Letter E: Eggnog… Or Engaging The Senses!
One of my favorite Christmas traditions since childhood is drinking eggnog. Not because there’s any significance to it, but because my mom and I always shared the enjoyment of eggnog during the Christmas season. Even though my children and husband don’t like eggnog as much as I do, every sweet and spicy sip of eggnog I enjoy now takes me back to Christmases from years past and warms my heart with the flavor of meaningful family memories.
Although you may not feel the same about eggnog, one thing we all share in common is the fact that engaging our senses heightens the intensity of our memories. I think our senses are especially receptive during the holiday season: There are so many flavors, scents, sounds, and sights that are unique to our celebration of Christmas. As homeschoolers, there are many ways that we can engage the senses of our children during the Christmas season and create memory imprints that will last a lifetime.
Here are just a few examples:
1) Sounds: This is probably the easiest sense to engage during the Christmas season. Christmas music abounds on the Internet, the radio, in the stores, on the streets, and of course, at churches. Nowadays you can even find houses with Christmas music blaring that is synchronized to a special Christmas lights display.
Although commercial Christmas music abounds at this time of year, I suggest thinking outside the box for opportunities to celebrate and SHARE the spirit of the season through music. The often neglected tradition of singing Christmas carols in the neighborhood is a beautiful way to share the spirit of the season with your neighbors, as well as in environments that would be blessed by your voices and message, such as nursing homes, hospitals, and shelters.
2) Sights: Why pay $25 to put up with long lines and antsy children for a picture with a professional Santa when you can experience Christmas sights that are free and rich with tradition and significance? Find a church in your area that’s hosting a nativity play, musical, or walk-through that brings the true Christmas story and gospel message to life. Invite neighbors and friends to share the experience with you. Find out if your children might have the chance to participate in a Christmas message production.
Another opportunity that I personally enjoy with my children to experience the sights and sounds of Christmas is to drive through neighborhoods to admire Christmas lights. Although many of the displays are commercial and ignore the spiritual significance of Christmas, there’s still something peaceful, serene, and inspiring about driving through quiet, beautifully lit neighborhoods while listening to Christmas carols in the car and just admiring the beauty of the stars and the winter night sky among the lights and the homes. Christmas lights drives with cups of hot chocolate and a backdrop of our own favorite Christmas songs give us an opportunity to enjoy the splendor of God’s creation amidst the celebration of family and community.
3) Tastes and Scents: Just like eggnog takes me back to Christmases past, the tastes and scents of your own family traditions in the kitchen are very special, and they can be carried on from generation to generation. What traditional family recipes do your children get excited about? How can you include them in the preparation and distribution of your favorite Christmas treats?
My girls love to bake and decorate cookies and cake pops before Christmas, and if I have my way, most of our baked creations are given away to friends, neighbors, and service providers we appreciate. We spend a night (or two!) baking, decorating, and wrapping sweets to gift, with Christmas music blaring and lots of cookie dough consumed. We always make at least one batch of cookies or cake pops with peppermint and chocolate because my girls LOVE that flavor combination! Now every time I smell peppermint, I think of Christmas treats with my sweeties!
Another scent that brings recollection of our family Christmas traditions is pine: We try to cut down our own Christmas tree if possible, and we make our own front door wreath using left-over pine branches and other finds from the hike. If cutting down your own tree isn’t practical (or you don’t like real pine needles in your living room!), take a family hike where your children can gather some natural materials to create a wreath, candle-holder or centerpiece to bring some of those natural winter scents indoors.
Who else loves eggnog at Christmas time? 🙂 What familiar flavors, sights, scents, and sounds remind your family of Christmas? What are some of your favorite ways to engage the senses of your children during Christmas activities and traditions? How can you integrate more sensory activity to your holiday homeschooling plans?