No matter what we believe or what our traditions are at this time of year, I think we can all be united in the wonder and magic of nature.
I love the joy and giving of Christmas and I also feel drawn to the solstice celebrations. The rhythms of the Earth and the natural cycle of the year seem so, well, natural! Especially since becoming a mother.
I am influenced and inspired by nature and as we are forming our own little family traditions, I often look towards nature when marking an occasion. I like the idea that natural decorations won’t last forever, that they will eventually go back to the earth and there will be a need for renewal.
During December we have a simple advent calendar made from pressed leaves that are numbered and pegged to a length of string (that I found on the beach). On each peg I have hung a pinecone, painted silver by my son a couple of years ago. They are especially significant to us as we collected them from the field where my baby was laid to rest. We hang one on the Christmas tree each day and it is a lovely way to feel that he is a part of our celebrations.
An obvious way to bring nature into our homes is to decorate with foliage of the season (and for a lot of people, a Christmas tree!) I made this hazel wreath last year and we change the foliage woven into it as the new season approaches. I also made this simple Christmas tree out of a triangle of hazel and my son enjoyed winding the wool around and adding the little wooden beads for baubles.
We’ve made some of our own decorations for the tree and I love how simple this one is! I cut discs from last year’s Christmas tree with a pruning saw and my son used a hand drill to make the holes (if you don’t have a hand drill I can highly recommend them. They are cheap, versatile, easy and fun to operate!) Once the holes were drilled I helped my son to thread some red and green wool through to create a snowflake/star. The pattern reminds me of the delicate glass baubles that my mother hung on our childhood tree.
I made these sunshine decorations with a Forest School group of 4-6 year olds to celebrate the winter solstice.
During this festive season, many people exchange presents. Nature is a wonderful provider of gifts! I made elder elderflower cordial in the summer and hoped to make something with the berries too but it didn’t happen this year. We did, however, use some cut back elder branches we found to make elder beads for bracelets. These would make a lovely little present and are so simple. Just snip to the required length, poke out the middle (we used a tent peg) and thread onto string (or a reed in our case as we were sitting by a stream). The bark can be peeled off or left on to create different effects or could even be painted (please note that elder can be toxic if consumed so read up about it first!)
You could also intersperse the beads with sparkly ones but I love how natural this one is.
Ice candles are a wonderful way to celebrate winter in all its glory and an activity that little ones love to get involved with. We made this candle to light and leave on my baby’s grave. There is something quite healing in lighting a candle and watching the ice slowly melt away. We placed baby’s breath and sprigs of our Christmas tree in a jar and then filled with water. I then put a yoghurt pot (wide enough to fit a tealight in) inside and taped to hold in place. We placed it in the freezer but it would be lovely if it was cold enough to freeze outside over night!
These would make a lovely centre piece for a festive dinner with winter berries and foliage suspended in the ice. We have also made them on New Years Eve to carry our wishes and hopes for the year into the night.
I would love to know your traditions and celebrations at this time of year and how you bring a little of nature’s magic into your homes.