December 21st, the first day of winter, is the shortest day of the year. It marks the return of the light leading towards longer, warmer days, and is one of the most wonderful times to celebrate the natural rhythms of the earth with children. And there are numerous fun ways to welcome winter into your lives while connecting deeply with your family and friends:
Warming Your Tummy
One of our favorite and most treasured ways to celebrate this season is to retreat into the kitchen for the kind of play that results in yummy treats. We have always tried to capture winter with a gingerbread house, adding all the embellishments of winter: snow, evergreens, and forest animals sneaking out of their usual hiding places in search of food. This year, we are working on a medieval castle scene, and are contemplating what winter might have meant to those who lived during years past. The possibilities are endless.
In recent years, we have also begun another cooking tradition of making a Yule log cake to celebrate the winter solstice. It's an easy seasonal twist on your favorite cake recipe: just bake your cake on a cookie sheet making it only about a half an inch thick. Once cooled, spread a whipped cream topping thinly across cake and roll lengthwise to create a "log." Using marzipan or plain almond paste add woodland creatures and moss patterns, mushrooms, ferns or whatever your favorite flora to make your winter scene. A yummy way to welcome in winter!
Outdoor Treats for People and Critters
While you are keeping busy warming your own tummy, don't forget to take care of the critters outdoors that might be searching extra hard to find morsels that satisfy them. Make birdseed pinecones or strings of popcorn and cranberries. For a special treat, pack your own special outdoor picnic of a warm soup and hot cocoa and, if you can be still and quiet enough, wait for the critters to come out of hiding and watch them nibble on their treats.
If you are one of the lucky ones who are enjoying snow as we begin winter, you have probably already made a few snowpeople and angels. Perhaps you've even had your share of sledding and snowball fights. To celebrate the wonder of the season further, try also creating snow caves, both big enough for the people in your lives and small enough for the fairies that might dwell in your snowy yards. Or try a snow maze by "plowing" pathways in your snowfall.
Bring Back the Light
As you welcome winter, remember that it is the time when the days will become increasing long and the light will begin to return. What a great opportunity to symbolize this natural rhythm of the seasons! How about a building a fire out in the cold? Or singing songs about the sun around a candle light or your indoor fireplace. Take some time to share each other's company with what we like to call a Cabin Night, an evening with only candle light, songs, stories, games, and each other.
Favorite Books to share about winter:
Night Tree by Eve Bunting
A Winter's Tale by Robert Sabuda
Lucia and the Light by Phyllis Root
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren
Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams
Originally published in 2009. The Savvy Source is an Amazon affiliate.
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