The darkest days of winter



Making a calendar

Our holiday celebrations incorporate a mix of traditions. We have traditions from JB's side of the family (Ukrainian 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 8. 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.

Exciting activities

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. I

t'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!

Making paper snowflakes
Making paper snowflakes

Making a bird feeder
Making a bird feeder

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... 

Brightening dark days

This season we made paper snowflakes, went to see a light show, made birdfeeders, decorated our home, made cookies and shopped for loved ones. The theme of brightening dark days really helped us put the focus on doing things together. (An added benefit that I didn't anticipate is that it actually helped us plow through our holiday to-do list.)

A few times he asked about presents — one of our first activities was to make a wish list — but mostly he was 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 30-something children to make cheerio garlands.

Sandra Telep is a West Philadelphia mom of two. This post is adapted from her blog, West Philly Mama.

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