Celebrating the holiday season

Posted: Sunday, November 08, 2009

We're in the midst of the holiday season. For my family, the holiday season begins with Halloween, progresses through three birthdays and Thanksgiving in November, on to Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Dayb, another birthday and Easter, with St. Patrick's Day thrown in for good measure. A solid five to six months of celebrating. It's one way of making it through the dark, cold days of winter.

Not all holidays are created equal. Some come with huge expectations for memory-making (think Christmas), while others are just good fun (ever make a T-R-A-P to catch a leprechaun?)

So we just made it past Halloween. The kids just love Halloween. When they were small, I would make them cute little costumes. My favorite was the frog costume, consisting of a styrofoam ball cut in half and glued on a headband for googly eyes, paired with a green sweatshirt and sweatpants. I also had fun drawing stripes on an orange shirt for a tiger costume.

As the kids get older, the costumes get freakier - with blood dripping down their chins and spray paint matting their hair into colored spikes. Halloween goes from cozy to crazy.

The haunted house in the walkway gets spookier every year, with flashing lights and moaning sound effects to terrorize the trick-or-treaters. You have to earn your Halloween candy at our house.

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. You got to love a holiday that's all about food and fellowship, with no presents required. I especially love Thanksgiving in Juneau.

Every year we go out to the Methodist Camp for a community feast. I don't have to clean my house for guests, and I get to enjoy the turkey without having to cook it. What could be better? Add in a crackling fire, a crowd of good people to play games with, and a serene setting, and you've got the makings of a perfect holiday.

One cold November, the furnace pipes froze, and it took hours to warm up the lodge. We ate our turkey and stuffing with our coats, hats and mittens on, and had a great time.

So, skipping over Christmas, which is fraught with traditions, we move on to New Year's. The whole point of New Year's is to make noise at midnight - it is a silly holiday. We always set off confetti poppers that coat the house, leaving us finding confetti in the strangest places for months afterwards.

One snowy January we took the noise outside with bagpipes and screeching kids. I noticed that the neighbors on both sides moved away soon thereafter.

Valentine's Day always creeps up on me when I'm not looking and takes me by surprise. Of late, Valentine's Day has become a gift-giving opportunity to rival Christmas, but that's not my problem. It's the class lists.

I have three kids, with 20 to 30 kids in each class, not to mention the miscellaneous friends and relatives who also rate Valentine's Day cards. That's a mountain of little paper hearts, cut out by, you guessed it, me. It's my own fault, really. Other kids' parents buy them $2 boxes of cards to hand out at school. But I, shackled by my childhood memories of the proper way to make a Valentine, stick with the cut-out hearts, year after year. And because I'm Scotch, I can't just cut out one big heart from the middle of the paper and call it good.

No, I have to use every bit of the paper, cutting out smaller and smaller hearts, so that nothing goes to waste. When I'm done cutting out hearts, the scraps left behind could barely pass for New Year's confetti.

We wind up the holiday season with Easter, a celebration of resurrection in the church and springtime in the greater society. I should say "early spring," as the kids hunt for Easter eggs in snow banks above their heads.

I always get a kick out of the little girls all dressed up in their sleeveless Easter dresses with their XtraTufs on. Hope springs eternal, as they say. The Easter egg hunt at our house never fails to turn up a stash of long-lost confetti. At least the eggs don't stay around that long.

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother and aspiring children's author who lives in Juneau. She likes to look at the bright side of life.

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