“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”

-John Steinbeck

Winter Solstice for the Northern Hemisphere  is the day the sun reaches it’s farthest southern point. (This is the day they celebrate Summer Solstice in the south.) It’s a special day because of the darkness and the short time to run outside in sunlight. All over the world people celebrate special holidays in the winter, and most of those holidays involve lights, trees, and mindfully considering our loved ones and years.

When I ask a group of students if they have a special holiday in the United States this time of year, many yell, “Christmas!” And that’s so true. Many people in this country and in Europe celebrate Christmas in December. I ask what day that is. They know.

I ask if we have anyone celebrating Hanukkah. Usually we do. What about Kwanzaa? Fewer hands go up. I’ll put my hand to my cheek and ask, “Do we have a friend who celebrates Bodhi Day?” No hands, though this holiday celebrating the Bodhisattva’s enlightenment is December 8. “What about Solstice?” Nobody. Sometimes if a teacher loves science they will have heard of it.

Sometimes we hear the words, “The reason for the season,” and that is what Solstice is. The science behind the long, dark night, is exactly why we have winter. When the earth tilts on its axis, exposing the Southern Hemisphere more to the sun, the Northern Hemisphere tips away from the sun. This experiment can be done in class with a ball or globe and a flashlight.

There are so many stories that people tell when they are together on dark nights. Those stories become our myths and traditions. We gather together for warm foods and to celebrate being here; we celebrate the changes we see in the natural world when we bring trees and the remaining evergreens into our homes. Winter Solstice is a time for looking through the crisp winter air to see the universe above and digging through the snow to experience the coldest, darkest day of the year.

History tells us that celebrations changed and the stories transformed with people’s movements across the globe. Some of the stories melted into one another to become a single holiday or to shine a light on the unknown. Whatever the reason, whatever the celebration, embrace the differences as you talk about winter holidays in the classroom and in our homes.

Today’s two featured books:

The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer. This is a science-based explanation for the shortest day of the year along with a tour through history of how we recognize this day, the monuments, like Stonehenge, and science experiments that can be done on Solstice. The author takes a look at the ways people celebrate this special season around the world, too.

The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice by Carolyn McVickar Edwards is a collection of stories from around the Norther Hemisphere. They are read-aloud worthy and some will work with currently planned lessons better than others, but all of the stories are worth hearing.

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“The winter solstice has always been special to me as a barren darkness that gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination, a time of pain and withdrawal that produces something joyfully inconceivable, like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon, bursting forth into unexpected glory.”

— Gary Zukav

As you know, I work in education. My hobby, writing, is something I hope to grow into over time. I call it a hobby because the time and money I put into writing at this point moves around my day job and does not break even in book sales. What’s an early childhood educator to do? I’m going to do a better job keeping up my blog and add affiliate links to see if I can help supplement this educator’s income. I almost never talked about what I was reading and writing directly. I allude to it, but I will start not only talking about the resources I’m using, but I’ll be linking to them. I realized that I support some of my favorite artists on Patreon and when I went looking for some formatting software I stopped in at my favorite writing podcast and used her affiliate links to help her out. I want these artists and information spreader’s to keep going, so I want to support them in the small ways that I can.

I hope you understand that I’m not out to make a fortune through these links. When I recommend something that means I use it and like it. I’m not trying to pull one over on you, but to add a few passive-income pennies to the pot to support my family and the purchases I make to write curriculum and share.