When I reveal all this to people, they say 'ooh, humbug', which is very annoying. I'm not anti-Xmas, I'm respectful of everyone's traditions and beliefs, and I don't not celebrate it out of spite or humbugness. It just has no connection for me, and what I do has to have meaning.
People can be really weird about such things, as if what I did or believed had anything to do with what they did or believed.
However, I do recognise the magic that springs up at this time of year from the collective minds of those who do celebrate, Christian or secular. The Xmas spirit as it's known. Also, my own honouring of the Winter Solstice is at the same time.
I've always done my own quiet thing for the Solstice, and eventually added a special meal to include the Husband. Now, with a child, I'm starting to wonder about doing more.
I'm not one for making a huge deal out of these things. However, there is only one other time of year that we celebrate - just had that in England. It's a huge family thing. But even that is religious and we're not religious. And it doesn't involve decorations or anything magical.
Anyway, my point in all this is that I'm liking the idea of having a really special, fun, big deal, celebration, once a year. In fact, perhaps twice, with the Summer Solstice being the other. Except, that at this time of year, we can tap into that collective holiday spirit flitting around in the air.
I know that there are many people in a similar situation. They're not religious but they're spiritual. They have kids and what didn't matter before matters now. They want to do something special but don't want to be dragged into someone else's beliefs or ways. They want to make it real.
I know many who mix Xmasy ideas with secular ones. Whatever works and means something.
Here is my Big List of Solstice/Yuletide/Winter Ideas*
- as this is a time about light, candles are a biggie. Making them, decorating them, finding new (and safe) ways to display them. Decorating holders and jars. Gathering them and spending a family day putting them about. Garden candles too. Perhaps also even a few artificial lights for areas needing more safety or for a permanent light.
- part of every celebration right? But it should never become a chore or a stressful activity. I'm a believer that the cook's emotions go into the food, and I can't believe how stressed people get around Thanksgiving or Xmas, and how much they over-cook!
My emphasis is going to be on special but simple/stress-free. That is, we don't need 20 different dishes. We just want good food and 1 or 2 things we wouldn't normally have. Perhaps a special main course and a special dessert? I like the idea of a special cake, or such, that we would make each year, becoming traditional.
* Preparing the home
- unlike most ideas of 'the house has to be spotless because we're having guests', I want it to be a ritual. Where together, as a family, we clean the cobwebs away, making way for the new cycle. If something doesn't get cleaned, it doesn't, no problem.
- clearing out a specific thing; toys, books, boxes of stuff, etc
- collecting things for recycling and charity
* Making things
- not everyone is creative with bits of felt or yarn or paper, but there are kits and such where you simply put things together or paint by number, and so on. But EVERY child can stick and glue and cut and spread glitter.
- make decorations, cards, gifts. It's all about re-using, being creative, and spending time together.
- one small gift for each family member (or names out of a hat for large families). We live in abundance, we don't need more stuff. But giving gifts to our loved ones gives us a wonderful feeling, no less for children. If the emphasis is on small, then the focus remains on the joy of giving.
- one gift for a homeless/poor/disadvantaged child (whether local or in another country). I want to instill this idea of giving, instead of more and more receiving.
- gift of time. Volunteer work. Soup kitchen, or see if an elderly neighbour needs some work around the house. If you can't find any or it's impractical, bake cookies, make mini bundles, and visit all your neighbours, especially new ones or from several streets away!
* Special moments
- a picnic, or story-telling, in the middle of the living room surrounded only by candle light.
- a ritual of letting go of the old and opening up for the new. (like writing down past hurts and disappointments on slips of paper and burning them. Perhaps have a special vessel for this, or make a bonfire!)
- tell/read stories about the Solstice, or Winter season.
- a 'ritual' bath with essential oils of the season (make your own soap with the oils!) A way for each family member to prepare themselves in a special way for the main dinner.
- sing! Many holiday songs are secular.
* Nature activities
This could be an endless list really, I ought to create a post for this alone. Some ideas...
- make a crafty snowman or snowflake or Winter game
- Winter collage mixing natural items with paper and paints, etc
- learn about Winter animals
- okay, just go google 'winter activities' I guess. I'll add more here if I find something solstice specific.
- every day from the 1st Dec, go on walks and bring one item home to add to a solstice table.
It's not all what I would necessarily do myself, but it's there for other readers, and for me to refer back to for inspiration. Please let me know of your own ideas.
I have to leave you with books, glorious books, right?
The Winter Solstice Amazon USA
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, Amazon USA
Animals in Winter, Amazon USA
The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice, Amazon USA
Lights of Winter: Winter Celebrations Around the World Amazon USA
The Night of Las Posadas Amazon USA
A Solstice Tree for Jenny Amazon USA
The Friendly Beasts Amazon USA
The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice Amazon USA
Lucia and the Light Amazon USA
Owl Moon Amazon USA
Winter Tree Finder (Nature Study Guides) Amazon USA
Grandmother Winter Amazon USA
Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth Amazon USA
The Mitten Amazon USA
[I do get a few cents/pence if you purchase from my links. A little less to Amazon. ;)]
And for those of you who do celebrate Christamas, I wish for you an amazing, magical, and stree-free build up too.
* it will be a big list eventually.
p.s, new video on my sidebar.