As part of the happiness-boosting experiments I tried while writing The Happiness Project — or was it while writing Happier at Home? — one of my favorite was to celebrate holiday breakfasts.

I’ve been doing this for several years now.

I copied this idea from a friend, after I saw how she’d set her table for her Valentine’s Day breakfast. For minor holidays, these days, I prepare a “holiday breakfast.”

For birthdays, I have a special cupcake plate, a special candle, and a big banner. For Halloween, I have special plates, special pumpkin candles, those window-gel decorations that stick on windows and mirrors, and I dye the peanut-butter black (my daughter eats peanut-butter on toast for breakfast). Etc.

For Valentine’s Day last Saturday, I put out my special place mats, heart-shaped plates, scattered a few Sweethearts and Hershey’s kisses candies around the table, and dyed the milk pink, with added fancy butterfly straws. As the photo shows (yes, that is an actual photo of what I did), I didn’t do anything fancy.

Now, like most traditions, this was a bit of a pain. When I woke up that morning, I didn’t feel much like pulling out the decorations and getting everything set up.

But the preparations weren’t very onerous, and it was a lot of fun. I took photos, and I sent photos to the grandparents, and we enjoyed ourselves.

I celebrate many minor holidays this way — for instance, I planned this silly celebration of Leap Day.

One of the nice things about kids is that it doesn’t take much for them to feel like something is “special,” so even something simple is very gratifying. These kinds of traditions mark the passage of time in a pleasant way and add a note of festivity to everyday life.

Also, the major holidays can become a lot of work. It’s nice to celebrate in a very manageable way. And by making this a habit — meaning that I don’t ask myself “What, if anything, should we do for Valentine’s Day this year?” but just follow this plan without any debate — I save myself a lot of strain.

However, I realized just this morning that I forgot a key part of our Valentine’s celebration!

Each year, instead of sending holiday cards, when everything is so crazy, we send a family Valentine’s Day card. After we send out each card, I put one in a pink/white/red/silver frame, and add it to our Valentine’s Day gallery. This display is very festive, it’s great to see the girls change over the years, and because these photos are out for a short time, they don’t fade into the background as photos tend to do.

If you’d like to see what our Valentine’s card gallery actually looks like, watch here.

But this year, I utterly forgot to unpack the pictures! Oh well, we’ll display them for a week or so, just a bit late.

One of the main themes of both my happiness and habits projects is memory. Time is passing so quickly; I worry that I won’t remember this time of life, what it’s like to have children this age. My shorthand for this worry is The days are long, but the years are short. In fact, of everything I’ve ever written, my one-minute video, The Years Are Short, is the thing that resonates most with people.

How about you? Have you found ways to celebrate minor holidays, or to find other ways to build and preserve happy memories?

Also …

Are you planning to read Better Than Before in a book group, spirituality group, or work group? Email me if you’d like a discussion guide. Or if you’re reading The Happiness Project or Happier at Home. I’ll send you the guides right away.

Tags: celebrations, family, habits, holidays, memories

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Gretchen Rubin is the author of the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. She writes about happiness and habit-formation (the subject of her next book, Better Than Before) at Follow her here by clicking the yellow FOLLOW button, on Twitter, @gretchenrubin, on Facebook,

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