Creating your family’s meaningful winter celebrations & traditions
Posted by iChild, December 20, 2017 10:13 AM
"When the days are the shortest, the nights are the coldest,
The frost is the sharpest, the year is the oldest,
The sun is the weakest, the wind is the hardest,
The snow is the deepest, the skies are the darkest,
Then polish your whiskers and tidy your nest,
And dress in your richest and finest and best…
For winter has brought you the worst it can bring,
And now it will give you
The promise of SPRING!"
Brambly Hedge: The Secret Staircase by Jill Barklem
This time of year can be a really exciting time for both parents and children! We all love reviving the old Christmas traditions of our childhood, or creating new ones just for our own little family, and traditions are such an important way to build your family culture and ensure your children have the fondest memories to look back on in years to come. But although twinkly lights, yummy turkey dinners and exciting presents are a staple of the season, and really fun too, I think it’s important to also consider the meaning behind your festive celebrations and see where you can inject that into your family traditions this year.
Whether you are a religious family or not, you can look at many different religions and cultures from around the world and take inspiration from their stories and traditions to create a winter celebration for your family that is full of meaning. Introducing children to the many different cultures and faiths that make up our vibrant and diverse communities is really important to ensure that the future for our society is a tolerant and inclusive one. So I suggest that you share these different celebrations with your children, tell the stories, make some of the crafts on the iChild website and see which ones resonate with your family and which ones you might like to borrow from for your own meaningful celebrations. Here’s a few examples to start you off…
The Nativity Story
Of course, generally the most well known ‘reason for the season’ in this country is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. You could start with a simple retelling of the story, which you'll find in the iChild website Nativity section. You could also purchase a nativity set and add to it each day in the run up to Christmas, or make your own out of clay or even playdough whilst talking about the themes in the story. In Christianity, the Nativity story represents hope and also reminds us that Jesus was born into very poor circumstances. Whether you believe that he was the son of God or not, Jesus was most probably a real man who, from humble beginnings, became a very important historical and religious figure.
Diwali was in early November this year and has already passed, but there’s no reason why you can’t still have a look at the festival with your children. Diwali is celebrated in both Hinduism and Sikhism in slightly different ways and you can find both stories in the Diwali section on the iChild website Diwali section. Both stories celebrate good overcoming evil and the return of a hero. Diwali is a celebration of light and it is fun to fill your home with candles, home made lamps/lanterns and maybe set off some fireworks in the garden.
Thanksgiving is not a religious festival but is celebrated in America on the fourth Thursday of November each year. It is a time to get together with family and give thanks for the blessings in our lives. It wouldn’t make sense for a non-American to celebrate Thanksgiving as a holiday, but in my home, we borrow the tradition of giving thanks, and each night at dinner time throughout December we light a candle and go around the table saying something that we are thankful for that day. Gratitude is a great quality to cultivate both in children and ourselves. You find more activities in iChild's Thanksgiving section.
Hanaukkah lasts for eight days; this year it was celebrated from 12th until 20th December. The story of Hanukkah is very important to Jewish people and I think teaches an important lesson about allowing people to be free to practice whichever religion they wish, even if it is not your own personal belief. You can find out more on the iChild website Hanukkah section.
The legend of Santa Claus is partly based on the stories about this generous and kind, gift-giving Christian saint. He died on 6th December, so in many parts of Europe his life is celebrated and children receive gifts on this day. I love to incorporate random acts of kindness into our build up to Christmas, and his story, which you can find on iChild's St. Nicholas section, fits in really well with that. In some countries, children leave out a shoe or boot on 5th December before they go to bed and wake up in the morning to find it filled with coins, small toys and sweets.
Yule is a Pagan festival celebrated on 21st December, from which many of our Christian customs have evolved. The 21st of December is also known as the "winter solstice" and is the shortest day (or longest night) of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. As we are a non-religious family, we base most of our celebrations around this, and we've enjoyed the iChild website's Yule section. The winter solstice is a great opportunity to talk about the Earth’s orbit around the sun and why we have shorter days in winter and longer days in summer. We also like to take lots of nature walks and read stories that help us find out about the effect the darker, colder season has on the wildlife around us. Winter solstice is a happy day because it marks the start of the days beginning to get longer and lighter, and every day from then onwards will bring us closer to spring.
Lots of people like to watch the sunrise on the Solstice. Stonehenge is the traditional place to do this, but if that’s a bit far consider a trip closure to home. The good news is you won’t have to get up too early, as the sunrise will be at about 8am, but make sure to wrap up warm! This year we are planning to watch the sunrise on the shortest day of the year on the beach with a flask of hot chocolate and cooked breakfast on a camping stove.
Whatever you do to celebrate this December, I wish you a very merry one and a happy and healthy new year.