Each year I set up 25 activities in the days leading up to, and including, Christmas. The activities are a way for us to celebrate winter, and embrace the long nights and short days. The kids look forward to seeing what's in the calendar each morning, and I do better if I have a plan ahead of time, rather than trying to figure something out at 10 pm the night before.
Here is our plan for December 2013 (with the option to switch things around to fit the weather or life).
1. Bring up the winter holiday books and read a few.
2. No real snow today, play with Snow to Go.
3. Brrr...make ice ornaments.
4. See "Frozen" in the theater.
5. Write a letter to Santa (and get a video response).
6. Join friends for the Livingston Holiday Stroll.
7. Go sledding.
8. Winter scavenger hunt (on skis or hiking).
9. Take a dip in Bozeman Hot Springs.
10. Collect twigs along the river and make Twig Stars.
11. Hike up to Pine Creek Falls to see if it's frozen yet.
12. Field Trip: ExplorationWorks! and the Great Northern Carousel.
13. Go on an elf hunt. (Except it will be a tomten hunt, because we love tomtens.)
14. Cross-country ski day.
15. Roast marshmallows over a patio campfire.
16. Appreciate the long nights with stargazing.
17. Construct a gingerbread house.
18. Get ready for winter solstice with homemade lanterns.
19. Jump into White Sulphur Springs.
20. Read a winter solstice story and take a night walk around the neighborhood to see the lights.
21. Cross-country ski and cuddle up in a cabin at Lone Mountain Ranch.
22. Host an outdoor Winter Solstice Party! (5:11pm) Celebrate the return of the light with campfire and friends.
23. Make Magic Reindeer Food or a Reindeer Ice Wreath (depending on weather). Thanks to Go Explore Nature for these ideas!
24. Ski through Wonderland, aka Yellowstone National Park.
25. Christmas! Eat Swedish pancakes, open presents, and cross-country ski.
Days of fun from years past
Other great ideas from around the web
25 Christmas Nature Activities for Families from Go Explore Nature
Outdoor Play Christmas from Active Kids Club
How to Celebrate an Outdoor Christmas guest post by Tanya Graydon Koob for Active Kids Club
Advent Activities 2013 from Emily's Hollow
Winter Fun for Families from Rediscovered Families
It's December 1 and the holidays are in full swing around here. We are coming up on my favorite holiday--winter solstice!
Why do we start off the solstice season with getting a Christmas tree? Because coniferous trees were part of the solstice celebrations long before Christianity was invented.
Here's what History.com has to say about it:
Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.
In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls on December 21 or December 22 and is called the winter solstice. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.
I just like an excuse to hike through the woods and bring a tree into my house.
We make an outing of it. We have our favorite spot up Suce Creek. It's long enough of a walk that I feel like we are getting some outside time. It's short enough that Finn doesn't melt down (too much). Plus, my lumberjack husband has to carry the tree back to the car, so we don't want to cover too many miles.
We bring hot cocoa and orange/cherry muffins to sustain us through our wandering and pointing. "What about that tree? Or this one? Or the one way up there?" Then we find the perfect tree. It might be a little Charlie Brownish, but it's just right for us.
Want to cut your own tree?
Part of an article I wrote for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle a few years ago.
While you can buy a tree at a lot, venturing into the woods for a fir or a spruce can be a rewarding way to spend a December day together. And the best part? You always come home with a prize.
If you choose to embark on a cut-your-own-tree adventure, here’s what you need to know.
• Get a permit from the Forest Service or Ace Hardware or True Value in Livingston, Owenhouse Ace Hardware in Bozeman, Lee & Dad’s Grocery in Belgrade, Gateway Exxon Market in Gallatin Gateway. They’re $5 and available in Nov. and Dec. You are limited to two trees per household. Find a District Office near you.
• Trees can be cut from anywhere on the National Forest except at campgrounds, trailheads or in plantations.
• Know how tall you want your tree to be before you go. In the forest, there isn’t a good reference point for height, so even a ten-foot tall tree looks short. We know that we want a tree about as tall as my husband.
• Choose a location that is open. Trees growing in groves often shed their lower branches; trees growing in the open have a more traditional Christmas tree shape. Ask Forest Service staff to suggest a meadow or clearing the distance from a trailhead that you want to hike or ski.
• Cut the tree 12 inches or less above the ground level. Remove snow around tree base if needed. Cut off live limbs remaining on the stump. You can always cut more off the bottom if needed; it’s poor tree-cutting etiquette to leave a tall stump.
• Use a tarp or sled to pull the tree back to your vehicle.
• When you get your tree home, make a fresh cut on the butt to open up the pores that have been clogged by sap. Cut off at least one-half inch. The fresh-cut surface should be creamy-white, not yellow or brown. If you do not make a fresh cut, the tree will not be able to drink water. Put the tree in water as soon as possible.
• Decorate and water daily to keep your tree fresh.
I've been back from Churchill for a couple weeks, but I still haven't posted photos of all the cute cubs we saw.
During the seven days I was in the Great White North, I spent two days on the Tundra Buggies. If all goes well, you don't see bears in town, you see them out on the tundra. There was a mauling in Churchill the day before I arrived, and there were a couple nights we were woken by cracker shells as the polar bear police chased bears out of town, but I only saw them from the comfort and safety of 12-foot high vehicles.
One person I was sharing a house with had the clarity of thought to look out his window in the middle of the night when he heard cracker shells. He watched the bear police (in a truck) chasing a big bear down the alley across from our house. I slept on the other side of the house and wouldn't have seen anything even if I was motivated enough to get out of bed and look.
I prefer seeing bears in places I am not walking around though, and was super lucky to witness lots of moms and cubs in the wild. Polar Bears International, along with Frontiers North Adventures and Explore.org hosted several people from the media the week I was there. It was Polar Bears Week and we wanted to get the message out that human caused climate change is putting polar bears in a very precarious position survival-wise. I went out with the NBC crew and a gang of scientists to see what we could find.
Plan your own trip
If you aren't lucky enough to work for a polar bear conservation organization, you can still go to Churchill and see bears. All you need is money and a warm coat.
Frontiers North Adventures has knowledgeable and funny, friendly guides. They can set up your whole trip--from flights to accommodations to Tundra Buggy excursions. You can book day trips through them, or spend a couple nights out on the tundra in the Tundra Buggy Lodge. They also do beluga whale watching trips in the summer.
If you need a break from bears (what?) book a dog sledding trip with Dave at Wapusk Adventures. He'll regale you with stories of gnarly sled dog races and share some of the history of his people, the Metis.
Be sure to stop in at the Eskimo Museum while you are in town. Over 850 high quality Inuit carvings are on permanent display. The exhibits include historic and contemporary sculptures of stone, bone, and ivory, as well as archaeological and wildlife specimens. I could spend hours there.
The Parks Canada/Wapusk National Park visitor center is also a must see when you are in Churchill. The small space is packed with natural and cultural history.
Other TravelingMel Churchill posts
I've been meaning to post photos of the boys' Halloween costumes. Do you want to know why? Because they took a lot of work and I want some accolades . Plus the kids look pretty cute even though they are hidden under their mask/helmets.
I got the idea here.
Follow me! I want to show you some of the sights of Churchill.