Yesterday was the winter solstice and beginning today, the days are starting to get longer again in the norther hemisphere. Watching the sun set at 4:30 PM is very depressing, so I’m thrilled the light is returning. I’m not alone, humans have been celebrating the winter solstice as long as humans have been celebrating anything. This year, we decided to study a few of these winter celebration traditions in our homeschool.
I love Teachers Pay Teachers and have found lots of great homeschool resources there. One gem I recently used was a study on winter holidays ancient and modern. The program is designed to be used in a public school classroom, where students divide into groups to research several different winter holidays (11 in total). Since I only have two students, each of my kids was assigned five holidays to research and I took the final holiday of Christmas.
Every day for a week, my kids looked up a different holiday online and filled out the worksheet on how that particular culture celebrates. Many of the ancient European traditions, such as the Festival of Yule form Germany and the Festival of Beivve from Finland had striking similarities to modern Christmas celebrations.
After doing this research project we were able to have a wonderful discussion that probably would have been a lot harder to facilitate in a public school setting. We talked about how Jesus was actually born in July, not December and why the early church chose to make Christmas a holiday celebrated near the winter solstice. The universal human experience of celebrating the return of the sun makes a great date for an important religious holiday.
It also makes it easier to see Christmas as more than a religious holiday. It’s possible to celebrate without believing in Jesus or Santa. Because we can all agree that the sun is coming back, and that alone is worth celebrating. Of course, believing in Jesus and Santa is great too.
So from my family to yours, happy holidays. What ever your traditions or religious beliefs, its good to know the sun will rise a little bit earlier tomorrow.