Long ago, people in the northern hemisphere celebrated the winter solstice, a time when the days grew short and the sun was at its lowest point in the sky. Many people dreaded the cold, dark days of winter. So when the sun seemed to change its course and grow in strength again, they rejoiced.
In some places, people performed rituals and ceremonies to mark this special time. The Druids in Britain decorated oak trees with apples and candles to encourage the return of the sun. The Celts brought evergreens inside to protect their homes. Everyone lit candles or bonfires to chase away the darkness.
Today, candles, fir trees, and evergreens continue to symbolize this time of year. People still celebrate the beginning of winter. They know that the sun will soon bring new light and the promise of spring.
If you would like to celebrate the winter solstice, here is an ancient ceremony adapted for the entire family:
Candles are placed on a table decorated with evergreens, and each person takes a turn lighting one. Everyone holds hands and chants:
We kindle this winter fire
In memory of our ancestors
And of those who guard the world.
May the flame warm our hearts
And may the light remind us
Of the ever-returning sun.
Each person takes a turn naming a life-giving property of the sun or makes a wish for the coming year:
The sun gives us flowers and plants.
The sun warms the earth.
The sun lights up our beautiful world, etc.
The sun gives us energy.
I wish for everyone’s health and happiness.
I wish for peace and kindness, etc.
Then everyone exchanges gifts and enjoys solstice sun cakes.
FIVE LITTLE SNOW GIRLS by Ellen Jackson
Five little snow girls
Standing on the shore,
Giant waves are crashing,
Now there are four.
Four little snow girls
Underneath a tree,
Look! A branch is breaking--
Now there are three.
Three little snow girls
Someone throws a snowball--
Now there are two.
Two little snow girls
Sitting in the sun,
Growing ever smaller
Now there is one.
One little snow girl,
Is she someone's daughter?
Guess it's time to say good-bye,
She has turned to W_ _ _ _!
SOLSTICE GAMES, CRAFTS, AND RECIPES
Solstice Sun Cakes
You will need:
2 cups butter or margarine
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 cups flour
Dash almond extract
1. Mix butter and eggs together well. Beat in almond extract and both sugars.
2. In a separate bowl, stir together baking soda, baking powder and flour; then stir them into the butter mixture. Dough will be heavy.
3. Fill greased muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake at 325 degrees F. for approximately 20 - 25 minutes.
4. Spread tops with yellow frosting.
You will need:
A double boiler OR
A small pan that sits inside a larger pot
Lumps of wax OR
Broken bits of old candles
Crayons with the paper peeled off
1. Use the double boiler to melt the wax. If no double boiler, place the wax inside the smaller pan. Float the smaller pan in the larger pot half-filled with water. Turn on the heat.
2. Add bits of crayon. If you are using candles, scoop out the old wicks as the wax melts.
3. Prop up the shells with pieces of crumpled newspaper or paper towels. Spoon the wax into each shell. Let cool for about five minutes.
4. Place a birthday candle into the cooling wax. These will be the wicks. You may need to clip the birthday candle down to make it the right size. Allow the candles to cool completely.
Enclose a solstice spoon with a packet of hot chocolate and give to your friends as a solstice gift:
You will need:
One box of plastic spoons
6 oz. White chocolate for dipping
6 oz. Dark chocolate for dipping
Glass bowls, two small paintbrushes, ribbon
1. Put the white and dark chocolate in separate bowls and melt in the microwave for one or two minutes, but stopping to stir every fifteen seconds. Mixture should be smooth.
2. Submerge a spoon into one bowl until both sides are coated. Continue with each spoon, coating each in turn with one of the two kinds of chocolate.
3. Use paintbrushes to decorate each spoon with the contrasting color of chocolate.
4. Lay the spoons face down on the wax paper until they are completely dry–about 45 minutes.
5. To give as solstice gifts, cover with plastic wrap and tie with green and gold ribbon.
You will need:
A roll of toilet paper for each team.
Old hats and scarfs
Black construction paper for buttons.
Divide children into several teams. At the signal, each team wraps one of its members in toilet paper , leaving the eyes and nose uncovered. When the "snowman" is covered in toilet paper, the team members "decorate" him with a hat, scarf, and construction paper.
Arctic Or Antarctic--What's the difference?
Use a globe to show children the arctic and antarctic regions found at the far north and south. Both places are cold and snowy. But these two regions are very different from each other. Here are some questions for discussion.
Do penguins live in the arctic or the anarctic?
Where do polar bears live?
Is the North Pole found in the arctic or the antarctic?
Which of the two is a continent, the arctic or the antarctic?
Which of the two consists mostly of a large frozen ocean with some parts that are land?
At the time of the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere:
Which of the two regions has the least amount of daylight?
Which has the most amount of daylight?
You can demonstrate this concept in a darkened room using the globe and a flashlight.
Divide children into two lines. Separate pairs of mittens. Give each child a mitten and put the matching mitten in a pile in front of the lines. The teacher says, "Go." One child from each team runs to the pile and tries to find her mitten. After she puts on her mitten (younger children can skip this step), she runs back and tags the next child. First team to complete the task wins.