Holiday traditions offer an annual dose of memories and magic, but they also often create a frenetic pace and endless to do’s for every household and caregiver. As someone who very much enjoys and wants to do all of the traditions, AND who also values and wants to make space for sanity, rest and peace, I find myself refining our rituals. With kids who are 11 and 15, now more than ever I make it my mission to preserve and reclaim my time and enjoyment of the holidays as much as I do theirs and to avoid anything that adds unnecessary work or tasks to my plate.
It recently dawned on me that our usual activity-based advent calendar that my kids always enjoy was no longer working for me. I was happy they were getting to do all of the special things they expect and associate with the holiday – even as big kids – like building gingerbread houses, making cinnamon applesauce ornaments, and other things they consider fun. I actually love doing these things too and really do look forward to them, but too often, when the advent prompts came out, I realized I was sighing with dread at yet another item needing my orchestration.
I realized I had created a month of extra tasks for myself in the name of holiday fun and tradition for my kids. I also acknowledged that I already have enough tasks. I don’t need or want more this time of year. And yet, I also believe rituals and traditions make life richer. I am not willing to let them go. So where to go from there?
A few ways to lighten my load while keeping the good stuff intact popped into my brain – a way to make this advent tradition easier for me, while keeping the fun for all of us. I pulled out one of the little pieces of paper stuffed in the first day’s pocket and reviewed.
Build a Gingerbread House
Well, in order to build one I needed to have already gone and bought the gingerbread house (because making one homemade doesn’t sound fun at all right now) as well as have a clean table ready to place it on the day my sugarplums unfolded the prompt. That didn’t feel good. It did feel like a burden that I was assigning myself on top of my already lengthy daily list. In an micro-epiphany, I tore a new slip of paper and wrote…
Order a Gingerbread House Kit.
With this revision, my kids still get the gingerbread house tradition, AND I removed the responsibility of needing to do or even remember to do anything to prepare for it. That felt more on the right track. I grabbed a few more.
Make a Christmas Ornament
Guess who had to be ready with materials, ideas and knowledge of what and how to make it? I crumbled that day and added its replacement:
Watch a youtube video on how to make an origami star.
This seems obvious now – that I shouldn’t have been working harder than my kids on daily doses of holiday “maker” cheer, but it wasn’t. I share my current advent activity list today, to hopefully add a little time back in both of our winter days for rest, which creates space for intentionality. And isn’t that ultimately one of the most important values I can ever impart to my offspring? I certainly hope that one day my own kids will be boundaried, resourced and rested in their future roles and lives. The chance of them learning this increases exponentially if I model this version of adulthood around them and embrace it in front of them in small ways as well as our big lifestyle choices. It’s not perfect, there’s still a bit of consumerism built into the prompts, but it’s at a level that feels fine to me.
My prompts center the Christmas holiday, because that is what we celebrate, but they could easily be modified if you experience the month of December differently. Also, my kids happen to have fun doing crafty things. If yours don’t, you’ll obviously need to shift accordingly. The only challenge I encourage you to embrace alongside me is to use this little ritual as an opportunity to take things off of your to do list during what is almost always the busiest time of the year, so that your kids can see you having a bit more time to enjoy the season too.
2022 Advent Prompts
Help the dog put on her holiday sweater
Read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Make a holiday card for someone and mail it
Make a fire and tell a scary holiday story
Order a gift for our dogs
Make an ornament from fabric – sew, glue, whatever you want!
Make a holiday gift for someone and put it under the tree
Order a gingerbread house kit today
Make a tiny holiday diorama scene with materials we have
Order ingredients for applesauce ornaments
Make a star for our tree from things found outside
Find a book, pillow and a cozy blanket. Create a snuggly reading spot somewhere
Choose one toy or book to donate
Challenge: Make an ornament from recycled materials
Write a letter or card to someone you love
Call a family member and ask them to share a funny Christmas memory
Find 2-3 items of clothing that no longer fit and make a plan to donate them
Watch a youtube video about how to make an origami star
Find a toy you’ve outgrown and make a plan to give it to someone younger
Spread holiday cheer to your pets by giving them extra long petting sessions today
Light a candle to honor the return of daylight for the solstice
Paint or draw a winter scene and add glitter somewhere
Make a cup of hot tea with honey for someone in your house
Tell everyone in your family one thing you like or appreciate about them
Call a grandparent, aunt, uncle or cousin to see how their day is going
I am convinced that ritual is one of the key ingredients to a life well-lived, or at the very least, a great way for a busy person to pause and actually notice when he or she is in the midst of a life well-lived.
And I am even more convinced that ritual is most likely to happen consistently when it is simple, easy, imperfect, and quick.
If you’d like support creating your own rituals and nature connection practices, check out The Handmade Life! There I offer coaching, share herbal traditions, handcrafted goods, DIY workshops and herbal consultations.*