“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” ― John Steinbeck
It’s hard to find words after the tragic shooting in Connecticut last Friday. I am grieving with the families and the community there. As we, as a nation, reflect on darkness, this Friday in the Northern Hemisphere, we will observe the winter solstice — the darkest day of the year. We also welcome back the light and try to remember that brighter days will surely follow this season of darkness.
The frenzy of the holidays may seem like the wrong time to add yet another tradition to your to-do list. The key is making seasonal celebrations simple and relaxing. They can be the perfect opportunity to pause, appreciate nature’s cyclical changes, the lessons each season imparts, and to celebrate the natural beauty all around us.
Here are a few easy ideas for saying farewell to fall and hello to winter on Friday:
Watch the sun rise and set. Take a walk, hike, or ski trip and notice all of the things you appreciate about winter. For me, it’s the branches outlined against the sky and the thrushes, sparrows, seagulls, starlings, blue birds, and wrens that make this part of the world their home during the winter.
What better time of the year to curl up and share books? A few of my family’s favorite winter-themed picture books are:
- The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
- Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
- Stella, Queen of the Snow by Mary-Louise Gay
- The Big Snow by Berta Hader
- A Kitten Tale by Eric Rohmann
- Snow by Cynthia Rylant
- Winter is the Warmest Season by Lauren Stringer
It’s also fun to read aloud from The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson. And if you’re in the mood for adult reads, check out this list of Good Books to Read in the Winter or the Independent’s 50 Best Winter Reads.
Make a seasonal feast, with foods like beets, winter squash, potatoes, onions, kale, cabbage, or parsnips. Prepare your favorite winter dessert or hot beverages. And don’t forget to light candles while you eat, a sure hit for kids and adults alike.
When the sun sets, let your house dance with candlelight. Then after dinner, blow the candles out and sit together quietly in the darkness for a few minutes. Reflect on darkness and on how long and cold winter must have felt before we had electric lights and heat.
Other things you can reflect on together:
- One thing you’ve lost this year and one thing you’ve gained.
- One thing you want to say goodbye to in the new year and one thing you’d like to welcome back into your life.
- Some of your best and worst holiday memories.
Bring an evergreen bough inside and make it into a wishing tree. Secure the bough in a bucket with rocks. Cut leaves out of construction paper. Have each person write down a wish for the coming year on each leaf. Hang the leaves on the tree using a hole punch and yarn or ribbon.
Hoping you have a happy first day of winter.
Do you have your own winter solstice traditions? I’d love to hear about them.