Here at Kids of the Wild I love Christmas. It’s the time of year I really become a child again and there are only 25 days to go!
We decorate our tree mid-December so family rituals during Advent make this season of waiting NOT JUST about receiving presents but more about the Christmas story, fun, family, love, giving, the winter solstice and patience.
Here are some lovely ideas to create fun family traditions and rituals that will last a lifetime and bring real joy and peace in the run up to Christmas.
Advent customs, traditions and family rituals can slow down the avalanche of commercialism.
Ours include nature and the outdoors and aim to instil a sense of participation in the anticipation rather than just waiting for the sound of hooves and a sackful of goodies.
- Make a candlelit evergreen wreath
- Read a Christmas book by candlelight
- Dress a Nativity crib
- Burn a daily candle
- Open an Advent calendar
- Send Advent teabags to friends and family
- Go on a lantern parade
- Organise a winter solstice bonfire
- Roast chestnuts on a firepit
Participate In The Anticipation
From mid-Autumn there’s huge anticipation over buying gifts, what to ask Santa for, how much it will all cost etc. It’s the most exciting time of year for many children (and adults!) though most of that excitement revolves around waiting to receive presents. Participation in activities throughout December can help to find meaning in the Christmas chaos.
Advent Wreath Making
The nearest most of us will get to that iconic image of shouldering a self-cut fir across snowy fields is plundering the woods for evergreens! Our annual family wreath-making day is great fun, involving a long walk collecting boughs before messy creative chaos. My post Adventures in Wreath Making gives simple instructions.
We light one candle each Sunday during Advent and read a Christmas book by candlelight; our own ritual addition, adapted from the Icelandic Jolabokaflod, their ‘book flood’ tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve. We love books so it’s an obvious segueway of ideas that we genuinely look forward to each week.
History of the Wreath
Over the centuries, Christianity has undoubtedly taken many pagan and Celtic traditions into the heart of its midwinter celebration of the birth of Christ, perhaps none more so then the use of indoor evergreens and candles to mark the passing of the 4 weeks of the liturgical calendar before Christmas.
Meaning of Evergreens
The origin of the wreath is probably a pre-Christian Germanic ritual with candles signifying hope for the return of warmth and light. Evergreens represent continuous life with different meanings for each plant e.g. pine, holly and yew for immortality, cedar for strength. Here’s more about Christian wreath traditions.
Whatever your views on Christianity or organised religion, Jesus, a man, lived and his story is indeed extraordinary. The crib is a focal reminder of the significance of Jesus’ birth.
Wild Grandma made our childhood wooden crib and Wild Daddy, completely non-religious, made one for me a few years ago.
Caroline arranges the animals and figurines with some originality – one year donkey arrived on a camel’s back and there are now reindeer in Bethlehem too! This year we’re adding the pieces each week. Mary has a novel trail of glass pieces to mark her path.
First used by 19th century Lutherans, most people have a calendar of some sort marking each day until Christmas, traditionally with 24 doors opening to a picture. With the advent of commercialism (pun intended?) you can now find everything from chocolate to make-up behind those doors.
We only had paper calendars until I quilted an Advent calendar when Caroline was three, with fabric ‘presents’ in little pockets. All hand sewn and now a treasured family heirloom. A friend’s child paid the best compliment this year stating that it must be far better than chocolate! Exactly why it was made.
We love homemade – one friend painted little boxes for her child’s Advent calendar and another bought her husband 24 bottles of ale with a keg for Christmas Day!
One of the better products of commercialism; lighting a daily candle. Some are differently coloured for each day, our current Advent candle is numbered. (The greetings card was painted by a friend, Gill Vines)
On discovering these delicious Advent teabags last year I bought packs for everyone I knew! Differently flavoured for each day, they’re a fun way to track Advent and send surprise mail to friends and family.
Every community should have a midwinter light festival and Alnwick’s in Northumberland is a good one. Lantern workshops are held before the parade, with dancers and the literally brilliant drummers, Spark. Last year music was from The Baghdaddies whose blend of Balkan, Ska and Latin brass created a real carnival atmosphere.
I’d have danced all night were it not for one exhausted child of the wild!
Winter Solstice Midwinter Celebration
As many of our Christian traditions derive from the pagan, it’s fun to mark the shortest day of the year around an outdoor fire with friends and family.
Often overlooked in the pre-Christmas rush, this celebration of the importance of light in our lives is great for finding calm and getting outside during an otherwise hectic period – more about solstice chestnut roasting another time.
Now here’s a thing. Adventure, which is what Kids of the Wild is all about, and Advent, two very different activities, derive from the same Latin origin – the verb advenire meaning to arrive, to come to, about to happen!
Whatever your spiritual leanings, it is undeniable that Advent and adventure both involve the same skills; planning, preparation, patience, anticipation, a journey and hopefully(!), a fun-filled, exciting and joyful end result.
Happy Advent-uring to all kids of the wild, young and old – I’d love to hear your family’s pre-Christmas rituals.
I think it might soon be time to put up the Christmas tree!