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Karen Brennan
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Simplifying Joyful Holidays

Monday, November 11, 2013

It was wonderful to see so many of you at the lantern walk this past weekend.  I thought it was a wonderful event.  The weather was perfect, and it was so lovely to see the lanterns moving through the darkness. 

I want to spend a little time talking about how to bring more simplicity for the holidays.  They are coming so quickly!  I have some copies for anyone who wants of one of my favorite poems for the holidays by Maureen Flannery, a long time member of the Waldorf community and a wonderful poet, called “Mother’s expectations for Advent.”  She writes about the celebration she dreams of creating and the one that really happens and how the two don’t meet. 

I have copied a couple of handouts--these are in a separate post-- for you from my Simplicity parenting colleague, Sue Gimpel, about being the architect of your holidays.  I would like to invite you to remember back to your own childhoods and remember what was most meaningful for you.  What memories do you treasure from your childhood holidays or celebrations?  Mine are pretty simple—I loved lighting the menorah and watching the candles burn.  I also loved the songs.  I also remember looking out the big picture window in our backyard and watching the snow fall.  And I remember a lot of special holiday meals and sometimes being allowed to help to cook and the smell of latkes frying.

The authors of Unplug the Christmas Machine, Jo Robinson and Jean Staeheli, interviewed hundreds of adults about their holiday memories and found that they could rarely remember the gifts, but instead remembered the feelings, rituals and relationships.  “Children want their parents to interpret the season for them so that it has meaning,” says Staeheli.  “Traditions needn’t be expensive or elaborate.  Anything can be a ritual if approached with a certain spirit.”  Our lantern walk is one example of this kind of celebration.

With the little ones, simpler is better.  What is important to you?  Gifts, spending time with certain people, decorations, rituals or religious celebrations, activities, travel, food?  Something else?  There will be time to expand or add to the celebration as the children grow older.  Some pieces you will hold on to, and others will fall by the wayside.  It is, for me, anyhow, the hardest time of year to avoid the 4 pillars of too much—too much stuff, too many choices, too much speed, too much information.  But we do have many choices and we can bring some balance by having some quiet days if we have really busy days.  What is the most challenging part of the holidays for you?  What is your favorite part?