Create a Holiday Table for Respite and Reflection


Here in northern Vermont, the days are very short from early December until mid-January. Intellectually, I knew this would be the case when our family moved here from Texas, where the shortness of days is not as pronounced, but experiencing it in the flesh was another thing entirely. Indeed, there is so little light that my understanding of the focus on light in mid-winter across so many cultures has increased. If you feel the same, perhaps you might like to mark this time of year with not only holiday festivities, but also some quiet reflection on the significance of light in this time of darkness.

One way to bring this to your children is through your seasonal or holiday table. If you are new to the idea of a seasonal table, a holiday display is a way to ease into it. One aspect of it is to bring a bit of outside to the inside. In winter, you might include a paper snowflake (lamentably, real ones simply leave a wet spot on the table that soon evaporates), an evergreen branch, a bit of holly, or a bare branch. In our family, we often include a shell, a houseplant, and an animal figure or two to represent different things we honor and benefit from in nature.


Your holiday table might also include figures representing your beliefs around this season. For some that might be a nativity scene or candles or images of the returning sun. You might include ways to count off days, like stars or a pretty paper chain. Including things like this will give your children a structured way to interact with the display; this should be a special spot, not just another place to play.

Finally, try to find a way in your daily rhythm to include a little time around the holiday table. You might sing songs, read special stories, light candles, or just reflect on the day. The point is to treat this as a moment to slow down and be present with your children as the year winds down and we head more fully into winter and the returning of the sun. A scheduled time of reflection can help bring your attention back to why you celebrate at this time and can serve as a respite in an otherwise busy season.