“While we try to teach our children all about life, Our children teach us what life is all about.” ~ Angela Schwindt
Christmas, Yule or Midwinter is traditionally the time when we retreat into our homes and create warm and loving little nests as the longest night approaches.
Greenery is brought into our homes, candles are lit, and families turn their attention to the younger members to enchant them with stories and magic. You don’t have to belong to a particular religion to reap the rewards of the festive season, and there are many traditions to draw from to create your perfect Christmas.
Here are some ideas for Conscious Parenting at this special time in our calendars:
Build an Angel Garden.
Instead of Santa’s Grotto, why not break with brand-based tradition and create a new one? An angel garden can be easily constructed a week or two before Christmas and will bring pure magic to little one’s minds and hearts.
Make a pathway through the garden or house decorated with candles and greenery, or small shrines placed along the way.
This builds the tension and is like a mini art installation; perhaps begin with a mineral shrine, decorated with crystals and rocks, then a plant one, then an animal one, then a human. You can make small felted figures if you fancy splashing out or the simplest cut out gold stars can be equally magical.
At the end of the pathway (why not build a tunnel?! Fire safety permitting – beware of candles) have an angel statue surrounded by greenery and tea lights, or better yet, a member of the family dressed as an angel.
It’s better if the children don’t actually know the person, so they believe it’s a real angel, but not essential. Have the person hand the children simple crafted or natural gifts (a feather and a scroll with a Christmas poem on, a pinecone fairy, a felt star pocket with some biscuits in – anything!)
This activity can be a family one, or you could extend it and put it on for all the neighbourhood children. Either way this experience will stay with them forever.
Make a Kindness Basket
Get the children to make a basket of their own inspired gifts or messages of kindness to hand out. These can be chocolates with messages such as ‘You are loved’ wrapped around them or gifts similar to the angel garden ones.
Get your children to take the basket with them when you go late night shopping, or to a carol concert or nativity show and hand them out. The more the children direct this the better; let this activity be entirely their thing. Then they can see the results of their actions and how it lights people’s hearts.
Put on a Christmas Show
Rehearse and put on a show to be performed on Christmas eve or Christmas day. This could be a performance of the Twelve Days of Christmas with the lyrics changed (think tailoring it to your family or town/situation i.e on a meditation retreat in Greece we did Eight folding paths, Twelve Gods of Greece, Three Hari Oms etc!!)
It could also be a puppet show – perhaps put on entirely by the children. You don’t even need a traditional ‘stage’ – just set up the toys in a scene and let them create a story in front of the whole family. For example a blue cloth for the river, a building block bridge and a small knitted cat could be transformed in to puss in boots or something from their own imagination. Either way it’ll be entertaining.
Wishing boats are half walnut shells with melted wax and wicks to make small candles that are then placed in a home-made ‘lake’ in the house. You could make a miniature one in a bowl or try something bigger like a bath tub!
Decorate in with greenery and sticks – whatever you feel inspired to use – turn the lights down (the darker the better, you may need to blackout the windows) and invite each member of the family to come and light one of the walnut candles, making a wish as they do so, and then placing it on the surface of your homemade lake.
Create a Crystal Cave
Cover one or two crystals in thick Plaster of Paris and invite children to chip away until they find the treasure! Better still, isolate one room to do this in, black out the windows and give them torches or helmets with torches on so they feel like they were really in a cave.
Build a Gratitude or Advent Table
This is an extension of the Waldorf-inspired seasonal table that you might have all year-round, but with a twist. For the month of December get your children to place a small bead/holly leaf/feather etc on the table stating what they are grateful for that day. You can lead the way by doing yours first, and you might find that for the first few days they repeat what you said, but after that they begin to think of their own things.
This ritual – which usually serves as an ideal accompaniment to the usual bedtime routine – can be combined or done separately to the advent table. The advent table is usually a table which you build upon on the four Sundays before Christmas. It’s very Christian but is a tradition that doesn’t need any mention of Christ or the three wise men.
Simply light an extra candle on each Sunday as it passes, or, do something similar to the mineral/plant/animal/human sequence as suggested in the angel garden. For example, on the first Sunday add the minerals – rocks and crystals as well as light the first candle, and so on.
On the ‘human’ Sunday you could add the nativity figures if you wanted or perhaps a little gnome, even a photo of a deceased loved one you want to remember. These sorts of rituals can be adapted to any beliefs and preferences, and that’s the beauty of them.
I would love to hear of any other rituals or traditions that people like to do with their children. If you have any, please ‘donate’ them in the comment section below.