A free gift for you!
When fall gives way to winter, the days become crisp and dark.
But winter is not only a season. Sometimes we also go through winter in our heart and life gets dark and scary.
Around the world, in every country, in every culture and in every tradition there is a symbol that brings us out of these dreary days. A symbol so simple and beautiful, yet one which is often lost in the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
It is the symbol of light.
Celebrated all over the world during the dark months of winter, light takes many forms in different cultures. For many around the world it is Christmas, and the light is brought by the baby in the manger. But many other traditions share the symbol of the light. So what if for once we could focus on the common tradition that is shared by all cultures of the world?
What if we could all keep the light during this holiday season?
I love the symbology. It is a really good reminder of our commonality and unity.
So this year, as darkness comes, retreat by the fire, light up a candle and keep the light alive in the darkness, knowing that the light will come back. It always does.
In our family we like to honor traditions, but we often infuse them with our own twist. So we honor the beautiful Italian tradition of making a Nativity scene, but we make it our own. Our Nativity scene has always been quite international, but this year we want to make sure to invite everyone to the party. So our Nativity scene has the main wooden figures hand carved from olive wood in Bethlehem (a treasured present), a Saint Nicholas-Santa and angels I made out of wool, a Buddha meditating on the mountain, and a menorah for Hanukkah.
We like to make simple earth friendly decorations from our discoveries in nature. Some pine branches, some pinecones from a walk in the woods and a few red bows can make for some really beautiful decorations! Who needs to buy all of that plastic stuff!
Another way we like to keep the light is through the power of story. There are amazing stories to share and remember around the holidays, stories that share the spirit of the season, spread kindness and just warm our hearts. Stories that remind us of the essence of being human.
Here are the stories we love to pull out year after year during the month of December to countdown Christmas. Again, everybody is welcome in our book pile! We read about Santa, we read about the real story of Christmas, but also about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. We light up the Christmas tree and the Nativity scene, we pile up on the couch and we let the power of stories carry us away with their magic. We visit different countries all over the world, we discover or rediscover different cultures, and we get lost in the power of stories.
At first we love to get in the mood with some classic wintery reads and some stories about Christmas trees. A vintage edition of “Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree” brings out a smile every time and “Christmas Tree Memories” makes us treasure our favorite ornaments even more.
Then we enjoy some animal stories: we travel to the North Pole with Rudolph, we hear a special message from the birds and even a unicorn, and we get lost with animals in the Ukraine with Jan Brett, but also in South Africa with Jamela and her chicken.
And finally all the stories that make the holidays what they are: we indulge in two different editions of the Nutcracker just before catching a local show, we visit the Little House on the Prairie and a Sioux girl, we travel to Japan and Korea, New York, Sweden, Mexico, Russia and many more.
We also love to read about Saint Nicholas and Santa Lucia.
Nicholas is the name of one of my sons, and he loves reading about the Asia Minor bishop, very venerated in Italy, who had the destiny to become Santa!
This is also how we broke the news about Santa to our kids! Year after year we read about Santa and Saint Nicholas and year after year I would leave clues to the fact that they are indeed the same person. When it finally clicked for them, it was the time for me to answer the questions about Santa! 🙂
And of course the Holidays would not be the Holidays without music! We treasure a narrated version of The Nutcracker and we love A Classical Kids Christmas!
Keep it simple, keep it meaningful and keep the light! Happy Holidays everybody!
P.S. Speaking of Holidays, did you see my 101 “Presence” ideas to share with your kids?