Photo Christmas Cards & Minimalism

These may seem like opposite ideas: buying and sending photo Christmas cards, and being a minimalist.

Hear me out

photo christmas cards and minimalism

When I first set about simplifying my life, researching minimalism, and KonMari-ing my home, I had a guiding principle: I would not do anything that was LESS convenient or MORE stressful in the name of minimalism.  I would follow simple living down any rabbit hole I desired, but not into making more work for myself.

And this is the kind of moderation I still practice.  I do not count my possessions, because frankly I don’t have time and that probably doesn’t matter in the end, anyway.  I don’t purge things just for the sake of purging them, if they’re still serving me.  I sometimes even buy things if it becomes apparent that they would be very useful and make my daily life easier and less stressful.

*gasp*

One of the things that remains in my life is photo Christmas cards.

Hear me out.

Yes, it costs some money to send these.  I try to spend about 30 cents a card (I have found the best prices every year through Walmart.) Add to that the nearly 50 cents of current postage, and it costs about 80 cents per card.  I order 60 cards (this number has increased in recent years) so I spend about 50 dollars per Christmas.

This may seem excessive, but I choose to do it this way because I detest writing out actual Christmas cards.  The first few years of our marriage I sent out handwritten Christmas cards (cutting the cost down to more like $25) but it took me a month to get it done, and I dreaded every card.  I’m terrible at small talk, and writing out a Christmas card is, to me, just more small talk.

Yes, it’s a little commercial… tooting one’s own horn… “typical American”… all things I try not to be in my personal life.  But this is the ONLY time of year we take a family photo, and the only photo of my children that I distribute.  So I do not indulge in photo sessions, prints, grandparent photos, etc.  I keep my Christmas greetings and my family photo distribution to one single activity.

This is also how I announce additions to our family.  My oldest has just joined us this year, and this card is the most formal notice anyone is going to get.  My middle two sons were born in November, so the yearly Christmas card replaced any kind of baby announcements.  Even though the next is due in May, I included “& baby” on the list of names so at least people have an idea it’s happening.  Next year’s card will be this child’s first distributed photo, even though he/she will be several months old.

 

In my life, photo Christmas cards are killing multiple birds with one stone, and easy for me to make and send.  They cut down on stress, on the number of times I feel obligated to print photos or send notice of family events.  It’s a tradition I intend to continue for the foreseeable future, even if it isn’t the most “minimalist” thing ever.

Holiday Prep Work: Mental & Emotional

There’s mental prep work for the holidays?!

That’s a hard yes  Maybe it’s just because I’m an introvert.  It’s easy to make checklists and recipe books and get physically prepared and scheduled for the holidays, but it’s a little less cut-and-dry to get emotionally ready for the season.

mental preparation for holidays

To be honest, this post is inspired by breaking my own rule this year – no Christmas music before Thanksgiving.

I had this sudden, distinct feeling that if I didn’t start thinking about Christmas RIGHT NOW that it was going to fly by and I was going to miss it.  I think it’s because I have 3 1/2 children, so there’s rarely any down time to do verbs like savor, enjoy, relax, immerse, absorb.  (True confessions: I just had to look in a thesaurus to come up with the word “absorb.”  Preggo brain!)

So I turned on the Christmas music a few weeks early and I’m loving it.  New normal.

Music

This doesn’t have to limit itself to the Christmas 24/7 radio station.  Seek out other holiday music you enjoy – sacred music for Thanksgiving or Christmas, Hanukkah music (I like the Maccabeats and Barenaked Ladies for some out-of-the-box Hanukkah tunes), or just “winter” music (“I Wish I Had a River”, etc.)

Music has such a profound effect on human emotions.  It also has strong memory ties (much like scents) that can whisk us away to another time, other people, other Christmases.

Personally, I heard “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” and was transported back to being a child in my home church.  I used to play the piano for Christmas services, did duets with my vocally-talented sister, played for the church choir… and those were great years.  I spent such time practicing that Christmas spirit came naturally.  I was back in the frilly Christmas dresses with the patent leather shoes, up in the church balcony, playing piano by candlelight.

There are certain songs that remind me of putting up the tree growing up – silly ones like “Santa Claus and Popcorn” and “Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey”.  I played my Mom’s Christmas records constantly while taking my sweet time setting up the tree.  I was the only one in the house who hauled out the records, ever, and also the only one who enjoyed putting up the Christmas trees (time-consuming, scratchy work, that) but it was always my personal time of reflection and preparation.  That trimming of the tree has become more of a family fiasco now, so it’s healthy for me to listen to the tunes and sit quietly with myself before the chaos begins!

Organization

Many people say the holiday season is “stressful.”  Is there anything more stressful than being disorganized and up against a deadline?  (Being naturally very disorganized, I think I have some expertise here…)

Every year I try to get one aspect of the holidays more organized.  One year, I streamlined and simplified my wrapping schema.  One year, I nailed down my definite recipes and decided to always take the same dish to the same event.  One year, I started keeping really good track of gift ideas, purchased gifts, and wrapped gifts to avoid the last-minute scramble upon finding someone got missed.  I printed out and laminated all of the inserts for my Advent calendar, so every year I just need to get them out and put them in their numbered doors, instead of reinventing activities every December.

Now with all these simplification and organization tools in place, I can come home from a shopping trip with a gift, quickly record it, and put it away to wrap later.  I know what I need on hand for baking, and when to start baking, and how much (so I’ve completely put it out of my mind until the day I need to begin, written in my planner.)

Traditions

They’re traditions for a reason.  They make us feel secure and happy and nostalgic.  (Secret: They’re also EASY! Because you do them every year!)

Traditional food means easy menu planning and grocery shopping.

Traditional decorations mean easy set-up and storage.

Traditional activities mean keeping the season alive for your kids without having to get too creative.

They put our minds at ease – kind of an ultimate hygge! – because they’re familiar and comfortable.  We know what to expect, and that we will enjoy it (even if the enjoyment is because it’s a corny tradition from childhood.)

Relish

Whatever that looks like for you.  As an introvert, that means I get out my Christmas coffee mug, turn on some Christmas music, and settle in with a Christmas movie or just watch my decorations sparkle in the darkness.  This is really centering for me amidst the potential chaos of the season (let’s be honest: ever day is a little chaotic around here.)  Sometimes I have to get up extra early or stay up pretty late to get these quiet moments in the dark, but they’re worth it to really steep myself in the holiday spirit.

If you’re an extrovert, this likely looks like get-togethers.  This can start early, with Friendsgivings already taking place in the weeks before Thanksgiving.  Keep these things casual if you wish, meeting for a holiday snack or a movie night, and enjoy the preparation for big events like company parties and New Year’s extravaganzas.  Picking out new outfits, planning meals and decorations, welcoming guests from out of town… the opportunity for social engagements this season is prime!

 

 

Easter Traditions and Activities (besides”Meeting the Easter bunny”)

Looking for some Easter traditions you could start for your family, or activities to do with your children?  Here you are, just in time!

(These are mainly aimed at small children, and people who like simple, easy-to-execute, inexpensive fun.  Because that’s what I know!)

basket of easter eggs in the grass. Text: simple, quick, inexpensive Easter traditions

If you’re curious about why “Take your kids to meet the Easter bunny” isn’t on this list, you’ve got some more reading to do!

Photo Ideas (If your kids are game!)

  1. Bunny ears headband.
  2. Newborn sleeping in a large Easter basket
  3. Children surrounded by plastic Easter eggs
  4. Oversized Easter stuffed animals or other oversized seasonal props
  5. Kids hunting for eggs outside
  6. Kids holding or sniffing flowers

Cooking & Baking

  1. Rice Krispie bars, cut into seasonal shapes.  Maybe even break out the seasonal sprinkles.
  2. Meringues.  These are actually traditional – the empty air pocket inside is reminiscent of Christ’s empty tomb. (My husband makes them from his grandmother’s recipe every year.  Since they sit in the oven overnight, he makes them Saturday evening and they’re “empty” Easter Sunday morning!)
  3. Toss some pretzel sticks in some melted chocolate and make little nests (to put candy eggs or jellybeans in.)

Outings

  1. Egg hunt!  Most communities have one, many put on by parks departments or local churches.  If you don’t have one, gather the neighbor kids or cousins and have your own!  (Simply, of course… toss some candy in some plastic eggs.  Send a teen to scatter them around the yard.  BYOB (Bring Your Own Basket).  Done!)
  2. Flower hunt.  Check out a local botanical garden, park with flower beds, or your own yard for the first blooms of the season.  (This is great for pictures, too!)
  3. Easter Vigil random acts of kindness.  (The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is sometimes called Easter Vigil.)  Leaving a cut flower under the windshield wipers of some cars, leaving some treats on a neighbor’s doorstep, tagging a friend’s sidewalk with an Easter greeting.  It’s warm in the evenings, and what a lovely surprise to add to the beauty of Easter morning.
  4. Animal petting.  Some communities run a petting zoo, or an exhibition of prize-winning rabbits and ducks, or a baby animals meet ‘n’ greet.  Or, again, find a friend who farms or raises small animals and take your kids to pet them.  (More cute photo ops here!)

Old fashioned traditions

Don’t forget about the traditions of the past generations – perhaps a new dressy outfit for Easter.   Reading Peter Rabbit or another spring/rabbit book together.   (I’m a big proponent of reading to/with children!)  A specific special treat in the hidden Easter basket.  (My grandparents always gave us fancy decorated fudgy eggs from the local bakery!  Yum!)  Religious services during the week.  Gathering with family for a special brunch on Easter morning.

These things have a longer impact (even the clothes – you can wear those for birthdays and church and weddings all summer!) and some deeper meaning than a stuffed rabbit.  They are about relationships, family culture, neighborhood friendships,  a sense of wonder and anticipation to the most important holiday of the year.  And are possibly much more enjoyable and low stress than waiting in a line with a child who might just scream for a photo with a stranger.

Whatever you do in your home – have a blessed Holy Week preparation.  Love on your kiddos.  Impress upon them the eternal importance of what we’re celebrating.  How that looks in practice is up to you.

If you have simple Easter traditions of your own, feel free to leave them in the comments!  I’m sure there are great ideas I didn’t think of.

Rethinking “Meeting the Easter Bunny”

I’m becoming convinced many parents should stop.

white rabbit in grass. Text: Rethinking "Meeting the Easter Bunny" (For those of you outside the US, it is a common tradition to take small children to a mall or other public place to have their picture taken with someone dressed up as the Easter bunny.)

If the child you are taking ASKS to meet the Easter bunny – if they feel about the Easter bunny like they’d feel about meeting a favorite cartoon character – then wonderful!  I’m glad that’s easily accessible for your child, and I love seeing photos of happy kids on social media.

This is about the rest of our kids.

Every year it begins around this time.

What

The photos of hysterical babies and toddlers “meeting the Easter bunny.”  And people laugh and talk about how cute the crying child is, and how silly it is to be afraid of the Easter bunny.  And then they take the child the next year, and the child still cries.

I actually saw this unfold on my own Facebook newsfeed just the other day.  An acquaintance of mind posted a photo of her little guy, dressed in his fancy Easter clothes, with a big grin on his face, and a caption like, “I promise I won’t cry this year, mom!”  And a few hours later, a photo where, lo and behold, he was freaking out trying to get away from the Easter bunny.

Why Not

This is, I feel, the height of selfishness, of parents trying to live through their children, of not listening to our children’s hearts.

We are not taking a child to meet a relative or anyone actually life-changing.  It’s just a indeterminate person dressed… disguised in a giant bunny costume with huge unblinking eyes, urging children nonverbally to come sit on his lap amid a bunch of colorful decorations and cameras.

Could that sound a little disturbing to you?

Imagine.  For a child who doesn’t actively love the Easter bunny of his/her own volition,  those are real tears. They’re terrified.  Or at the very least they are not enjoying the activity.

And this activity doesn’t really serve an important purpose. What is motivating us to take a small child to meet the Ester bunny?

For a picture.

Because it’s “a cute thing to do.”

Because it’s a societal norm.

Because “I went as a child,” or “I never got to go as a child.”

It’s not eliciting a sense of childlike wonder for the kids who are scared and crying.

it’s not a fun holiday tradition if your child tries to get away from it every year.

It’s for you, really.  And doing something for your own reasons, when it scares your child… I hope that sounds like a poor idea.

What If

If you want to take them and try it, by all means!  But I really don’t ever feel comfortable seeing a photo of a child crying in the arms of the Easter bunny, because if they were uncomfortable I would hope their parent would have held them, protected them, carried them away, done something else.  Not deposited them in the arms of a stranger and backed away to get out of the photo op.  Then to post the photo for their friends and family to see.  To me, that says, “Look at how uncomfortable/frightened my young child is!  Isn’t it cute? And I’m not even there by them to ease their fears.  I just wanted the photo to look cute!”

I don’t think we would do that in other situations.

I don’t believe the people who dress up as the Easter bunny are inherently scary.  I don’t claim to know everything about your family dynamics. I went to see Santa when I was a child.  My parents were good parents.  You are good parents!  Part of parenting is giving our kids opportunities to experience fun things, to create traditions, to document special days.

 

But I’m not taking my boys to meet the Easter bunny.  Because  I know they would be scared, and I don’t scare my children on purpose.

And I certainly would hope  someone wouldn’t do it two years in a row.

It’s not worth the picture.  It’s not about us.  Nothing is about us anymore.

What Now?

Looking for some alternate ideas for Easter traditions?  Check this post!