“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is time for home.” ~ Edith Sitwell
Winter is beginning to settle in here in the Northern Hemisphere, bringing with it cold air, waning daylight hours, and a tendency to draw inwards. The colder months force us to slow down and be more intentional about what we are doing and how often we go outside. More time spent indoors lends itself to a time of reflection and gravitating toward things that feel cozy, warm, and protective.
The holiday season presents a jarring challenge to this feeling with its frenetic pace and rampant consumerism. When we slow down and take our cues from nature, we can choose to opt out of the expectation of over-consumption and instead embrace the spirit of giving and true meaning of the season. In doing so, reducing waste and living more sustainably naturally follow.
Leaning into a winter rhythm helps us root ourselves in everything the season has to offer, and from this, we can create eco-conscious holiday traditions that are unique to our own family units. Family rhythms serve to connect us to the natural ebb and flow of nature, guiding us through transitions while also creating the comfort of sameness and predictability. Setting your family up for a joyous winter by establishing rhythms and routines before and during the holidays will help you stay grounded all season long.
We can think about seasonal rhythms by observing what happens outside our windows and inside our hearts, and by following these cues in our daily lives. In wintertime, several themes emerge, bringing various ways to engage, connect, ground, and root. Think about what other activities or routines work for your family within the following themes.
The holiday season has so many opportunities to be green beyond eco-friendly gifts, wrapping, or decorations. Work some of these broader themes into your holiday break to start the new year off with a sustainable mindset.
Rest and Reflection
Colder weather has us naturally drawing inward and indoors. Give in to the impulse to slow down, rest, and regroup. Especially after this year, an intentional slowing down with a focus on routine and rhythm will provide children with both physical and emotional warmth. Rather than getting carried away by the holiday rush, use this time as an opportunity to create the kind of holiday season you truly want – one focused on the magic of family and togetherness instead of stuff.
Weave in rhythm and routine with slow, intentional activities together – this could look like setting aside daily time for quiet reflection, with meditation, or writing in a family gratitude journal. Make time to talk every day, discussing your family values, hopes for the holidays, and dreams for the new year. Reconnect with quality time spent baking, playing games, reading books about winter and the different celebrations, or simply eating hearty meals together at the table.
Light and Darkness
The waning daylight hours are at odds with the demands of our modern lives. The rhythms of nature are telling us to slow down and rest, a seemingly impossible task. We can soften edges, however, staying merry and bright with intentional responses to light and dark. Pay close attention to daylight, keeping artificial lights off during the day wherever possible. You will find that you will begin to notice when the days are beginning to lengthen again, shifting the rhythm in your home accordingly. Limit screen time, instead choosing to feel the glow of candles or a fire. Light a candle at your table for breakfast and dinner as well, choosing gentleness and warmth at mealtimes. Finally, consider going to bed earlier as a family, taking the cue that this is a season of rest and reconnection.
For most of us, winter is also a time of both cultural and religious celebrations with all of the trappings of consumerism. It is important to remember that we set the expectations for our children and we can shape our family traditions to reflect what we truly value about the holidays. An emphasis on celebrating family, giving, and sharing teaches children to value people and experiences over things.
Creating eco-conscious holiday traditions keeps us connected to nature, to each other, and the true meaning of the season. Making and giving gifts with intention teaches our children that the meaning of a gift goes beyond the physical item. Pay close attention to your child’s interests, selecting simple but versatile gifts made from eco-friendly materials. Consider wrapping gifts in things like scarves or play silks that themselves are gifts limited only by imagination. Decorate your home by bringing the outdoors inside, foraging materials such as pinecones, twigs, and evergreen boughs. Stringing popcorn, drying citrus slices, and wreath-making are wonderful exercises in patience and purposeful work. Alternatives to cut trees or plastic advent calendars can be special to your family and made different every year as your children grow and change.
The holiday season presents a challenge when shifting to a low waste lifestyle with kids. Older children in particular have developed expectations about receiving gifts and are around peers with different experiences. Now is a good time to model giving eco-friendly gifts with intention and showing that the meaning of gifts can (and should) go beyond the physical item.
Coldness and Warmth
Winter can feel long and unrelenting, especially once the thrill of the holidays is over. Leaning into its rhythm can help parents and children foster a sense of wonder and curiosity about the season in each other. Embrace the winter and everything it has to offer! Look at the forecasts together and pick the best “outside days” each week. Make a point to go outside every day, even for just a few moments, to stay connected to nature. Help foster independence in your children (and patience in yourself) by figuring out what outdoor gear will be needed and putting it on without assistance. Keep a nature journal to record your adventures, filling it with drawings, bark rubbings, and observations. Forage natural materials for holiday decorating, identifying the plants they come from and their place in the web of life for your area.
After exploring in the snow, rosy cheeks require reassuring warmth. Children thrive when they can predict that their needs will be met, both physically and emotionally. Warmth is critical to our feelings of safety and love, which in winter comes from closeness with each other. Create a tradition of cuddling together under a special blanket with a warming drink like hot chocolate or warm apple cider, singing songs about the season.
Embracing the rhythms of winter is key to creating eco-conscious holiday traditions. Connecting to nature grounds us in celebrating what cannot be purchased. Allow the elements of the winter season to be an invitation to explore the outdoors, connect with each other, and make your holidays merry and bright.
This article was originally published by EcoParent.