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