Thursday, December 27, 2007

Children and Holidays : A Year Round Celebration

by Barbara Freedman-De Vito

For children, every month of the year should be a fun-filled celebration of something special, from large occasions like the birth of a new brother or sister, a child's birthday, or Christmas, to the smaller milestones of everyday life, such as losing the first baby tooth or coming to the end of another school year. Often families hold large-scale celebrations surrounding certain events, but may pass others over entirely. The purpose of this article is to suggest ways in which parents can make every month special and uniquely memorable for their children.

Picture the scene. It's Christmastime. Many homes, especially if there are children, are framed in twinkling lights, have Christmas wreaths hanging on the front doors, and perhaps Santa's sleigh adorning the front lawn, in addition to a lovingly trimmed Christmas tree in the livingroom. The act of making or putting up these decorations provides a special opportunity for parents and children to participate in a creative endeavor together. It heightens the child's anticipation of the big holiday to come and provides an enjoyable day spent doing things together.

Because of its association with a very special annual event, it may particularly stand out in the child's mind and even become a cherished childhood memory, lasting long after the child has grown into adulthood. Moments such as these linger and contribute to the special bond between parents and children and become tender memories that grown children and their parents can hold onto forever.

After New Year's Day, when the Christmas tree comes down and the last string of tiny light bulbs has been packed away, it's a bit of a letdown and signals a return to the routine passing of the days. Well, instead of just packing away all of these fanciful flourishes for another year, why not segue directly into another holiday ? In January, this could be preparations for Chinese New Year or for Valentine's Day. Why not put equal care and attention into doing up the house for each subsequent special event throughout the year ? With a bit of planning and effort, every month can mark a new festival of creativity, excitement and anticipation. The house need never revert to dullness and children need never feel that the fun's all over until next year. This practice will also allow your children to take pride in their own artistic accomplishments, the fruits of which will be on display all around them.

Here is a list of just some of the annual events that you might wish to make a bigger fuss over, in terms of decorating a single room or decorating your entire home, inside and out. You may even choose to make gift-giving a part of a broader range of annual events, just for the pleasure of giving. You might bake a special cake and have a party with a particular theme in mind, and incorporate that theme into all of your table trimmings. Some of the following widely celebrated holidays and other special observances have fixed dates, while others vary a bit from year to year :

January 1 - New Year's Day
midJanuary - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
January - Chinese New Year
February - African-American History Month
February 2 - Groundhog Day
February 14 - Valentine's Day
March - Women's History Month
March 17 - Saint Patrick's Day
late March or April - Easter
April - National Library Week
May - Older Americans Month
May – Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
May - Be Kind To Animals Week
midMay - Mother's Day
midJune - Father's Day
July 4 - American Independence Day
September - Grandparents Day
September 15 to October 15 - Hispanic Heritage Month
October 12 - Columbus Day
October 31 - Halloween
November - American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month
November - National Children's Book Week
late November - Thanksgiving
late November or December - Chanukah
December 25 - Christmas
December 26 to January 1 - Kwanzaa

To find detailed information on designs to use or special pictures and symbols to go with each event, you can consult Internet or find a book on holidays at your local library. Whatever your religion, you may also want to decorate your home for your faith’s unique holidays and traditional celebrations, the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot, for example. Don't forget to doll up the place for all personal family events, too, such as each family member's birthday, graduations, anniversaries and the like. How about celebrating when your child successfully learns to ride a bicycle or loses a baby tooth ? You might even mark the arrival of a new pet, or a long overdue visit from a favorite relative who lives far away.

For each event, you may or may not choose to use some store-bought ornaments and objects related to the festivity, but you should also always include many homemade decorations. The art sessions during which you and your children design and make your own decorations add to family closeness and create special memories in and of themselves. They also encourage your children to tap their own creativity, to develop original ideas and see them through, and to trust their own instincts.

You might buy some basic materials, such as rolls of ribbon or crepe paper or rolls of colored cellophane and pipe cleaners, or really maximize your resourcefulness by relying primarily on odds and ends that you already have lying around the house. These could include bits of colored construction paper, tin foil, crayons, cotton balls, leftover ribbons and yarn. Be careful, of course, to keep scissors and swallowable objects out of the reach of small children and exercise caution if you have pets in your house. Please be careful not to use any decorations or materials that may be poisonous, such as poinsettias, or otherwise harmful to pets. For example, cats may swallow tinsel, which can then block their intestines, or pets may become tangled up in or choked by long, string-like strips of ribbon and such.

When plannng each project, let your kids decide what to make and where to put each item, or start with one room plus an idea of that room's overall decorative potential, such as a garland here, a mobile there, and a picture over there, and then set about to construct each desired element. Take plenty of photos along the way, not only of your resplendant rooms once they've been all gussied up, but also of your family's "making of" activities. You may even decide to start a special photo album just for this purpose.

Later, when the time comes to take down all of the decorations from a particular special event, pack them lovingly away so that next year you can reuse some, in addition to creating some new ones each year. You can gradually build up your own personal inventory of special ornaments and trimmings for each event in the year. Then, in years to come, they can be brought out for nostalgic afternoons with your adult children, or for sharing with your grandchildren. Each decoration or photo will have its own story to tell and, after all, these are the special moments that lifetime memories are made of.

Visit Barbara Freedman-De Vito's shop for T-Shirts, Mugs, Magnets, Clothing, and Gifts with holiday designs and more.