Every season is special to me: the awaking life in spring, the sounds and smells of summer, the colorful fall. But wintertime has always stood out, ever since I was a child. For me winter is about opposites; light and darkness, warmth and cold. It is the season when life slows down, the center of the family shifts from the outside to the inside of the home. Peace and calmness comes over my little world.
As a child, the shortening days and the darkness of winter always meant to me: “Christmas is coming.” All the activities – folding paper stars, making the advent wreath, giving our shoes a shine for St Nicholas’ Day – fit so perfectly together in my eyes. Every little step led us a bit closer to Christmas.
I remember this cozy feeling, coming home from a play date with a friend or from a seemingly endless afternoon outside in the garden, and seeing the windows of our home glowing in the dark. I knew that there would be a fire burning in the chimney, just waiting for me to warm my fingers and toes. My family would sit at the dining table to craft, eat, or pack Christmas gifts together. I remember this joy and this expectation inside of me.
I keep these special feelings for all times in my heart. Every time the leaves fall from the trees and the lawns freeze over in the mornings, these feelings re-emerge.
Now that my husband and I have our own family with two little children, we want to show them the special qualities of every season. We want to give them the opportunity to feel, smell, and taste the differences. It is our hope that they can keep these experiences in their hearts, and that those experiences can be re-awakened again and again when they are grown up. I’m talking about the little things in life. The things you have to view consciously to even notice them. We show them:
The Smells of Winter
The unique smell of the air just before the snow starts to fall.
The resinous odor of the Advent wreath and the Christmas tree.
The diverse spices used for Christmas baking. Like clove, cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger.
The sweet smell of beeswax candles that diffuses in the house.
The Sounds of Winter
The crunch of snow under foot.
The noises in the wood — completely different than those in summer.
Plenty of unique songs, verses, and stories which are repeated every year.
The Feel of Winter
The wet, smooth structure of icicles.
The tingling of the hands and feet, warming up again inside the house.
Kneading cookie dough, shaping it and putting it into the hot oven.
The Look of Winter
Grass, branches, and fences, all covered with tiny ice crystals.
Lighting a candle in the dark and watching the glow in a child’s eyes.
The sunlight, which looks so different in winter, falling shiny and glittering through the bare branches.
Here are some of our suggestions for celebrating the wintertime:
:: Take a lantern-lit walk in the dark.
:: Jump onto frozen puddles. (Do you remember the noise when the ice breaks? Try it!)
:: Feed the hungry birds. Place the birdfeeder near a window so you can better watch the birds and the children may get to know the different species.
:: Go for a sleigh ride; not only the little ones in the family!
:: Have a picnic. Light a campfire to warm yourselves. Make “Stockbrot” (bread on a stick) and put potatoes in the blaze.
:: Have breakfast by candlelight, watching the sunrise.
:: Give each other a hand-, foot- or backrub after a long walk.
:: Snuggling in bed with a hot water bottle is the best!
:: Reserve some food and drink just for wintertime, like baked apples, edible chestnuts, sugar-roasted almonds or kiddy punch. (Recipe below.)
:: Gather the whole family around the advent wreath or nature table, and sing or read aloud, every day at a special time.
:: One thing we have found over the past few years with our children (not only in winter, of course) is that if you as parents love what you’re doing – if you stay open-minded and aware of the small pleasures in life – your children will follow your example.
:: Remember what you loved to do at wintertime — which activities, songs and stories you liked most when you were young, and share with your children!
Juice of 2 oranges
2 tea bags of rose hip tea
½ liter water
1 bottle apple juice (1 liter)
½ bottle grape juice
Spices you like (we use a piece of a cinnamon stick, 3-4 cloves, 1 star anise and a small piece of fresh ginger)
Boil the water in a pot, put the tea bags in, and set aside for 10 minutes.
Remove the tea bags and add the juices. Fill the spices into the tea ball and put it into the pot.
Heat the mixture up slowly. Remove the spices after 10-15 minutes and serve warm.
Hanna Bender is the mother of two little children and lives with her husband in a small village in rural North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. She writes on her blog about the journey through childhood and how her husband and Hanna try to give their kids a bit of “soul food” to take with them on this adventure. Whenever possible she sews or felts for her little online shop at DaWanda.