Merry Midwinter (First day of Winter activities)

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The first day of winter has been celebrated for centuries. Many different religions and beliefs have their own festivals and traditions. 

How do you celebrate the first day of winter?

We like to acknowledge winter, the coming of spring and also tie it in to Christmas which is only a few days from the Winter Solstice. 

Here are some activities you may wish to incorporate.

Nature Story:
Midwinter in the Forest by Meaghan Jackson

Christopher is a little brown squirrel who lives high in an oak tree. Below him, at the base of the tree, is his good friend Gareth a kind and gentle toad. Gareth hibernates for the winter along with many other forest creatures. Many birds have also migrated south to warmer locations. 

The air was chilly when Christopher woke up. He snuggled deeper into his warm nest and pulled a soft piece of moss around him. Finally, he got out of bed and had a good breakfast of warm acorn coffee and walnut bread. He was very excited because today was the first day of winter. Many of his forest friends would be celebrating that afternoon. They did not have to wait until evening as today would be the shortest day of the year and the sunset in the later afternoon. Christopher had noticed the moon was out even in the middle of the day.

After checking on his nut stores, the little squirrel went into his living room and pulled a glass jar from the cabinet. Carefully covering the jar in glue and tissue had crafted a beautiful lantern and left it to dry. He would need it later that afternoon. Then he spent some time in the kitchen baking cookies for the celebration. Spiral cookies took a lot of work, but it was a job he happily took on whilst singing Christmas carols. 

When he arrived at the clearing, Christopher noticed that the deer had already cleared away the leaves. Henry, the badger, had begun laying pine bows in a spiral shape. Christopher hadn't seen as much of Henry lately and was happy to help him complete the solstice spiral. Some birds brought in berries and bits of holly to add to the spiral. As the sun began to sink lower in the sky, Christopher could see lights twinkling among the trees like little stars, only they were moving towards the clearing. In little groups, more forest animals came to join them holding lanterns. Mrs. Fox had a basket of muffins and Abigail the grey rabbit looked as though she was carrying a large thermos and cups.  All the food was carefully placed on some flat rocks nearby.

A large barn owl called for attention. He welcomed the forest animals to the Midwinter celebration and said a prayer of thanksgiving. One by one they walked reverently towards the centre of the circle, placed their lantern in the spiral, and walked back out. Christopher thought about all his blessings on the way in, and how thankful he was for Jesus on the way out. The spiral was beautiful and lit up the whole clearing.

Afterward, everyone ate and wished each other well. Some animals would see each other in a few days for Christmas celebrations. Others they would see again at NewYears.  A few sleepy critters had woken only to greet their friends and would go back to hibernate until the spring.

The forest animals would continue to check in on each other over the winter to make sure that everyone had what they needed by way of warmth and food. That evening, Christopher walked home with a happy heart, grateful for all his friends.

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper 

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died 
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world 
Came people singing, dancing, 
To drive the dark away. 
They lighted candles in the winter trees; 
They hung their homes with evergreen; 
They burned beseeching fires all night long 
To keep the year alive. 
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake 
They shouted, reveling. 
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them 
Echoing behind us — listen! 

All the long echoes, sing the same delight, 
This Shortest Day,
 As promise wakens in the sleeping land: 
They carol, feast, give thanks, 
And dearly love their friends, 
And hope for peace. 
And now so do we, here, now, 
This year and every year. 

Merry Midwinter From the The Secret Staircase, 1983 Brambly Hedge

‘When the days are the shortest, the nights are the coldest,
The frost is the sharpest, the year is the oldest,
The sun is the weakest, the wind is the hardest,
The snow is the deepest, the skies are the darkest,
Then polish your whiskers and tidy your nest,
And dress in your richest and finest and best…’
For Winter has brought you the worst it can bring,
And now it will give you
The promise of Spring!

Art appreciation: 
The Shortest Day by Carson Ellis 
Mid Winter Sunset by Joseph Farquharson

Picture books: 

Bake bread in the shape of a sun
Spiral cookies
Yule log cake
Eat dinner by candle light

Track the sun rise and sun set times this week then compare them to the summer solstice. 
Look for signs of winter
Notice shadows
Have a bonfire 

Make candles

Paint with yellow 
Explore spiral shapes
Trace shadows

Shadow tag
Tag in the dark with flashlights
Shadow puppets


In the bleak midwinter by H Darke


For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. Song of Solomon 2:11-12 ESV 

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12 ESV

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. John 12:46 ESV

This may be a good opportunity to teach or be aware of reverence
Explain that some events are times of thoughtfulness and respect. You may wish to practice going on a reverent walk. If your child isn't sure what to think about, perhaps suggest they think of things they are thankful for.

In the months ahead your family may find you are spending more time inside. Be prepared, don't let cabin fever set in. 
  • Think of fun ways to keep active both inside and out. 
  • Make a list of activities you can easily prep for those longer evenings and bored days. 
  • Connect with others
  • Eat well
  • Get outside if possible
  • Keep a strong rhythm and routine
  • Possible add in some fun days
  • Plan special time or monthly dates with your children

More activities:

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