When we were planning our solstice celebration, I knew I wanted it to stand apart from Christmas. Just as I started planning, I discovered Human Light, a holiday celebrating "Humanists vision of a good future." The more I read and learned about it, the more I felt like it was the perfect fit for our family celebration. (Happy Human Light by the way....December 23rd is the official day to celebrate). My husband is working today, so we had our celebration on December 21st, but incorporated ideas from Human Light into our festivities.
It all began the afternoon of December 21st. The four of us jumped into the car and headed to downtown Spokane. Our first stop was "Santa Express". Kids can shop with volunteer elves and pick out gifts ranging from $0.50-$7.50 and the proceeds benefit Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery. This was chosen for two reasons. First, it benefits a charity that we support. Second, it helped our kids get excited about giving to other people. Both of our kids were thrilled with what they were able to buy and wanted to open gifts that day...but we're going to wait for Christmas. We wanted the day to be about spending time together as a family and thinking of ways to give to others.
After we left Santa Express, we walked around downtown enjoying the decorations as well as each other’s company. We discussed and all agreed that our favorite Mexican restaurant would be our next stop. After dinner, we went home and had a little ceremony of sorts. I had some special candles on the counter and each of our kids was allowed to light one...for a 9 & 7 year old this was a very grown up thing to do. Upon lighting the candles, we read from Affirmations: Joyful And Creative Exuberance by Paul Kurtz. Here's a small sample of what we read:
"Humanists are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems."
"Express and affirmative attitude towards other and ourselves."
"Have the courage of your convictions, do not be afraid to express them."
After each statement, we discussed what it meant and whether we believed it to be true. In our house, our kids are free to disagree with us and we with them. If we disagreed about something, we talked about it and tried to understand each other’s point of view. Each year, we will choose a different reading to discuss. For my readers who are theists, in no way do I feel this book, or any book, should be followed explicitly without question. In fact, one of the values I treasure is critical thinking...Question Everything! The point here was to help our kids understand what my husband and I do believe and the reasons we believe those things.
Following our discussion, we each chose a charity or cause we wanted to support in addition to the regular charities we support. Our choices this year were:
Second Harvest Food Bank
Boston Terrier Rescue of Western Washington
Washington Trails Association
Foundation Beyond Belief
(If our kids didn't know the specific name of a charity, we asked them what causes they wanted to help. Then, we searched for charities that support that cause. Charity Navigator is a great resource when looking for responsible charities.)
Then, it was time to decorate the solstice tree! I had wanted to get a living tree that we could decorate each year, but I have never had luck with indoor trees. So, we decided to get a small artificial tree that will be our solstice tree every year. This tree was to be decorated differently than our Christmas tree, though. I placed a piece of cardstock in front of each family member along with crayons, glue and glitter. We were going to make our own ornaments representing what we believe! I think we came up with some pretty creative ideas.
A drawing of earth with the words "Stop Global Warming" written on it.
A drawing of a worm that represented composting.
A drawing of a battery with the words "Conserve Energy" written on it.
A drawing of a peace symbol.
A drawing of a light bulb with "New Ideas" written on it.
A drawing of a question mark with the words "Question Everything" on it.
A drawing of an acorn with "Think for yourself" written on it.
I could go on, but I won't. I was so proud of the creative ideas we all came up with and our kids were delighted with their ornaments. After the season is over, I plan on saving our ornaments and making a scrapbook page with them. Each year, we'll look at our past ornaments after we finish decorating our solstice tree. It will be fun to see how they change from year to year.
Now that the ornaments were completed, it was time to place them on the tree. Once each ornament found its special spot, we turned on the lights and sang, "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles. Our kids LOVED this...my son started playing air guitar and my daughter had an imaginary microphone :) They insisted that we take picture of them singing in front of the solstice tree.
The closing of our afternoon of festivities consisted of watching the newest episode of Mythbusters together while drinking hot cocoa. As we were tucking our kids into bed that night, both of them expressed their enjoyment with our celebration. They can't wait for next year’s solstice celebration!