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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

My Favorite Winter Solstice Books and Traditions

Happy Winter Solstice!

This is our first Winter Solstice in Texas in 17 years, and while it is a bit on the warm side for my liking, I'm embracing it.  One of the upsides of living in the south is that Christmas shopping is a little easier when you're not freezing to death!

While the climate has changed my heart has not, and I'm making a conscious effort to embrace the traditions that have been a part of my life for years now, some dating much further back than when we lived in Virginia. And while Kate is now 17 and "too old"  to join in with me in our celebrations, I'll enjoy them just the same.

I'm not sure what it is about the Solstice, and Christmas in general, but I am always drawn to woodland animals this time of year, truth be told I LOVE them all the year round, but especially at the solstice and Christmas.  I just love these lovely vintage images, and I fondly recall several christmas specials during my childhood with sweet scenes of animals decorating the trees in the forest.  I also think it's the idea of hibernating for the winter, sounds so lovely!  I'd love to just tuck away out of the cold until spring and engage in homey, puttery pursuits! And I will as I am able.

And isn't this picture cute!?  I shared it earlier today on Facebook but wanted to include it here.  I can just imagine the animals throwing a party, perhaps before they begin their long winter nap! And just for giggles (as my sweet Kate likes to say), I'll share one more of these sweet vintage images below.  Aren't they all just lovely?

A few of my favorite books to read on this day include animals;
While The Bear Sleeps Winter Tales and Traditions by Caitlin Matthews

Just listen to this lovely passage;

"Once upon a time there was a girl who went out into the hills just as it was beginning to snow.  It became very cold and she found a deep hole in the side of the rock.  She climbed inside and pulled grass and branches over the entrance to keep out the snow.  Inside it was dark and warm and snug, but completely dark.

Suddenly a deep voice asked sleepily, "Didn't you mother tell you not to go into the bear's den?"

"Is that what this hole is?" asked the girl.

"Certainly," said the voice.  "But seeing as it's so cold outside, you might as well stay here with me and sleep.  I generally do that when winter comes."

"Why?" asked the girl.

"Because it's the time you look inside yourself and remember the important things."

"What are they?" asked the girl.

"That the winter is never so cold when you can share stories with friends of your heart.  That loneliness is never so lonely if you are used to being alone.  That you need never worry about how you look or what people think about you if you are at home to yourself.  That's why I come here."

I don't know about you, but I find this just so beautiful, and the entire book is like this, with stories of Saint Nicholas, Solstice Customs, a story for the first snowfall. It is definitely one that I think should be on every family's bookshelf.

Another one of my absolute favorite books to read on this day is

Dear Rebecca, Winter is Here by Jean Craighead George

I've had a paperback copy of this book for years now, but sadly, it along with all of my Betsy Tacy books were water damaged during the move so I've had to replace them.  I received the Betsy Taco books as an early Christmas present, and just now as I was writing this post and reminded of Dear Rebecca, I ordered myself a used hardcover copy from Amazon. A nice little treat for the solstice!

Here is a passage from this book.

"I light the fire in my fireplace."

You sing jolly songs with your friends.

And while you're singing, summer begins.

On the 22nd (21st this year) of December, little hands of light begin to push back the edge of the darkness minute by minute.

Before very long, you will take off your shoes and jump over bluebells.

I will eat my breakfast outdoors in the sunshine. 

The birds will return as the days grow longer.  The frogs and turtles will come out of the warm mud, and the next thing you know I'll be writing;

Dear Rebecca, summer is here."

While many mourn the first day of winter is actually after the winter solstice that the arrival of the sun begins and each day lengthens until the summer solstice. :)

This is another book that is an absolute must if you enjoy nature and sharing it with your children and family.

and finally . . .

The Shortest Day by Wendy Pfeffer

which has the absolute most beautiful illustrations by Jesse Reiseh

This book is perfect for a nature study or science lesson with your children as it beautifully explains the reason why we observe the winter and summer solstice and the autumn and spring equinox.

There are even some lovely ideas included in the back for things you can do, including making a winter sunrise/sunset chart (something I actually plan to do in my daily journaling this year), measuring your shadow on the shortest day of the year and then again around March 21, June 21 and September 21 of the coming year.   There are even ideas for having a winter solstice party and a solstice party for the birds.  Such lovely ideas, and another not to be missed book!

And while this post is getting long, I did want to share just a few more things that I typically always try to do to recognize this day, and one of them is to make orange slice ornaments.

This year I added lime slices to the mix, a little idea I saw on Pinterest!  I love the colors together!  They've been in the oven now for a little over an hour and I'll be turning them in about 20 minutes and then letting them continue to dry for about another hour to an hour and a half after that.

Another tradition is I always make gingerbread with lemon sauce on this day and I'll be doing just that early this evening after we return from running a few errands. In years past I've made it from scratch, but this year I think I'll opt instead of the store bought kind, and since it will be a late I'm not sure if I'll make lemon sauce tonight or not.

Later tonight after things have settled a bit, I'll make a little spiral with candles and a bit of greenery I have tucked away in a wilting flower arrangement and watch this episode of Little Bear, The Winter Solstice.  If you want to watch it there are two episodes, The Snowball Fight, which is enjoyable as well, but if you want to watch the Winter Solstice episode, it starts at 8:33. :)

The night is cold, the snow is new,
I love winter, how about you?

I'll be back tonight with some more images of how I/we observe and celebrate this loveliest of days!

Until then  . . .

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