When my children were little, we celebrated Christmas much like my husband and I did when we were growing up. Presents, food, travel, and (limited) time together were the focus. While we definitely have some special memories, what I remember most about those early years is feeling overwhelmed. We didn’t have a lot of extra income, our family lived far away, and everything seemed focused on more, more, more.
Despite saving, making gifts, and trying to set travel boundaries, I knew something had to give because whenever December rolled around, I found myself becoming more and more of a Grinch.
We needed to shift our focus.
Spending time outside, appreciating what we have, taking care of each other and our home, giving, making, celebrating the mysteries of life- I wondered what would happen if we gave the things that really mattered to us more attention in December.
I started reading about the Winter Solstice. A celebration of light returning, a time to reconnect with the Earth and with self- this felt like us.
The last six years have confirmed it is a better fit.
Darkness and the return of light are at the center of Winter Solstice celebrations. Here are a few of our favorite ways to celebrate together and focus on light.
Celebrating the Winter Solstice
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Make a fire
1. Tell stories, talk about why we and the Earth need light, roast marshmallows, drink hot chocolate, look for animals in the flames.
2. Place wish or prayer bundles into the fire.
A wish or prayer bundle is a small piece of cloth filled with dried herbs (we use sage and lavender) and/or tobacco and tied with a string.
1. Take a hike together
2. Lie on a blanket and watch the stars
3. Take a walk at night
4. Look for tracks
5. Collect greenery, pinecones, or treasures for a nature table
6. If you put up a tree, consider finding a local tree farm and cutting down your own.
These books are a great way to introduce your children and family to the Winter Solstice, how people around the world celebrate, and its history.
Create lanterns and light candles
1. Cut out images and words or write and draw them. These might be centered around the themes of light and darkness or around wishes or things you love.
2. Using a paintbrush (or fingers), glue the images to the inside of the jar. Make sure the images are facing out.
3. Once dry, place a candle inside the jar. To hold it still, put a piece of tape on the bottom of the candle or fill the jar halfway with sand.
Create a winter spiral
I can’t take credit for the beautiful spiral pictured. One of my daughter’s teachers creates this for her students every year. Made with greenery, paper stars, and candles, walking through it while children sing songs is pretty magical.
Maybe try making one in your yard or home. Use sticks, leaves, greenery, rocks- whatever you have on hand.
Once created, walk quietly or sing and place a candle somewhere along the path. Maybe think about the things you love, your hopes and wishes, and offer gratitude.
Our family also puts up a tree and decorates our home. Our children did not want to give up Santa so he and his elves make a special delivery on Solstice. We give gifts and make food and there are still moments the season feels like too much.
But shifting our focus and centering our celebrations around the things that feel meaningful to us has created the space we need to truly bring light.
Our family wishes you and your family a season filled with light and love, no matter what you believe or how you celebrate.