Today is my dad's birthday and so I have birthdays on the brain. We're headed up to Estes Park later this morning for the day to celebrate. Dad's getting his Golden Passport for the National Parks and couldn't be more excited. I'll take lots of pictures and share more about our day later, but wanted to talk about simple celebrations for a bit.
I wrote a whole chapter about this in Living Simply because celebrations--birthdays, holidays--are one part of our lives where it's easy to go completely overboard. Excess tends to rule celebrations and we've somehow accepted that "bigger is better and better is bigger" (to quote Sharpay in HSM3) and that each year has to be more than the previous year. (Think Dudley Dursley's birthday at the beginning of the first Harry Potter book.)
(I just learned that Americans spend $450 billion on Christmas. Every year. Providing clean water for the planet would cost $10 billion. Puts it in perspective, huh? Check out this link and the video there to learn more.)
How do we simplify celebrations?
We celebrate the story--not the stuff.
The story of Christmas. The story of Easter. The story of a person's life.
Sure, gifts are great and we still give gifts around here. Gifts that are needed, gifts that are fun, gifts that are practical. Gifts that have meaning rather than things that we buy and wrap just to have something, anything to give. (Don't you hate that feeling? Buying stuff just because you need to give a gift?)
But we also try to give experience kinds of gifts rather than things that will get lost and broken.
Some experience gifts aren't cheap. And so they vary with what we can afford at the time. But Toben and I often think of them as investments. We could easily spend the same amount of money on lots of things--things that will be outgrown, broken, lost, forgotten. The memories of these experiences last forever.
I got to be a trainer for the day at Sea World for my birthday one year:
Dad took Toben high speed go-carting for his birthday one year:
Audrey went indoor skydiving for her birthday one year:
So today we're going to spend the day together, celebrating Dad and making some memories that will last forever and can't be bought or wrapped. But will be cherished and remembered for years to come.
In today's economy, lots of us are cutting back this year out of necessity. Figuring out ways to simplify the holidays. But with that need, we have an opportunity to get back to the story and to celebrate what Christmas is really about.
I think we're each other's greatest resource for ways to simplify and cut back. What's working for you?