For the Love of Trees
At this time of year; the holiday season as it has been dubbed by our “inclusive” culture, it can be hard for parents to keep meaning in the countless celebrations and the consumer driven racket that surrounds our children. Many of us grew up celebrating Christmas whether religiously or from a secular perspective and most Pagans I read about integrate Yule, Winter Solstice, Christmas or Hanukah however it works best for their families. Keeping it simple is something I strive for at this time of year. This is my favourite holiday and as such I love the decorations, songs, and symbols of giving and peace that accompany the season. One symbol that I particularly love is the evergreen tree.
Sharing the history of the tree portion of this holiday is rather challenging as the precise origins of the tree decorating that we do today is debatable. There are several theories of exactly where it came from but the veneration of evergreens has pagan origins and there are countless ways that we can celebrate trees and the magic that they represent for our children at this time of year.
Taking a walk in a forested area with your young ones at this time of year gives them a chance to appreciate the differences this season offers. You can talk about the shape of the deciduous trees that are now mostly leafless, notice if there are any bird’s nests visible and point them out. If the weather is mild enough you can even make some drawings in a sketch book and plan on returning in the summer to notice the differences. When encountering evergreens you can point out the contrasts of shape, texture and stature (and don’t forget that wonderful smell). It may have been hard to notice them in the summer and now they dominate the forest and give off a frosty glow if covered in snow.
You can collect boughs that have fallen to decorate your home. There are many options for using them: Wreaths, smudge sticks, garlands, centerpieces, incenses or tree inspired arts and crafts. You may also want to create a tree honouring ritual with your little ones. You can do this while out in nature or in your home with your Yule tree as the focal point. If you choose the outdoors the child can pick a tree to learn about and commune with. In this case it doesn’t matter whether it is an evergreen or not since you are trying to inspire a relationship with and towards trees as sacred beings. If you are intent on keeping the evergreen as the focus you can bring your little ones to a Christmas tree farm where they can perhaps have a hand in choosing the family tree while learning of the sacrifice the tree gives for our celebration, and the time it takes to grow a tree in the first place.
If your family chooses an artificial tree it is important to share the reasons why with your child. Allergies, environmental impact, budget constraints, all are important reasons your children can appreciate. A key to keeping the bustle of the season less chaotic is to discuss the insanity of overspending and consumption that skews the real messages behind the celebrations. Don’t feel guilty if you cannot afford every toy in the catalogue, you have the power to make this holiday reflect your families values. Since it is cold in the Northern Hemisphere you can create a sanctuary in your home for the whole family to revel in. The early darkness can inspire quiet evenings of reading, games and gazing at the lovely tree you’ve decorated together.
Trees can even inspire your holiday meals and gifts. You can have each child choose a tree that will be their “totem” for the season and try to create activities, place settings and gifts that honour those. Share the magic of the season with the simplicity of trees and watch that magic reflect in the eyes of those you love the most. Happy Holidays & Bright Blessings to you and yours this season.