Monday, December 17, 2012

The Darkest Days of Winter

Making Paper Snowflakes
Our holiday celebrations incorporate a mix of traditions. We have traditions from jb's side of the family (Ukranian Orthodox), my side of the family (Mexican and culturally Catholic)- and new things we've picked up along the way (Solstice and learning about other religions and cultures). It's a lot to pack into a couple short dark months, but we are trying to preserve the spectrum of our family history while still creating customs that are all our own.
We want to keep the focus on making memories, not receiving presents and in order to do this we've begun what we call our "Darkest Days Of Winter" calendar. It's loosely based on Advent calendar but it's spans December 1st all the way through January 8th. It encompasses our Christmases (yes, plural) New Year's, solstice, and general winter merriment. For each day there is an activity that will brighten the darkest days of winter.  These activities range from drinking hot cocoa, to making presents for others, or doing a kind deed for a stranger.

Checking the Calendar
This is the first year that Leo is really old enough to get the holiday Season. It's been really fun to share these activities and experiences.  We use both the string of mini-stockings that I made a couple of years ago and also the wooden calendar pictured to hide little cards with the daily surprise. It's amazing how excited he gets - even when the activity is something as simple as making soup (which is something we do regularly anyway). He can't read, but he is SO excited as he pull out the the little card with the day's activity written on it. He is bursting with anticipation as he asks someone to read it for him.  There is usually a small picture on the card, and he will often try to guess what the day's surprise is from the picture.  Please, please, please don't let that excitement disappear too soon!

Aside: Apparently my bowl of soup looked like a toilet and the spoon like a plunger because on the day we made soup he exclaimed, "It's a plunger! It's a plunger!" - uhhhh, those squiggly lines were steam, not stink.  But, the level of excitement he showed for potentially plunging a toilet is exactly what we were hoping for.  It doesn't so much matter what we are doing, as long as we are trying to make things brighter.  For ourselves, or for others...or for our plumbing... 

Making a Bird Feeder
So far this season we've made paper snowflakes, gone to see a light show, made birdfeeders, decorated our home, made cookies and shopped for loved ones. The theme of brightening dark days really helps us put the focus on doing things together.  (An added benefit that I didn't anticipate is that it's actually been helping us plow through our holiday to do list.) A few times he's asked about presents - one of our first activities was to make a wishlist - but mostly he's pretty content to make and do and give. I hope we can instill a lasting appreciation for the magic of the holidays and establish some traditions that our kids can enjoy well into adulthood.*

*Yes, I am very capable of sitting down my thirty-something children to make cheerio garlands.


  1. I love this! We have had our 5 year old god-daughter staying for the last few weeks and she came equipped with her Disney advent calendar with chocolates. It just seems so dumb. So my mum and I have been plotting what we'll do in the future.
    I think your idea is the best of all- daily things to do together is so lovely. I'll bookmark this post to help me remember. Meri Kirihimete to you and your lovely family from us here in NZ.

  2. Next in Line12/26/2012

    What a great idea. Winter is hard on me and I love that this make something to look forward to everyday and that it isn't a countdown until Christmas.