10 Simple Ways to Weave Holiday Traditions Into Everyday Life

abstract valentine face
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Thanksgiving Thankfulness Tree: an old, recycled piece of cardboard, Mr. Native Texan’s drawing skills, Older Brother’s leaf shapes, and all of our blessings (some silly, some serious).

Here at the Yankee Homestead, we love getting into the spirit for holidays and seasonal celebrations.  

We don’t do anything too elaborate, certainly nothing that would land on anyone’s Pinterest board. 🙂

Children love to celebrate, and I find that holidays make a great jumping off point for learning about all sorts of things–culture, history, literature, music, cooking and more!  We also love to celebrate the four seasons, but today I’ll focus on preparing for and celebrating holidays.

We try to keep things simple, focusing on quality children’s literature and music, with a growing collection of home decor and a few random, fun things thrown in.

We really don’t spend a ton of time on this; it’s more about creating an atmosphere of awareness, anticipation and learning.

  • I want the boys to be aware of important holidays and seasons, as well as the passage of time.
  • It’s fun to anticipate each holiday, giving us something to look forward to.
  • And over time, I hope they (and myself!) will come to understand the historical, cultural and spiritual significance of each holiday, rather than viewing most holidays from a purely commercial perspective (which is what often happens with holidays, if we’re not careful).
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Memorial Day festivities: patriotic song books, American flags, and red-white-and-blue T-shirts.

After one holiday or season has ended, we make a ritual out of taking down those books and decorations, and storing them away in the “Seasonal Decor” box in the basement.  Then with great joy and excitement, the boys assist with putting up decorations for the next holiday.  In the days leading up to the next holiday, we read our holiday-related books and enjoy our holiday-inspired decor.

Favorite ways to prepare for and celebrate holidays all year long:

1.  Children’s Literature

Our holiday/seasonal books are displayed in a book rack in the dining room, which doubles as holiday decor.  And seeing them on display helps us remember to read them. 🙂  (Kind of the opposite of “Out of sight, out of mind.”)  We read many of them in the days leading up to the holiday, often saving the “best” book for last.  [See the bottom of this post for a list of our favorite holiday picks.]

 

2.  Poetry

We also love to read poems related to the history or celebration of that holiday.  We own several wonderful collections of children’s poetry which provide ample material for holiday reading.  And of course the library and the internet have provided many gems as well.  [Children’s poetry, like children’s literature, is a topic that’s dear to my heart–one that I hope to address further here at Yankee Homestead in the days ahead.]

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3.  Folk music

We love folk music at the Yankee Homestead!  For holiday listening, we often draw from our extensive personal library.  We also supplement with CD’s from the library, or specific songs downloaded from itunes.  Celtic music is perfect for St. Patrick’s Day, patriotic songs for the 4th of July, hymns of thankfulness for Thanksgiving, and so on and so forth.

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We made little packets of Thanksgiving hymns to keep near the dining table all through November. Sometimes instead of our dinner-time prayer we’d choose a hymn to sing together.

 

4.  Themed Clothing

Who doesn’t love to wear red-white-and-blue for patriotic holidays?  A few weeks before Christmas, the boys receive Christmasy pj’s, to be worn often throughout the month of December, and especially on the night of Going to Look at Christmas Lights.  And of course, we wear special clothes on Easter Sunday, green shirts on St. Patrick’s Day and red clothing on Valentine’s Day, etc.

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Valentine’s Day PJ’s

 

5.  Finger tip towels

This is one of our favorite decorations!  I’m rather fond of sort of addicted to finger-tip towels, and the boys get a real kick out of changing them out to reflect the current season or holiday.

 

6.  Window Clings

My mother started this with the boys, and while we don’t own a set of clings for each holiday, they sure enjoy the ones we have.  Aesthetically speaking, they are not my favorite. 🙂  But they are inexpensive (can you say “dollar store”?), easy and the boys love them! 

 

7.  Door Decor

Another easy way to celebrate!  We’ve been building our collection by waiting until holiday decor goes on clearance.  JoAnn Fabric is a favorite source for my preferred rustic, wooden decor.  [Update: have I mentioned we now have a Hobby Lobby!?]

 

8.  Table decor

On the day of the holiday, I try to do something somewhat-celebratory in the way of table decor.  Again, nothing too pinteresty.  I’ve found that young boys are equally delighted with a package of holiday-themed paper plates as they are with all-out creativity fests.

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Leaf table decor for Thanksgiving (This was a more all-out situation.  We do not regularly dine on chargers with multiple plates.) 🙂

 

9.  Crafts & Activities

Accomplishing crafts with little people often stresses me out, but I try to work in some crafts here and there, like valentines.  

We might also look at maps–finding Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day, making or coloring flags, or holding a simple parade.  (Our parades involve loud, upbeat, holiday-specific music, instruments from our collection, and some sort of holiday-related item for waving–like flags, bandanas or streamers.  And marching.  Lots of marching.)

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I hesitate to include this photo of our 2011 St. Pat’s Parade because 1) I’m wearing no make-up and 2) yes we did wave evergreen branches and sticks tied with green streamers in our parade. We’re sophisticated like that. #KeepinItReal

 

10.  Food

Similar to my kid-craft-o-phobia, working in the kitchen with young children tends to raise my blood pressure.   Again, I make concerted attempts to work in a few simple, food-related activities.  A heart-shaped, chocolate cake for Valentine’s Day; something involving strawberries, banana slices and blue berries (red, white & blue) for patriotic holidays; GF Irish soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day; etc.

 

Among other traditions and practices we employ in our family, preparing for holidays and celebrating them together is, I hope, creating memories that will serve to strengthen our ties as our children grow.

Each time we switch out our awesome finger-tip towels, hang the next “Welcome” sign on the door and trade one holiday’s books for the next, we’re adding another strand to those ties that bind us together as a family.  This is what makes us “us.”

Sally Clarkson says, in The Mission of Motherhood,

Each family can develop its own identity through routines and traditions, both simple and complex, silly and profound…It is not the fanciness or complication factor that gives the definition of a family, but the joy shared and the memories made and the sense of belonging generated by a long history of being together.

What are the special (simple or complex, silly or profound) holiday traditions in your home?

Check out our ever-expanding list of favorite holiday-themed children’s books:

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Kathleen Henderson

Kathleen Henderson

Let's get real! I’m Kathleen Henderson, your Natural Living Mentor. I’m on a mission to help families see the joy in real food, while finding natural remedies and creating a nontoxic home. Learn more about my story >>

2 Comments

  1. Avatar Nikki on 01/23/2014 at 2:55 pm

    Love this post. I seriously need to decorate for winter or something! Something to get our minds off how cold it is and try to enjoy this time of year. Maybe we should make a ton of paper snowflakes to hang from the ceilings. I need to stock up on some holiday bath towels!! Thanks for all of the great ideas!

    • Kathleen Kathleen on 01/23/2014 at 9:29 pm

      Paper snowflakes sound fun…for other people to do, that is. They would fall into my kid-craft-o-phobia category. 🙂 Let me know how they turn out…

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