At the beginning of this year I did a blogpost about exploring an alternative to Christmas here
It seems to have come naturally for us this year to get more excited about the change in the seasons. Instead of feeling blue as the weather has got colder, I feel we have become much more connected with what is actually going on as the days become shorter, the bulbs lie dormant beneath the earth and the animals collect nuts and go into hibernation. I think part of it is due to having small children and embracing the magic that is our earth, and perhaps also living where we do with an amazing view of the changing natural world combined with spending more time outdoors. The beginning of the celebration, for us, was the advent spiral at Zelda School. Whilst we each got a candle from an angel at the entrance of the yurt, walked to the middle of the spiral one -by-one (or with our child) to light it, bringing light to the darkest days of the year, and then placed our candle somewhere on the spiral and made a wish – children and adults were all singing wonderful rounds of songs together. These are my favourite:
“Oaken leaves, in the merry woods so wild,
when will you grow green, oh?
Fairest maid, and thou be with child, lullaby
may’st thou sing, ah.
Lulla, lullaby, lulla, lulla, lullaby, lullaby
may’st thou sing, ah.”
“Now I walk in beauty,
beauty is before me,
beauty is behind me,
above and below me”
My girls had been so looking forward to the spiral. You could see the childrens eyes, filled with magic and things memories are made of, and this year it was especially contagious. I have officially embraced winter celebrations, and am too enjoying the magic. The mulled wine and sitting around a fire with friends is a wonderful tradition too, and I hope to always do it.
We have officially rejected the generic idea of christmas, where you get yourself broke and buy presents nobody needs or wants (sorry Christmas lovers) – and I have also rejected the idea of it being a purely Christian celebration, having explored many more of the pagan and natural folklore. That has allowed me to claim and embrace the celebrations as a non-Christian. I mentioned last year that we told the kids Santa was not real – well, hubby did and I was not sure how I felt about it. The kids haven’t really remembered as Erin is talking of Santa getting her an IPad (hahaha, whatever!) But this year we have got a book about St Nicholas(waiting for it to arrive), and are looking forward to reading about the amazing ways he helped people and have decided that we can embrace Santa in this way – in the spirit of giving and helping others.
After reading this very wonderful blog about a solstice celebration hubby and I have had a proper sit down, grown up chat about how we want to do this winter celebration thing. We have decided to completely make it our own, make it work for us but follow some of the traditions. So as far as advent goes, we have decided to start the countdown next Wednesday – 14 days, which is about half a moon cycle – before Christmas day. No real reason – perhaps we will start on the 1st of December next year, we are just not well enough organised this year! On Wednesday we will cut a small branch from a tree, bring it home and decorate it. Perhaps it will be an evergreen branch, perhaps it won’t – we’ll just see what feels right. Traditionally a evergreen was used as a symbol of life in the midst of winter. It will be our winter tree. We plan to decorate our house with bits of Holly and other evergreens too and winter lights, and have started making wreaths with willow which we will twist green into.
We have written a list of things we would like to do – one on each of those 14 days of our advent, not necessarily in this order. Inspiration from various Winter Solstice books and The Woodland Trust website:
1) Make bird seed donuts – bird seed rolled in peanut butter – for the birds.
2) Make a leaf scarf for a tree
3) Make a sunrise/sunset chart
4) Make twig stars
5) Do a scavenger hunt
6) Winter twig quiz – match twigs to trees
7) Make gingerbread trees
8) Make ice or tissue paper lanterns
9) Make paper snowflakes
10) Make pine cone trees
11)Make up our own Solstice Song
12) Collect twigs for the fire (possibly a daily thing)
13) Go ice skating
14) Play games
Our main celebration is going to be on the 21st, which is the shortest day of the year. We will be opening one or two presents, writing down our favourite memories of the year, making cupcakes with yellow icing (representing the sun) and making wishes. Later we hope to have an outdoor fire with friends, make and drink mulled wine and spicy apple juice and have fun. Before you get worried, we won’t be sacrificing goats or anything ;-) There is a beautiful childrens book called The Shortest Day, which we have been reading to the girls. We will be looking forward to the days getting longer and the nights getting shorter again.
We plan for the days that follow to hold lots of family time and time with friends, walks, reflecting on the past year, looking forward to more daylight, enjoying the great outdoors and good food. On Christmas morning the kids will open their christmas stockings and I think we will open the rest of our presents (one or two more) later in the day. We are having a meal with friends, although hubby may be at work, and maybe we’ll have another fire to mark the end of our solstice celebration. Ooh and another thing I’d love to do at some point, is go to Winter Wood again (if you are local, this is a must-do…so magical!)
I would also really like to do something specifically for others/helping out somewhere – not sure what yet…suggestions?
How do you celebrate your winter season?
Here are some of our sources of inspiration for creating a celebration of our own:
The Return of the Light