A few weeks back, I was having a conversation with a friend about the impending holidays. She mentioned her boy was most looking forward to repeating a new tradition she introduced last year, a Santa scavenger hunt where he followed clues to find a present in the backyard. I asked if he'd remembered what last year's gift was. No. I asked if she remembered. No. It was not the gift that stuck with them; it was the joy of the celebration.
Our talk got me thinking about what my gals will remember and treasure from our holidays together. I want our seasonal celebrations to be meaningful, centered around traditions we build together and let evolve over time. We have a spiritual, but not a religious home. We are not a Waldorf home, yet the philosophies provide inspiration. We're building our nest with insights and ideas that feel right for our family. And so, in this spirit, I made a plan for our holiday season (resources listed below).
My two main goals were to (1) shift the emphasis of Christmas away from Santa and onto the true meaning of the day and (2) to expand our horizons and honor celebrations throughout the season, rather than concentrating on just one day.
To meet the first goal, I started by sharing the story of Christmas with the girls. The first week of December, we read and talked a lot about the events that lead up to the birth of Jesus. The next week, when I felt they had a solid understanding of the nativity story, we gave them their first official holiday gift, a wooden play nativity scene.
I also introduced an Advent devotion, inspired by both the Christian and Waldorf Advent traditions. Every Sunday evening, for four weeks, when the sun sets we light candles on our Advent wreath. Each week we honor a different natural kingdom of our Earth (stone, plants, beasts, humankind) and a traditional Christian teaching (hope, peace, joy, love). The girls are also enjoying counting down to Christmas on the Advent calendar of my youth.
To meet the second goal, I chose four special days to honor throughout December. We started with a Saint Nicholas Day celebration; to follow, we'll be honoring Saint Lucia Day, the Winter Solstice and Christmas. Our Christmas celebration will be less gift-centered, with each girl receiving one gift from Santa, and one individual gift and one shared gift from Mom & Dad.
To unite all our festivities, we've been talking and reading about celebrations of light around the world. We've learned how people throughout history brought light to the dark days of winter with festivals promising the return of the sun. We're noticing and enjoying the many lights of the season, from lighting candles and spending time around the fire, to enjoying holiday lights in our home and neighborhood. Selby will wear a crown of candles on St. Lucia Day. A Yule log will be burned on the Solstice. We'll honor the light of Christ on Christmas Day. And it is my hope, that I've lit a spark that will grow into meaningful holiday traditions my family will treasure for years to come.
**A few resources from our family celebrations of light:**
- Books about the story of Christmas: The Christmas Story by Kay Chorao; Lift the Flap Nativity (great for preschool & elementary school age children); One Shining Star by Anne Vittur Kennedy (great for toddlers & preschoolers)
- Wooden nativity scene by HABA.
- An introduction to the Waldorf Season of Advent
- An introduction to the Christian Season of Advent
- Books about celebrations of light: Lights of Winter, Winter Lights, Lucia and the Light, The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice, Yule: A Celebration of Light & Warmth
I so enjoyed reading about how you plan to celebrate these holidays...I love the mix you have here and that the focus is on celebrating not receiving gifts. Thank you for the inspiration!
Love, light, and peace~
Loved this as usual Liz. I have one more tradition Robert and I kept up from both our childhoods- and it unites the neighborhood too. We still do the sandbags at least on Christmas Eve and on nights we are having a get-together to light the path. I recall in Coral Springs it was a great neighborhood tradition and brings people outside to connect during this wonderful season. I was thrilled last year during our first Christmas in Tampa to see our new newighborhood has been doing this for years as well. Perhaps it is something you and your neighbors would like to enjoy as a new/old tradition celebrating warmth, light and of course peaceful neighborly love :)
I just read your piece on ROTH and really enjoyed. I love that you and your mom collabroarated on it!
Wonderful post! Think you are on a delightful and meaningful "path" of celebration. Looking forward to being a part of it. Hugs, Mother/Nana
Lovely, nice thoughtful approach and I like your resource list.
Here are some Lucia Paper dolls for the girls...
Beautiful words Liz, and so thought provoking. I have so loved having you on ROTH, yours words are always inspiring.
Thanks for sharing that story. Our conversation still resonates with me as well, helping me focus even more on what I want our holiday to feel like.
I absolutely love how everyone can take the same holiday and make it entirely their own. Just beautiful.
Thank you so much for this entry..
I'm making a transition from pagan to Quakerism,which is my faith home..
I've been missing the "celebrations"which was so part of my life for so long as a pagan..
Wrote about it just today on my own blog..
Thank you so much for these ideas.. they actually are along the same lines as what I was thinking about doing!
Again a big thank you !
You never know who you effect w/ your words :)
Denise in TN
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