Teaching Children About Winter Holidays with “Lights of Winter”

Even before learning about my pregnancy, I’ve been collecting books for my future child.  Of course, some of this collection includes kid-friendly mythology and history.  I imagine this time of year being a bit confusing for the little one.  Public schools are full of Christmas. The rest of my family celebrates Christmas, albeit some more secular than others.  I wanted to find a piece of children’s literature that demonstrated the common denominator so that we can celebrate what we share rather than feel uncomfortable.

If you’re looking for a young children’s book about winter holidays, not just the Winter Solstice or Christmas, Lights of Winter  by Heather Conrad is a good introduction.  It’s the sort of book to read when the little one notices all the lights people are putting up.  Each page introduces a different cultural holiday – Zagmuk, Yule, Saturnalia, Soyal, Teng Chieh, Hanukkah, Diwali, Christmas, Las Posadas, and Kwanza.  Explanations are short and extremely general, and many parents and curious children may want to hit up the library for additional information.  The book is a starting point; it’s not meant to be the end of discussion.  The most important focus of the book is what our holidays share – coming together to celebrate using light.  Be sure to have your child find the lights on each page!  If you’re raising your children Pagan, spend some time talking about the Winter Solstice, Yule, and Saturnalia.  Talk about how, even though the book speaks about the past, people still celebrate those.  Discuss how the old and new celebrations are the same or different.

The biggest critique from Amazon customers was that the illustrations looked amateurish.  They certainly aren’t the most amazing.  One reviewer remarked that they appear to have been done on a simple computer paint program. That said, they get the job done, are clear, and include many details for children to think about.  Perhaps challenge your child to come up with a new illustration?

I definitely suggest this book for families with younger children.  Older kids will want to move on to more in-depth texts (there are a few on the Winter Solstice, several on Diwali, and Teng Chieh  Of course, the major holidays will be easily located).  Open-minded families who value diversity will likely get a lot out of the text provided it’s used as an introduction.  It could also be dusted off and shared with the extended family each year to remind everyone of the common ground and express respect for each tradition.  I think Pagan families will be especially thankful to have a winter holiday book mention Yule.  It is rare to find books that do – most focus only on Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza.

If you’re interested in adding this book to your library, check it out on Amazon.

Happy winter reading!

Published by M. A. Phillips

An author and Druid living in Northern NY.

11 thoughts on “Teaching Children About Winter Holidays with “Lights of Winter”

  1. Isn’t there some winter holiday called “Festivus,” or am I just making that up? Also, I thought it was spelled “Kwanzaa,” but I could be wrong. You are raising your child Pagan? I don’t think my fiance would let me do that…but not because he is intolerant. He wants us to raise a child who has their own beliefs and can think for themselves, instead of brainwashing them with one religion. Just my two cents, I guess. 🙂


    1. It’s not “brainwashing,” it’s exposing your child to the religion and culture that you hold most dear, and then allowing them to decide what is right for them. Brainwashing is telling your child that they will burn in hell if they even think about following another religion. Considering the fact that I am not pagan and am still willing to expose my child to pagan ritual, I’d say I am not planning to brainwash my child but simply share with him/her the path that my wife has chosen.

      The Kwanzaa thing was likely a typo.

      Finally, Festivus is a holiday created by the family of one of the Seinfeld writers, and then later popularized on the show itself.

    2. Yeah, sorry, typo. Although I did look it up and saw that “Kwanzaa” is derived from the Swahili word “Kwanza” so there is some basis there. 😉

      Although I respect your opinion on the matter (I certainly know several Pagans who feel that way), I disagree and think that the word “brainwashing” is rather extreme. Children will become imprinted no matter what you do. They are very impressionable. The very culture they are in will imprint them. And I think the culmination of my blog posts, especially this entry, should demonstrate my commitment to diversity and open-mindedness. I definitely plan a future post about raising my child Pagan, but I’ll say this for now: my child will be given a foundation just as I was. Druidism is about community and tribe. In my opinion, I wouldn’t be living it if I didn’t share it with my child. He or she may decide it works for his or her life, or not. I left my family’s religion, but I still got a lot of positive out of it. I will be living my Druidic lifestyle anyway. Why would I exclude my child from that? Brainwashing is isolating an individual and threatening them that to consider any differences is dangerous. My childrearing will be quite different I can assure you.

    3. I am wondering if you are pagan. If not then that makes sense of course to not raise your child as a pagan. However if you are, then what i want I wonder is why is the Fiance’s way of doing things the ok way? Actually anytime an adult says someone won’t let them do some thing it makes me a little concerned. To be honest I am not sure if how I raise my daughter would be considered raising her pagan or not. My husband is not pagan either, and I have for respect for him, just has he has respect for me. She is not raised anything but she is exposed to it, and every thing else.

    4. Perhaps what we really have here is a difference in semantics. What I see as “raising”, Victoria’s husband may see as “brainwashing” and Poppyunderhill refers to it as “exposing.” It’s clear (at least I hope) that none of us intend to put the fear of alternatives into our children. We want them to be independent thinkers who value diversity. As I plan to say in my future post about this topic (and as Poppy said in her recent post), there are certain Pagan activities that just aren’t developmentally right for children to be involved in. Raising energy comes to mind. Sex magic of course. I definitely wouldn’t include my children in all of my magic. I do intend to bring him or her to public rituals, but that’s just because of the nature of my Druidic tradition. It’s very family-oriented. For my own personal magical rites? He or she will likely see me do devotionals, but when I do magic, I tend to do that alone. My biggest emphasis for my child will be nature appreciation, virtues, and a child’s understanding of the High Days and some myths.

      1. My fiance is actually Pagan-leaning, and I am a Druid. Yes our children will be exposed to Pagan ritual, but they will be exposed to other faiths and be encouraged to form their own beliefs.

        We think that no matter how much we try, only exposing future children to one belief system at home may inadvertently instill in them the idea that it’s not okay to practice a religion other than Paganism/Druidry.

        To avoid this, we are considering raising our children as Unitarian Universalists. Their religious education program encourages children to form their own beliefs and provides viewpoints of many faiths.

        I apologize if I offended anyone with my use of the word “brainwashing.” Now I realize that’s not quite what I meant.

        Many blessings,

    1. I hope your kids get something out of it! I would like to get my paws on specific Winter Solstice books next. Keep your eyes opened for good titles!

      1. I shall keep my eyes peeled though I am lucky that my mom still has the bramble hedge books from my young days (I am told they are out of print) and the secret stair case is a wonderful Solstice story. If you can find it I highly recommend it!

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