Celebrating Special Occasions : Planning Your Holidays

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Holidays are great occasions to take a break from the normal routine, relax, and catch up with family and friends. Unfortunately, for many people whose lives are already too hectic, holidays become just another stressor to add to the list. Now that you're organizing your family's schedule, holidays can return to being the happily anticipated special days that they were when you were a child.

Choosing the Holidays You'll Celebrate

The list of holidays you can celebrate in a year is virtually endless; a quick review of a common calendar will give you at least 20 possibilities. Every religious tradition comes with its own array of both major and minor holidays. Ethnic heritages—yours or someone else's—provide you with more choices. You won't want to overlook national holidays either. Plus, there's a growing array of miscellaneous secular holidays as well. Some holidays have been extended to entire seasons.


Even holidays with extended seasons need to have a beginning and an end. Unless you own an all-year Christmas store, Christmas decorations have no place in the Easter season. Allowing yourself to keep any holiday's decorations up too long, no matter how you rationalize it, takes away from the special nature of that holiday and the ones that come after it. If you find holiday decorations fading into the background and escaping your conscious thought, then use your planner to stop yourself by making sure that when you put up the decorations, you also schedule a day and time to take down the decorations.

Your goal, as always, will be to please the most people in the family without making anyone feel overwhelmed. Start by listing the holidays that your family has always celebrated. Don't be hesitant to make everyone take a closer look to see whether there is any holiday on this list that no one feels the need to celebrate because sometimes everyone in the family outgrows, or needs a break from, the same holiday at the same time. Next, look to see whether there are any holidays the family would like to add to the list. Just remember to be selective because you can't have the time and energy to celebrate everything.

Of course, you can make the festivities as elaborate or as simple as you would like. For an extensive holiday season, you might include indoor and outdoor decorations, handmade crafts and home-baked goodies, dinners, parties, community outreach activities, elegantly wrapped homemade and store-bought presents, and so on. At the other end of the spectrum, your commemoration of the holiday can be something as simple as serving green gelatin for dessert on St. Patrick's Day.

Incorporating the Holidays into Your Family's Schedule

The challenge we need to address here is no different than all of the challenges: how to make sure that the activities you select can be incorporated into your family's schedule for the best time with the least amount of stress. And the method for doing that should be becoming familiar to you:

  1. Decide what your family wants the result to be—which options will be included and which won't.

  2. Stop for a reality check to make sure your plans aren't too ambitious. Modify them, if prudent.

  3. Make a list of what needs to be done to achieve your planned results.

  4. Break down the list into components as simple as you need to ensure that no step will be overlooked. Don't forget preparation and wrapping up.

  5. Estimate times and assign people to each component to create a checklist.

  6. Schedule the items from the checklist into the family schedule.


Holiday accessories—decorations, serving pieces, and the like—can take up a lot of space, not to mention time to maintain. Sometimes simplifying what you have can actually open the door for more creativity. Consider acquiring a few basics that can serve you well on multiple holidays. A good example is a plain red tablecloth. It will be just right for Christmas (maybe with green napkins), for Valentine's Day (white or pink napkins), and any national holiday (white or blue napkins). Your choices, both in terms of how often you can use the tablecloth and in terms of specific holiday decorations, are so much greater than if you opted for holiday-themed tablecloths for each occasion.

Look at Figure 1 to see how one family might plan its observance of Halloween. You can use the same technique for any holiday.

Figure 1. This activity map serves as a to do list that will be turned into a checklist and then scheduled onto the family's planner.
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