spider, orange, brown, wildlife, natural history, illustration, illustrator, hannah foley, children, educational, school,When do you think a regular activity becomes a tradition? This is our second year in Devon, Wren’s first Christmas, and Finch’s first Christmas that makes any sense to him. I think it’s a lovely phase in the life of a nuclear family, where you get to choose the seasonal activities that will become established customs for your little ones, customs they will hopefully remember and treasure for years to come.

We already have a few from our own families. In Big Dreamer’s family everyone makes a wish when my mother-in-law bakes her Christmas cake. Even if a family member is hundreds of miles away, they get a phone call to make a wish. I think that’s a lovely tradition so it’s great to keep it and build on it too. We had a go at making our own Christmas cake this year. Each one of the children made a wish as they stirred the mixture. But then we took it a step further and everyone wrote their Christmas wish on a star-shaped parcel label and put it in a special wish jar. We’re going to get them out after Christmas and see if they came true!

We’ve also got a few things already established from Little Owl. Getting out the nativity set we bought for her first Christmas is a major part of her Christmas rituals. Something that worked really well last year was heading up to Dartmoor to buy our Christmas tree from the Dartmoor Park Rangers (read about it here). It’s such an atmospheric place and we re-traced the outline of the day (which happened by lucky happenstance the first time) again on Saturday.

I’ve said this before, but the ebb and flow of the year with all its feast days and natural phenomena, have always been important touchstones for a sensitive soul like me. When my world seems to have got a bit topsy-turvy these things have lent me a sense of stability. I wish there was a proper word for it. Maybe there is and I don’t know it. It needs a word that is like ‘landmarks’ only for time. Perhaps waymarks might be the closest we can get. My children might not need it in the same way I do, but just in case, when their world gets a bit topsy-turvy I hope that they can climb up onto Dartmoor one Saturday before Christmas, eat bacon rolls in a twinkly barn, buy their Christmas tree from the Park Rangers and they will feel they have touched a marker to point them on their way again, just a little bit more centred and little more able to face the fray.

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