a winter parade in downtown Minneapolis.  People lined the streets (and the skyways) waving glow sticks or drinking hot chocolate as the lights of the season danced down the street in front of us.  What better way to celebrate winter?  As you might imagine, we are huge fans of the St. Paul Winter Carnival as well. :)

Of course, this story from MPLS.tv of a suburban family going to see the parade only to say “Screw Downtown!” at the end is pretty hilarious.  Maybe it’s not for everyone.  :)

It was, however, for us.  As was the kettle corn from the street vendor and the butterscotch pudding we indulged in later at Nick & Eddie.

Twin Cities residents, this weekend is your last chance to see the parade until next year.  It’s a cool 35 degrees outside, and you can ride Metro Transit for free from 4 to 8pm.  Have fun and don’t let winter get you down!

Happy Anni-birth-mas!

In my family, December is about more than just Christmas.  The succession of special days in December has been dubbed “anni-birth-mas,” and our traditions have come to be about all of us–Ladybug’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, then Christmas.  It’s a jumble, at least for now.  We try to give each day its due attention, but we don’t draw too many lines between the celebrations.

As I wrote last year, we have our own take on holiday traditions:

“To be honest, I still trip over the words to Christmas carols I’ve heard a million times but only recently started to sing.  I didn’t manage to get Christmas cards out before the holiday (or the new year), and I’m quite sure no one had a Christmas tree like ours.  Our Christmas was ‘us,’ and I loved it.”

Our DIY tree is far from most people’s idea of traditional, but it makes me smile every time I see it.  It represents our influences from Christianity and Buddhism, as well as our anti-consumerist tendencies.  The most important thing to me is that it be fun.  It’s also kind of funny, but that is just a bonus.

If you can’t tell from the photo, the Buddha sits in the middle of our “tree” this year–flashing the peace sign.  It is part shrine, part art project, part holiday celebration.  Completely ours.

Not that I don’t want Ladybug to know what a more traditional holiday looks like.  That’s what books are for.  We read Celebrate Christmas for context and The Perfect Christmas to emphasize that everyone celebrates differently.  Then we read A Christmas Tree for Pyn to talk about family and simplicity.  (FWIW, this is one of my favorite picture books this year.  Read the review at Waking Brain Cells for more details.)

This is what works for us.  I hope your family has found what works for you.  Merry holidays!

See more posts about science, religion, and secular family life on my Secular Thursday page.

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Monday Morning Music: Holiday Edition

There are a couple of local music stories that have people talking recently.  First, Bon Iver is up for a few Grammy’s, and that has prompted some people to wonder who Bon Iver is exactly.  If you are one of those people who doesn’t know Bon Iver, seriously, take a listen.  It is so good.  Second, Polica has announced a CD release show on Valentine’s Day 2012 at First Avenue.  Listen to “Wandering Star” here.  However, as exciting as those bits of news are, that’s not what I want to talk about today.  My topic is much more timely.

It is now officially December.  Thanksgiving is over.  The Christmas tree is up, and we can pull out our Christmas music without feeling guilty about it.  Problem is: We have no Christmas music.  That’s what happens when you don’t grow up celebrating Christmas (strict religious childhood = no Christmas or birthdays).  I spent my life quietly daydreaming during holiday songs at school or just blocking out the music at stores from mid-November through December, so, now that I do choose to celebrate the holiday with my daughter, I’m at a loss.  In all honesty, I can barely sing “Happy Birthday” with the right melody, and Christmas songs are an even bigger mystery to me.

I’ve been exploring my holiday music options, and so far, we’ve opted for the MPR Classical Holiday Stream for the most part.  But I’d love some suggestions from the audience.  What Christmas songs are “must listens” to you?  Build my collection, for my daughter’s sake. :)

Meanwhile, here is a song from one of my favorite band’s Christmas record to get you in the holiday spirit.

My Mother’s Day

May 9, 1914 Woodrow Wilson officially established Mother’s Day as an American holiday.  According to This Day in History from The History Channel, the idea for the holiday was from the desire to celebrate peace.  This article on the Life as a Human blog makes the connection between Mother’s Day and peace even stronger.  I must say, I am inspired.  Perhaps next year, I will organize some kind of volunteer experience related to peace for my family instead of the traditional brunch and flowers.  Or maybe in addition to.  I do love brunch and flowers. :)

This year, we kept things pretty simple.  I woke up to a lovely bouquet of flowers from the family.  We trekked over to St. Paul for my favorite brunch in the Twin Cities: Pizza Luce.  If you are listening Pizza Luce, bring the brunch to Minneapolis.  I enjoyed a free glass of wine with my Truly French Toast courtesy of Pizza Luce in honor of Mother’s Day.  Thank you!

Then we made our first use of the membership to the Minnesota Children’s Museum that my mom purchased for us.  Thanks, Mom!  Ladybug quite enjoyed herself.  She especially liked the Our World exhibit where she got to pretend to be various community workers, drive a bus (riding the bus is hardly a novelty for us), and be in a music video.  I am a huge believer in the importance of pretend play, so  it was great to let Ladybug run free in a big world of possibilities.  (Scholastic offers a few reasons for the importance of pretend play.) I’m looking forward to exploring the museum many more times during the course of our membership.

My wish for Mother’s Day was to see my little one have fun, and I did.  Thanks to everyone who made it possible.

A Santa-free celebration

Our DIY Christmas Tree

I love Christmas. I didn’t grow up celebrating it (that’s another story for another blog post), so the traditions are still new and exciting to me.  I’ve been around Christmas my whole life, but it’s a new experience to be participating myself, to be creating family traditions for our little one.  I want her to grow up with holiday memories that bind her to her peers throughout her life.  I think that’s an important part of what the holidays do for American culture.  But I also want to make sure that our holiday traditions reflect our values.  Our holiday included giving and making.  Ladybug is only three, so we kept it simple.  She drew pictures as gifts for her cousins, and she watched as we constructed our own DIY Christmas tree.  As she gets older, we hope to spend more time volunteering, baking, and crafting.  Every year gets more fun and brings new possibilities for holiday magic.

“Maybe magic is just love.”* This is the magic that I’ve known.  This is the magic that I want my daughter to take away from this family.  There are those who say that children need to believe in Santa Claus to have magic and wonder in their lives.  I disagree wholeheartedly.  We see magic everyday in the way we treat each other.  Kind words are magic.  Paying-it-forward is magic.  You are magic.

Parenting Beyond Belief by Dale McGowan

As for wonder, I like how Dale McGowan put it in Parenting Beyond Belief: “It is so precious to get a glimpse of real knowledge, so breathtaking, that no lesser standard than trial by skepticism will do.  It leaves behind only those things wonderful enough to make us weep at the pure beauty of their reality and at the equally awesome idea that we could find our way to them all.”  This is one of the main values I want to impart to my daughter.  I want her to look at what is real and see the wonder in that.  I don’t want her to believe that the wonder ends when you start asking “why?”

I think we’ll save Santa for when Ladybug is old enough to be in on the fantasy.  We love pretending, after all.  We love stories.  Perhaps I would feel differently if I had grown up with Santa myself.  I can’t say for sure.  I can only say what feels right for us.

To be honest, I still trip over the words to Christmas carols I’ve heard a million times but only recently started to sing.  I didn’t manage to get Christmas cards out before the holiday (or the new year), and I’m quite sure no one had a Christmas tree like ours.  Our Christmas was “us,” and I loved it.

 

* This quote is from Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block.  A favorite of mine.