Nineteen years ago, my husband and I chose December 21 for our wedding day. Sure, there were lots of practical reasons for selecting that day, but mostly we love pointing out that it’s the shortest day and the longest night of the year (wink, wink).
Over time, I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for the winter solstice, especially its pagan origins, which have been adopted and adapted for a number of our modern winter holidays. Some of the earliest celebrations involved the drying and preservation of autumn’s harvest, storing as much as possible, in the hope that it would last all winter.
Meanwhile, as some things were set aside, others were enjoyed in excess – beer and wine, that had been fermenting all year, were finally ready to drink; livestock was slaughtered, so they wouldn’t have to be fed during the “famine months,” and anything that couldn’t be stored or wouldn’t survive the winter was put to good use.
This week, every time I visited our well-stocked barn to “shop” for the materials I needed to complete my Christmas gifts, I got a little giddy!
First, being able to see all that I have helps me plan for my next round of teaching and reassures me that I won’t run out of materials anytime in the near future. But, more than that, seeing the excess of items and potential inspired me to be more generous, to stop hoarding things until I’ve found the perfect project and start using treasures I’ve held onto for too long.
For example, the 18 beautiful glass jars with lids (ones that previously held the large candles from Bath and Body Works) that I’ve had for more than a year – I decorated them and filled each with homemade peppermint bark, as gifts for my husband’s coworkers.
Next, I took 50 discarded t-shirts to our younger son’s class party and taught a room full of 5th graders how to make upcycled dog toys for the Oldham County Humane Society.
Then these same 5th graders used the 24 vintage curtain rings we found at a yard sale (eons ago) and made ornaments they’ll give to someone they love. (You’ll have to use your imagination and picture the cherubic face of a 10- or 11-year old inside each of these rings.)
Oh, and remember all the cardboard boxes I rescued earlier this year, from the paper company that closed?
250 of those boxes, that have been living in the back of our van for more than a month, were donated to a Christmas Food Basket program, providing a week’s worth of food to 300 families in Oldham County.
And, when my last pick-up of donated materials for 2015 included a like-new, artificial Christmas tree, a friend introduced me to a single mom of two boys, who wouldn’t otherwise have a tree this year. One of the boys was waiting in the doorway when I arrived to deliver the tree and stood waving and yelling, “Thank you!” until my car was out of sight.
If you’ve read many of my posts, you know creative reuse allows me to be generous all year long – donating school supplies, providing free materials for science projects, fulfilling the random request for 100 toilet paper rolls. But there’s something special about a tradition that puts abundance-versus-scarcity in perspective, clearly defining what is “enough,” and encouraging us to use or share what we have.