This & That

Celebrating The Winter Solstice and Christmas + Creating Traditions

Happy holidays guys! With the winter solstice just yesterday and Christmas in a couple days, I thought I would share some of our new and old traditions with you all.

I come from a family of blended beliefs, as I am sure many of us do. As a kid, my mom was adamant about raising us in a way that allowed us to find our own belief systems instead of following her way, but also keeping traditions alive. I grew up celebrating the holidays in that same blended way. We decorated our Christmas tree with lights, tinsel, and old ornaments collected over the years. Our tree wore a star on top and sparkling fairies hid in the branches. We would dress the mantle and shelves with poinsettias and Santa Claus figurines and my grandma would light a prayer candle with a picture of the Virgin Mary.

As I got older and started discovering what it is that I believed in, I began to mix my own traditions into the ones I grew up with. I developed a specific way of decorating my bedroom for the holidays, bringing in more natural elements like holly, pine cones, and cinnamon sticks. Santa Clause figurines still decorate my shelves, but they look more like a mixture between vintage Santa and a mystical wizard. I fell in love with the meaning behind old Winter Solstice celebrations, Argentine (where my grandma is from) Christmas celebration, and the traditions from a time when things seemed simpler and harder all at once.

Now that I have kids of my own I want to start creating traditions with them. I want them to look back at their childhood with nostalgia and joy. I want them to remember the ways we celebrated that were unique to our family and get to experience traditions that were passed down by family members before their time.

Here are some of the traditions we will be continuing and starting this year.

Winter Solstice + Christmas Traditions

Making Ornaments

Our tree is filled with handmade ornaments that have been collected over the years. To include Finley and Loxley into the mix, we had a craft session and made salt dough ornaments during solstice this year. My sister and I also crafted the cutest winter hat ornaments using yarn and cardboard. I love putting up the tree every year and finding ornaments that are 10+ years old. I’m excited to look back on Finley and Loxley’s first made ornaments in the future.

Cinnamon Salt Dough Recipe:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 c salt
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  1. Knead all ingredients into a dough with your hands. Roll dough into a ball then flatten it out with a rolling pin on a flat surface. Use cookie cutters or mason jar lids to cut shapes out of the dough. Poke a hole into the top of your ornament with a chopstick.
  2. To dry, lay ornaments out on a baking sheet with wax paper. Heat oven to 175 degrees and let bake for 45 minutes – 2 hours, depending on the thickness of your ornaments.

The Holly King vs. The Oak King

The story of the Holly King and the Oak King is one of my favorites. It’s the story of light and darkness and a battle that happens twice a year. During the winter solstice, the Oak King conquers the Holly King (who reigns during the dark times between summer and winter as the days shorten) in battle and reigns supreme as light returns and the days slowly grow longer.

In representation of this story, we decorated with holly (it grows locally in the PNW) and collected acorns to paint and hang like ornaments on the tree. (To preserve the acorns lay them out on a cookie sheet and place them in an oven preheated to 175 degrees. Leave them in there about 2 hours, turning every 30 minutes.)

Pomanders + Garland 

There‚Äôs an old winter tradition of sticking cloves into oranges which are called pomanders. Pomanders date back to the medieval times where a ball of perfume was worn and was used to ward off infection and bad odors. Today, hanging cloved oranges around the house is a way to scent your home and also draw in abundance and the sun’s return.

Poor man's pomander

Another fun seasonal craft I like is stringing together dried orange or apple slices with cinnamon as a beautiful garland to hang around your home. I love using natural elements to decorate with, and these are absolutely stunning!

Candles in the window

I’ve always been a big fan of candles and light them whenever I get the chance. I love bringing the light and warmth of fire into a room, and there is something very calming and magical about candlelight. I read that it is an old Irish custom to light a candle in the window to guide loved ones home during the winter months and invite the sun’s return. In honor of this custom and my grandmother’s tradition of lighting a prayer candle, we will be lighting our seven-day prayer candle in the window this Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve Sandwiches + Celebration

Christmas Eve has always been a big deal on my mom’s side of the family. I remember having a big family gathering with all my aunts and uncles and cousins. We would feast and drink wine (sparkling grape juice for the kids) and laugh (and fight).

Christmas Eve is still a big deal for us, but we keep it more close-knit now. On Christmas Eve we always have sandwiches for dinner. We drink wine and eggnog and play games as a family. At midnight each person gets to open one present, then we head off to bed.

Happy holidays guys! With the winter solstice just yesterday and Christmas in a couple days, I thought I would share some of our new and old traditions with you all.

Hot Chocolate + Movies

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is curling up with a cup of hot chocolate and watching all the Christmas movies on TV. And I mean all of them (even the cheesy romances that make absolutely no sense).

Santa, The Christmas Witches, Baby Jesus, & The Grinch

You guys know how I love stories. To me, stories are important because they tell our history, whether they live in truth or fantasy, and I like to tell them all. During our bedtime routine, we usually read a couple of books. This month I opted for storytelling instead. The girls have heard every story, from Santa and the Grinch to the Christmas witches and the story of Bethlehem. They’ve heard tales of Odin and Rudolf and Scrooge and tree faires.

What are some of your favorite family traditions? Are you adding any new ones this year?

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Happy holidays guys! With the winter solstice just yesterday and Christmas in a couple days, I thought I would share some of our new and old traditions with you all.
Happy holidays guys! With the winter solstice just yesterday and Christmas in a couple days, I thought I would share some of our new and old traditions with you all.

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