SALT LAKE CITY — My entire life I’d planned a gorgeous summer wedding reception outdoors — little girls in linen dresses, lots of wildflowers, chinese lanterns and a cool summer breeze. Instead, my husband and I got engaged at the end of October, and because I had a close family member in the army who was shipping out for eight months Jan. 1, we were married Dec. 20.
Four years later, we were happily anticipating the birth of our second son, due Jan. 22. We had specifically planned the timing of this baby so as to not cramp up our already busy December. He had other plans though, and caught us totally by surprise by showing up Dec. 30.
Now Christmas is sandwiched in between our anniversary and our son’s birthday. The holidays soon became a blur of shopping, trying to squeeze in non-Christmas related celebrations, and drained budgets. Over the years, I’ve figured out a system to make our anniversary, Christmas time and birthdays a little more enjoyable and affordable.
Set a separate budget for each event
For a while, my husband and I would would all but skip anniversary-related celebrations because we had drained our December budget on Christmas shopping. Now I try to set aside a specific budget starting a few months before December, specifically for our anniversary. When the time comes to go out, there’s no number crunching; we can just dip into the money we’ve already set aside.
I try to do the same thing for my son’s birthday. For his first birthday I’ll admit, I just stashed a few Christmas presents and saved them for his big day (and since it was his first birthday, I don’t think he cared). Now I try to shop specifically for his birthday months before December so I know I have something special for his day and don’t have to stretch my Christmas budget any thinner.
Don’t be scared to shift around the dates
While it might be special to celebrate an anniversary or birthday on the actual date, moving it to a time with a little distance from the holidays might not be a bad idea. When we got married in December, we took a very short, local honeymoon. Later on that first year, we saved up and went to Hawaii for a week. It was so much nicer to go when the stress of the wedding and the holidays were behind us.
Now we try to at least acknowledge our anniversary on the day of, but we tend to celebrate it later when things have calmed down. Trying to find a babysitter around the holidays has proven difficult, but finding a sitter in mid-January isn’t as challenging.
Birthdays can be a little trickier to move around because, at least for me, I really like celebrating them on the actual day. We’ve toyed with the idea of celebrating my son’s birthday on Jan. 22 because that was his actual due date, but so far we just plan a little celebration for the Dec. 30. When he gets older, we may shift things around. Find whatever works best for your family.
Set expectations ahead of time
One of my good friends has a daughter who was born on Christmas, and they set birthday traditions the very first year. Santa always brings balloons for the birthday girl and they do extra presents and a cake that evening. Whatever your family traditions, don’t be afraid to do the same things for holiday birthdays every year.
My husband and I set a tradition after we had a pre-wedding dinner with our families at The Garden Restaurant in downtown Salt Lake City and then we all walked around and looked at the lights on Temple Square. It was such a special event as our families got to know each other the night before the wedding. Every year, we try to take our kids to Temple Square around our anniversary and enjoy the same experience we had that first year. We talk to them about our wedding, our families and what that day meant for us.
Setting specific traditions for birthdays and anniversaries that fall near Christmas can help to take some of the stress out of celebrating the event. It may involve some creativity and thought, but setting expectations and planning traditions can be fun and practical. It’s never too late to start a new custom in your family for events that fall on or around Christmas.