At this time of year, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of seasonal activities and forget to take time to enjoy the things that make this season special.
When one of my sons turned 3, his birthday is at the end of November, he noticed all the decorations in the stores. “Oh Mama, that’s so beautiful! Did they do all this just for us?” I think of his 3-year-old delight each year as the lights and decorations go up. It reminds me to stop, look, and enjoy the efforts that everyone makes to create a festive atmosphere for the various celebrations that take place at the time of the winter solstice.
The word solstice comes from the Latin sol meaning sun and stice meaning standing still when the sun stands still.
During the three or four days around the winter solstice, the nights stay long and the days stay short. Then suddenly, the sun rises a little bit earlier and sets a little bit later.
Many people around the world celebrate this time of year with a festival that recognizes the importance of light for our life on earth. It is also a time when people celebrate the rebirth of the spirit and the awareness that in the midst of death and darkness, life is reborn.
Here are some suggestions for making this time of year special.
1. Eat by candlelight at mealtimes. No matter what age child you have, the flames of the candlelight add a magical touch to any meal. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to supervise your children as accidents can happen when candles are involved. Never leave a child unattended with a lit candle.
If appropriate for the age of your children, you might ask them to tell you what they think life would be like if you only had candles to light up the evenings.
2. Go for walks around your neighborhood at dusk and look at the house decorations. Hold your child’s hand or push him/her in a stroller. Take the time to stop and describe what you see. Name the colors, the way the lights are hung, and if you child can talk, ask your child to tell you what he or she especially likes.
Make it a short excursion. One parent prepares supper, the other parent takes the children for a short walk to look at the lights. Switch the next time you go, giving both parents a chance to have an opportunity to share the lights and decorations with your child.
If you have older children, you can go for a longer excursion after supper and give them practice reading maps while you explore the neighborhood for the decorations you like the most. Download a neighborhood map from the internet. Let your child plot a route and mark down the houses that everyone likes the best. It’s a great way to help a child become familiar with maps.
3. On your way to do errands in the evening, take one child with you and take 15 minutes for a detour drive by streets that have lots of lights. This is a special treat for both parent and child and can become a family tradition.
4. Light candles in your living room and turn off the electric lights. Sit on the couch with your child and look at the flames together. Describe the colors you see. Ask your child to tell you what he or she sees.
Tell your children something you remember from this time of year when you were a child. As your children grow older, they will have memories to share as well. And don’t forget to read to your children. Reading by candle and/or firelight makes it especially warm and cozy.
5. Sing together by candlelight. Babies and children are soothed by their parents’ voices. Sing seasonal songs or any song that you enjoy as you sit together curled up next to each other on the couch or in a chair.
6. Look at the nighttime sky. Because it gets dark so early at this time of year, a clear night offers very young children an opportunity to see a sky filled with stars and the moon at a time that they are still awake.
- Go to a park or somewhere away from street lights to see the sky even more clearly. Point out how the moon changes from night to night.