Underground: Reclaiming the Little Holidays

I love holidays, and I doubt I’m alone.  I love parades, big dinners and {yes, I admit it} presents.  I can’t wait to see how our family traditions grow and change over the next few years as our children learn and begin to anticipate holidays.  As much as I want my children to adore and anticipate their major holidays with joy, my husband and I wanted something a little bit more in our celebratory year than just the guns – Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc.  Perhaps it sounds a little selfish, but we want more holidays.
Now I bet a few people are rolling their eyes.  “Oh,” they’re probably saying, “Someone just wants more presents and reasons to spend money.  To that I’d reply with a polite shake of my head because it is the opposite of what we’re desiring.
There is only so much, I feel, we can do to “reclaim” holidays that have been claimed so strongly our consumer culture when shops start setting out Christmas decorations in July.  While we intended to fight the good fight to ensure that our major holidays are focused on the ideas and celebrations we feel are right for our family in the end there might be only so much we can do.  So instead of fighting tooth and nail to save our only holidays from consumerism we thought, we not go “underground” and reclaim days that our society, as a whole has forgotten or ignored.
It’s a little easier for our family; Catholics love holidays, or feast days as they’re usually called, so we have plenty to chose from.  In fact, it’s rare when you don’t find someone or something that you could celebrate on any given day.  However, many religions or denominations have old traditions and celebrations that have fallen by the wayside and who’s to say you can’t take a little inspiration from someone else.
 Our reasons for wanting to add more special days into our year are simple:
  • Inspiring Family Time – We wanted more ways to make our family times a little more special.  While we’re committed to things like family dinners and activities sometimes you just need a little inspiration to set the table again or you’ve just run out of ideas for next Sundays’ Family Day and I’m sure I’m not alone, but sometimes I need a little inspiration to liven up the meal planning week after week.
  • Life Lessons – We wanted new, yet subtle ways to teach our children about the people and ideas that we find important.  Since many of the feast days focus around a particular person it becomes easier to take a moment to reflect on their achievements and struggles.  If we don’t want to focus on a particular person, we can always pick a theme like Courage or Honesty.
  • Commercial Break – Okay, I’ll admit it – I love Christmas presents.  Within reasons, I love picking out, wrapping up, giving and receiving gifts on Christmas day, but I’ll also admit our society as a whole has a serious problem with the importance of this action.  We want a chance to impart to our children that it’s not presents that make a holiday special – that a gift can be in the form of an activity, a special dinner or a small tradition.  Perhaps, just perhaps, our children might grow to understand that a holiday is not just about gifts if they have fewer holidays that are focused on gift giving.  It might be a pipe-dream, but it seems a worthy one.
In order to achieve this without throwing Grandma or Auntie Ida into a tissy by suggestion that we change or simplify the major holidays we simply choose to go underground and make a few more holidays to celebrate.  We claim special days and occasions that are not on Hallmark or Nestles’ radar with the freedom to make it exactly what we want to be without magazines and T.V. shows giving us unrealistic expectations of what our homes and families should be experiencing to make the moment magical.
Ideas of what our Little Holidays might include:
  • Small, but special family dinners.  Perhaps we’ll try out a traditional dish from another country or time; sometimes the dinners might be a little grander than normal and sometimes they will be simpler.
  • Storytime; I doubt I could do any kind of holiday without finding a book that relates in some way or another.  It might be a book about the person we’re learning about, or share a similar theme or perhaps it will be a time for story-telling and a chance for children and adults to share special moments in their lives.
  • Purposeful activities.  They might be grander gestures or small things we can do around the house.
  • Community; while I’d love to find ways to inspire our parish to celebrate more of the Little Holidays I hope to foster a sense of community starting at home whether it’s with family, neighbors or friends.  I don’t want to create something just for the reason of proselytizing, but rather find ways to include those who are important to us on days that our important to us in a way that is comfortable and welcoming.

Ideas for finding Little Holidays to bring into your home:
  • For the religious or spiritual – look to older traditions within your Church, or (if you’re comfortable with the idea) look to other denominations or religions similar to yours.  I remember learning a lot about my family by celebrating holidays likes Chanukah and Passover even though we weren’t Jewish (we do have a Jewish-side of the family and it was a great way to stay connected to them and their traditions).
  • Celebrate the birth (or death) days of people you find inspiring or important in your lives.  This could be someone famous, or a great way to remember a beloved friend or family member.
  • Look to nature – consider creating family traditions on the longest and shortest days of the year or around berry-picking or apple harvesting times!
  • Look to other cultures – this can be an amazing tool for learning about others in your community.  Consider finding New Years celebrations or days that celebrate parents, sibling or other family members.
  • Look to Literature – Consider celebrating Elevensies for the anniversary of The Hobbit, having a birthday party for Harry Potter or finally learning what was so important to Henry about “St. Cripsin’s Day”.
  • Be Silly – Maybe “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” or “Pick Up Rocks Day” is just what your family needs to get out of the house and have a little fun. (hint: google “bizarre holidays” for more!)
I hope this gives a little more insight to the holidays you’ll see us celebrate through out the year and maybe give you a little inspiration to go underground and claim some new traditions for yourself!
If you missed it go HERE to see our ideas for celebrating our first Michaelmas and Feast of St. Francis and HERE to see the pictures of our first Michaelmas celebration!


10 thoughts on “Underground: Reclaiming the Little Holidays

  1. I love love love love love this idea. 🙂 I will definitely be incorporating some mini-holidays that are family-specific for us. One we decided to adapt last year is “FriendsMas” – a take off on Thanksgiving and Christmas that we just spend with the family-we-choose, our friends. We had it between the two last year, but I think we will have it closer to New Years this year, so that everyone has a chance to experience the full holiday season with their family without adding any stress. FreindsMas is all about enjoying time together without the stress.


  2. I love this post. No, of course, you are not alone in loving holidays. I say the more the merrier, especially when they are celebrated in a meaningful way. Thanks for the great ideas!


  3. We love holidays, too, and I found a lot of great ideas in the book: The Joy of Family Traditions: A Season-by-Season Companion to 400 Celebrations and Activities. We also sit down as a family at the beginning of every season and come up with a list of family activities that we want to do that season. It's interesting to see what each family member comes up with, and which activities make it to the list year after year.


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