This has been a weird, ambivalent year, yet a year of many opportunities.
I lost my job because of COVID. This made things financially really tight and all savings postponed. But, on the other hand, I have been able to spend this year with my two young kids. This has been a carpe diem year.
I pulled them from school. Being the primary educator to my kids, I wanted to make sure that they had a full breadth of experiences and different types of learning. They are doing distance learning online with remarkable teachers. But I knew I wanted to elevate this learning opportunity. My partner and I decided to put them in an outdoor school, plus I purchased a nature curriculum called Exploring Nature With Children from Raising Little Shoots. Exploring Nature With Children is a complete, year-long curriculum designed to guide you, step by step, through an entire calendar year of nature study. It follows the patterns of the planet. For instance, one week in September we learned about seeds, another in October about leaves and chlorophyll, one in November about fungi and moss and my favourite weeks of study in December were birds, evergreens and learning all about the winter solstice.
I think this curriculum saved me to some degree. Raising good humans is hard work. Raising good humans, full time is really tiring and overwhelming. I do not for a moment miss work (and I love my career). I do miss other adults, but not at the expense of not having this year with my family. Because of this curriculum, not only have my children learned so much and connected deeper to nature, but I have reinvigorated my bond with Mother Nature, in turn, deepening my love and relationship with my beautiful little tikes.
Bring on the Christmas break and the holiday season. Raised a Christian and being of European descent we did Christmas with religious aspects: we had a manger, went to church, prayed, etc. However, as an adult, I noticed that my Christmas is based completely on secular activities. I have no religion anchored to my current-day holiday. (However, I cannot and will not stop grooving with these nostalgic Christmas tunes like Boney M’s “Mary’s Boy Child” and Roger Whittaker’s “Momma Mary“. HAHA!) As I have my own kids and have learned some things of my own, I have made decisions that work better for our family and how I want them to grow into the world. As a minimalist family, we don’t buy a lot of presents. We’re not destitute, but even within our small means, we have our own privileges in so many ways. So we believe that all holidays should be centred around the ‘spirit’ of the season. We believe in this household that kindness will fix the planet, and that the holidays are all about giving and not receiving; further, that we may not have a lot, but we have more than others and Santa is the representation of that feeling, of that magic of giving. We make sure, that, if nothing else, the kids get a little something under the tree, and that donations are made to those who need it more than us. Above all else, we need to take care of this planet. If we don’t root our children in appreciating and conserving our planet, what hope will they or it have? Take these values plus the Exploring Nature With Children curriculum and you have an awoken woman who has finally taken stock of winter solstice celebrations. Furthermore, I really value it, more so than I could have imagined. This may have well been the best holiday season of my life!
This whole post is just me sharing what I experienced during winter solstice and how I feel it is enriching what I believe in. This celebration doesn’t have to replace any Christmas traditions, but I love that it has heightened it.
I have cherished this last year with my children during lockdown, but celebrating winter solstice was the highlight.
As it’s the shortest day of the year, and the longest night, this celebration is deep-rooted in its connection to the sun and her return. The promise that days will get longer, warmer and therefore the growth of flora and vegetable gardens are on their way.
Humans may have observed the winter solstice as early as Neolithic period—the last part of the Stone Age, beginning about 10,200 BC. A lot of Christmas traditions and festivities are ingrained in ancient solstice celebrations. The ancient Norsemen of Scandinavia celebrated Yule from the winter solstice through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which became known as Yule logs.
We kept things simple, making sure that we centred our conversations and activities around our appreciation of our Mother Earth. Here is what we did to rejoice:
- We started our morning with a delicious breakfast and took straight to the bush to kickoff our day with some quality time in the woods. The kids hugged some trees and rocks and we talked to her and thanked her. My partner found coyote, squirrel and mole tracks. We were wrapped in the sounds of chickadees, woodpeckers, finches, red squirrels and the laughter of our little kiddos.
- We came back and my partner created our first Yule log out of a slab of Rock Elm that was passed down to him. It’s a piece reclaimed from a barn built by pioneers, and then into a log cabin, and now it rests in our home. He drilled four holes for four candles for the four of us. He also nestled a vintage bird ornament that was mine as a kid and a maple syrup spile to honour his family’s heritage and the magic that trees produce for us.
- The kids wrote thank you cards to nature which we later burned in an evening fire.
- We strung popcorn and fed it to the birds along with other tasty treats for them like fresh seed, cranberries and more. The squirrels are loving it too.
- My partner hunts for our red meat. If he gets a deer, it is used to its fullest and that deer feeds our family for a year. We eat about one serving of meat a week as we are a plant-based family. We decided to have a venison shoulder roast for dinner. It was so nice to have it alongside our backyard carrots and herbs, local, organic potatoes and green beans!
- We read fantastic books like Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter and other seasonal stories.
- We got educated with our friends Jessi and Squeaks on SciShowKids with fun winter-based science episodes and Little Bear, too.
- We spent most of the day making our very first Yule cake (or Bûche de Noël). It was rich, textured, delicious and beautiful. We made the cake from one recipe and the filling with another, and I generously added slivered almonds.
- Everything was done on Sunday because the winter solstice landed on a Monday and my partner works. We decided to split the events and we ended our festivities on the Monday evening with an outdoor fire, eating some cake, burning our thank you letters in the fire and an herbal bath for the kids surrounded by lit beeswax candles. It was a warm bath to end the night to soothe the senses with clementine peels, lavender buds and oat tops.
I love Christmas. I don’t go crazy, but I love it. I love our traditions. We start on the first weekend of December cutting down the tree. We adorn it with pretty and precious ornaments (and this year our daughter listened enthusiastically to the history of each one). I decorate the house with vintage bobbles, antique signs and play all sorts of scratchy vinyl music. I listen to eclectic and traditional tunes. We bake cookies and pass them around as official holiday cheermeisters. We make our annual donations. We make homemade Irish cream and so much more! But this has been the solstice with the mostest.
I will not stop doing all the above things, never. But I will continue for years to come to honour the silent nights, the calming snowflakes and the return of the sun as each day gets longer and warmer by two minutes. From a mother to a mother (Earth), I want to indefinitely thank her for providing for us. From now on, our festivities will only be augmented with the spellbinding marvel of celebrating winter solstice.