A couple of weeks ago, Jeff and I sat down with our Franklin Planners and worked out the month of December. Wanting to avoid last minute craziness and Oh Sh*t moments where we realize we should have gotten things in the mail two days ago, we instead broke it all down. December is packed to the hilt with festivities, yet all evenly spaced, with sanity and slowness built in.
One of the homeschooling traditions that we like is The Nature Table. However, since we are so limited on space, this branch that initially was for hanging The Eggs of Ostara has become our seasonal rep. We’ve decorated with Usnea, red berries and psychedelic spirals that we got at SCRAP for pennies.
Ms. Moonshine’s most recent post delves into the goodness of simple tradition and exuberant love for the season, an experience for which she says might seem “sappy”. Like A Charlie Brown Christmas, all around me I hear that debate as to whether or not the holiday season has lost its meaning to consumerism and the striving for perfection. So many people I know greet December with disillusionment and cynicism.
Planning ahead has given me space to pack in a lot of craft time and the kids LOVE it.
This weekend, we began with celebrating St. Nicholas Day (without Black Pete…oi).
A couple of years ago I fretted about creating our own solstice and Christmas traditions, unclear on how to bring in the multilayered stories, wondering if I needed to separate everything out for clarity sake. This year I see our style taking shape, with festivities, activities and books that create warm and simple understanding. Spreading it out over a month gives time for integration.
Both kids were elated to learn the “real” story of Santa Claus, and even though the books we read to them were complex, they asked for repeated readings. I have a tender spot for this fella, and have always loved the archetype of Santa Claus…I still get teary whenever I hear “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas”.
We aren’t Christian, so it feels a little odd to celebrate a completely religious figure. Christmas can so easily be celebrated as Solstice that I had skirted the whole Christ thing until now. Moving through the traditions through stories helps impart understanding to my daughter, without making it an overbearing belief system, and also helps highlight what I think of as the true meaning…Christ – Mass…The Birth of the Light.
We began the ritual of making a slipper to leave out for St. Nick, with their own offerings for the weary traveller and his donkey (in the form of drawings). In the morning, their slippers were full of gold coin candy and stickers.
I have always had unfailing “Christmas Spirit”. I love the depths of Winter, the meaning of Yule celebrations, the traditions that infuse the season. I delight in gift giving and gift making (although the past few years have seen me challenged for time). However, the one experience I have almost every year does revolve around money…anxiety about dwindling funds, plus disappointment and shame around not being able to just buybuybuy for the people I love.
For the past four years, I have racked my brain on how to create a reusable advent calendar for Fern (I didn’t like the ideas I found online). This year, when I found this little cabin on sale, I decided to make it one of her main presents. The sides of the house are little doors numbered 1-24, and each contains a little woodland animal. In the future, I can put in different surprises or re-use the critters.
Advent really brings home one of the meanings of Winter…the waiting. Embodying patience through the short days and long nights as we count down to Christmas helps all of us to be more present.
The dark and cold of winter can bring up fears related to survival or perpetuity…in some way, concern over finances feels like a modern connection to the worries of my ancestors. Will we make it through the long night? Will the sun return? Will the darkness end?
We do what countless generations before us have done. We focus on hearth and home.
This act of bringing it back to heartfulness is the best antidote that I know to cynicism. Let the corporations and the capitalist machine ring their silver bells of More! More! More! We aren’t buying it. Literally.
Throughout our days, we keep up the emphasis on Kindness and Generosity. Establishing what will be another central component to our celebrations, we begin the tradition of Giving Back. Here in California we’ve had a cold snap (stop laughing, East Coasters)…and what will the Robin do, poor thing? He’ll sit in the barn, to keep himself warm, and hide his head under his wing. Poor thing.
At night we watch Rudolph and the next day the kids bounce on the bed, shrieking with laughter and repeating “Nobody wants a Charlie in the Box”. Fern rehearses her perfect Charlie Brown dance.
There is so much more to come and yet we already feel satisfied. Starting celebrations early negates the high speed chase towards Dec. 25th that ends up in a crash and burn. It already is Christmas.
And let’s not forget the music. Along with Pandora holiday radio, we’re already enjoying wintry favorites.
How do you discover the spirit of the season?