How We Are Celebrating Winter Solstice

This will be the second year our family has officially celebrated the winter solstice, aka Yule! I am loving the inclusion of our seasonal observances/holidays because they are untainted by commercialism and provide wonderful learning opportunities. They are also full of “hygge” (my new favorite word)!

This year we will be bringing back some of the same activities we enjoyed last year: baking a sun cake, reading a story about winter solstice, decorating our tree… but we also started a new tradition!

This year our “elf on the shelf” has been bringing a book each night to read together the following day.

We don’t do the traditional elf on the shelf thing anyway – I just don’t like the idea of the fear-based tactic of the elf always watching and reporting to Santa. In years past, our elf has simply come to visit with us, sometimes getting herself into silly situations (like stuck in the sugar jar). But we have never read the Elf on the Shelf story in this house and we never will (in fact I gave the accompanying book away this year).

K has LOVED this new tradition! it’s brought us all together at bedtime and has added quite substantially to her bookshelf! I had to raid TWO local Goodwill stores to find all 25 books – new books would be lovely but, we’re all about that frugal living (I spent less than $20 on this!) and keeping things simple. Used books are just as good and I found some really fun reads by thrifting, rather than buying from a bookstore.

We will also be celebrating Christmas later this month. Since hubby and I both grew up in Christian homes and since Christmas is such a widely celebrated holiday anyway – and is honestly more secular in society’s portrayal of it – this is a holiday we can’t really get away from.

We keep it simple, Santa only brings 3 gifts and a modest stocking. My husband and I don’t exchange gifts as we prefer to spend the money on the kids. We spend the morning together drinking tea and opening gifts, then head to my in law’s for breakfast, my grandpa’s for lunch, and end the day at hubby’s grandpa’s for dinner. We visit my parents’ on Christmas Eve. My stepson joins us for at least one day. It’s a holiday full of food and family and I personally try very very hard to keep a spirit of giving, without falling prey to an obligation to spend X amount of money on X amount of people, buy plastic junk, etc.

Yule/ Solstice is different. There are no gifts – aside from the books our elf brings. We bake, we do crafts, we read together, and we light candles and give thanks for the warmth of the sun, the turning of the seasons, and all of our myriad blessings. We reflect on the past year and let go of it. We express our hopes for the new year and welcome back the sun and the lengthening of days. This year, we’ll get together with some of our friends and bake cookies/make crafts together before circling around the fire to give thanks and share a meal together. There is no rushing from place to place, there is no pressure to buy gifts, there is nothing but a cozy (if not chaotic from all the kids!) gathering and an honoring of the Earth and her cycles.

If you are new to the Wheel of the Year, and looking for some ideas on how to celebrate Yule – check out this post {updating soon}! For our Sun Cake recipe – click here!

And if you need more ideas – visit our Yule board on Pinterest ­čÖé

Blessed Yule, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Diwali…. whatever you are celebrating this winter season, I hope it is filled with lots of Love and Light!

BB

Easy Sun Cake Recipe

This sun cake is so easy and delicious! This cake is light and moist, and is topped with a orange cream cheese “glaze” – not a heavy frosting! Using a ROUND cake pan , yellow cake, and oranges, this cake represents the Sun and is perfect for celebrating winter solstice (return of the sun) or as a summer treat!

Ingredients:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix PLUS the needed ingredients listed on the box (eggs/oil)
  • 2-3 cups mandarin orange slices in juice or water (the canned kind)
  • 1 block of cream cheese
  • 1 cup of sugar

Cake Instructions:

  • Prepare cake batter as directed on box with eggs and oil, BUT DO NOT ADD WATER.
  • Blend 1 cup of canned mandarin oranges and add to cake batter.
  • Add batter to greased cake pan and bake as directed on box for pan size/type. (You may need to bake it longer, but check it at the time indicated for doneness). I use a ROUND cake pan.

Frosting Instructions:

  • In a microwave save bowl, melt 1 block of cream cheese in the microwave using 30 second intervals. Stir every 30 seconds until uniformly melted and creamy.
  • Add 1 cup of sugar to the bowl and combine thoroughly.
  • Blend 1/2 cup of canned mandarin oranges and add to cream cheese mixture. Combine thoroughly

Assembly:

  • Turn out cake onto a cake plate or other flat dish and allow to cool slightly. You don’t want it to be too hot, but it needs to be warm so the frosting will glaze a bit while still covering the surface evenly.
  • Poke a few holes in the cake and pour the cream cheese glaze over the cake, starting in the middle. Allow to drip over the sides.
  • Decorate the top of the cake with remaining orange slices and serve!

A Kid Friendly Ostara / Spring Equinox Celebration

Kid Friendly Ostara

It’s officially SPRING!!! I have been feeling so over all the cold weather and grey skies! It’s SO nice to finally feel the air warming up and see the SUN!

This was our first year of celebrating Ostara and I had been SOO looking forward to it!┬áNever heard of Ostara? Then before we get to our family celebration, it’s time for a history lesson!

Ostara is one of the 8 seasonal holidays that make up the “wheel of the year” (but you may know it as the Spring or Vernal Equinox).

The word Ostara is an English evolution of the word Eostre; Eostre was a Germanic goddess of Spring. One myth claims that Eostre once found an injured bird on the ground in late winter. To save it’s life, she changed the bird into a hare but the transformation wasn’t perfect. It looked like a hare, but kept it’s ability to lay eggs! The creature would decorate these eggs and leave them as gifts to Eostre as thanks for saving it’s life.

Other myths associate rabbits and eggs with Ostara as symbols of fertility and re-birth, which is a common theme of Spring: baby animals are being born, trees and flowers begin to bloom, crops/gardens are being planted, etc.

Celebrations of Eostre were held during Eosturmononath,┬áthe fourth lunar month (mid-March to Mid-April). Often these celebrations involved the decorating of eggs, egg hunts, and gifts. As Christianity began to spread, many customs that were previously associated with Ostara were combined with and adopted into the Christian holiday “Easter” and it’s easy to see the resemblance and symbolism here (celebrating the rebirth of the Christ seems fitting during the time of year when re-birth is thematic).

The Spring Equinox or Vernal Equinox, when both the northern and southern hemisphere receive equal sunlight (as the earth tilts and the sun begins to bring more daylight to the northern hemisphere), occurs around March 21st each year (in 2019 it is March 20th, in 2020 it will be March 19th). Some earth / nature centric religions (wiccans, neopagans, etc.) observe the equinox as a holiday, others observe the Sabbat Ostara. JudeoChristians observe Passover and Easter around the same time (usually between Ostara and Beltane aka May Day). Regardless, this is a a time of spiritual significance!

Okay, enough history. Back to our celebration!

We started the day with a trip to our local dollar tree. (We go there a lot because it’s like a treasure hunt each time!) I don’t mind getting my seasonal flowers from there and we like to peruse the craft supplies and seasonal decor – which is exactly what we did! We always leave there with waaay too much stuff, because it’s really hard to say no to something that only costs a dollar…

Anyway, I got some things for our seasonal / holiday table (it’s really my personal altar, but I like keeping it decorated for the season or current / recent holiday). K got some sparkly eggs, bunny ears, and a balloon that said Happy Birthday (haha). It made her happy because it was rainbow colored – and it was actually semi-appropriate because my sister in law’s birthday is on the 21st and my mom’s birthday is on the 22nd – even though K wanted to keep it for herself!

We also made a stop at our local herb shop, because K wanted to make a potion to help the plants grow and bring out Spring. I picked up a few things to add to my apothecary closet and K picked out rosebuds and passion flower for her potion.

Once we got home and unloaded everything, we dove right in to potion making!

Potion making is super fun! I love seeing what K will pick out to blend together. She usually picks out really good blends! For her Spring Potion we used: Pink Rosebuds, Passion Flower, Lavender, Chamomile, and Calendula. She ground up each ingredient with our little mortar and pestle and combined it all in a glass bowl that we use specifically for herb blending / potions.┬áThen we added some Rosewater that I’d made from the red roses hubby brought me for Valentine’s Day.

Because I’m a modern gal, we used the microwave to heat up the concoction. 2-3 minutes was plenty! We poured the liquid through a mesh strainer into a clean bowl and then funneled it into a small 2oz. spray bottle and voila! Our Spring Growing Potion was ready!

K wanted to put it to the test immediately so we went outside and sprayed all of our landscape bushes and the beginning shoots of our daylilies with the potion. Of course we had to chant our intentions too – so we firmly, but lovingly, told each plant to “Grow, Plant, Grow”!

After our successful potion mixing time, we spent some time doing new flower arrangements for the fireplace mantle and foyer table. I keep ALL the flowers I ever buy in a giant bag so I let K go through and pick whichever ones she wanted to use to make the arrangement for the table, while I placed white and peach colored lilies in the vase for the mantle.

After that we re-decorated the table and had an indoor egg hunt! We also went to the library and got some Spring themed books, which we are still reading through and likely will renew at least once!

I was also able to take some me-time to be outside and just give thanks for all of the abundance of the season, the gift of life, new opportunities, fresh starts, and everything Spring represents to me personally.

There’s not a lot of information out there for families who want to celebrate and create Ostara traditions together, but I think we managed well enough on our own! If you celebrate Ostara with kids I’d love to hear what you planned!

xo and happy Spring!
–Marissa