We are so pleased to welcome Amanda Soule to this edition of Rhythm of The Home. Amanda is the author of Soule Mama, and the writer of the amazing books The Createvie Family, and The Handmade Home. We sat down with Amanda to talk about the traditions of her family that make the holidays special.
When you think of holiday traditions, what comes to mind for you?
Warmth. In the darkest and coldest time of the year, holiday traditions feel steeped in warmth, comfort and togetherness for me.
What are some of your most cherished celebrations from your childhood?
I remember my childhood holiday celebrations as full of family, pretty things and an enormous amount of food! I grew up with a lot of extended family nearby, so our December days and nights were full of Christmas parties and celebrations with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I always helped one grandmother in her elaborate holiday decorating, and my other grandmother in her holiday baking. It was a time of year rich in family for me as a child – most certainly my favorite time of year.
As you began your own family, how did your traditions change?
When we began our family, we wanted to keep many of our childhood traditions strong, while incorporating some new ones of our own. The focus on family and togetherness that Steve and I both grew up with still lies at the center of the holiday season for us, and our children now come and celebrate at many of those very same gatherings.
But, like many others today, we wanted to shift a bit of emphasis away from the holiday excess that our culture has so sadly adopted this time of year – in the form of gifts, activities, and more – and focus more on simpler, slower, more meaningful, giving and handmade holiday.
It was also important to us that our “new” traditions include a celebration of the season and return of the light that happens during the Solstice. So our own family traditions center on that event, and what it represents to us in our days, lives and hearts – and also how that connects us to similar celebrations throughout the world at this time of year. Though the specifics of all of our holiday celebrations are varied, there is much that unites us, and that’s a really important message I want my children to understand this time of year, in particular. So we spend a bit of time each year learning about the many ways this time of year is celebrated in other religious and cultures.
For you and your family, what makes the holiday season special?
So many things – all the celebrations, feasts and gatherings. The coziness that comes this time of year as we come together with friends and family. The changes in the landscape around us, and a focus on really paying attention to that. An extra dose of gratitude. Giving to those who need. And of course – a whole lot of making things and sharing them with those we love!
As your children get older, how are they beginning to create traditions of their own?
We’re just beginning to reach the ages (our oldest is 8), where the ‘new’ traditions that we started when we began our family are really taking hold and shape. And as traditions do, they begin to carry themselves, so that what we put so much effort into creating in the beginning years, the children are now old enough to expect and rely upon and cherish themselves. It’s so rewarding and beautiful to see this happen, and I’m excited to see these traditions of ours evolve in the years to come as our family ages.
One little tradition that we all love happens on Solstice morning when we play ‘solstice elves’ for our nearby friends and family. We deliver little gifts we’ve made (often jams or other treats from the summer’s harvest), and a whole lot of cheer. But this year, the children have completely taken over this tradition! They’ve been working on special little surprises to deliver for months now. I love that.
I wrote in The Creative Family a bit about our Gift to the Earth that we work on each year. An act of charity that we begin at the holiday season and carry into the following year. The children have also taken that right out of my hands – and I’m doing my best to keep up with their ideas!
Life has become incredibly commercialized, how do you help your children to see the value of handmade?
I think the most important lessons about that happen in our day-to-day throughout the year, really. I think it’s that daily focus that makes us able to focus on a ‘simpler’ holiday without a whole lot of interruption.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t struggles with commercial influences this time of year. There are, and we try to keep a healthy balance with all of that. Our extended family has been quite respectful of our decisions and requests, particularly in relation to gift-giving. I dare even say that as our children have gotten a bit older, it’s helped people around us to rethink their own holiday focus. So much emphasis on ‘buying stuff’ is a lot of pressure for both the gift-giver and the recipient. Keeping things simpler, and focusing on time together and meaningful connection feels good to everyone.
Any thing new that you are planning to do this year?
We’ll actually be away from home for the month leading up to Solstice and Christmas this year, so a lot of our regular holiday preparation will look a little different than usual. We won’t be at home long enough to do as much decorating/baking/making, so everyone has chosen their favorite things they want to do, and we’ll be sure those happen. It’s been a lovely chance for us to keep things extra simple, and really think about the most special of the things we do at the holiday season.
Amanda, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us a little bit about the traditions that are enjoyed by you and your family. We wish you a wonderful and warm season ahead.
Warm holiday wishes to you as well!
Amanda Blake Soule is a mama of four. She lives in Portland, Maine, where her days are spent plotting ways to avoid laundry, dishes and mopping in favor of knitting, sewing, baking, playing with her children, and sitting by the shore. She is the author of two books, Handmade Home & The Creative Family, and the popular blog SouleMama.