EcoParenting: Creating a Winter Nature Table

As I mentioned in my previous post, my family has started creating new holiday traditions that better reflect our values and love of nature. I am really looking forward to our newest decision to start “Christmas” celebrations on Winter Solstice and finish festivities on Christmas Day.

The focal point of our Winter Solstice celebration is our Winter altar. It’s not a worshipping spot, but more a nature table that encourages us to reflect on winter gifts, winter sensations, and activities creatures in the wild might engage in during this time. We’ve collected pine cones, winter leaves, sprigs of evergreens, and arranged them with other symbolic items.

Jasmine, my 4-year-old, delights in arranging the altar again and again, dramatically placing elements in different locations and explaining why she’s placed things in the order she has.

On winter solstice we will celebrate the shortest day of the year. We will light the altar with dramatic candles. We’ll have a winter carol, a winter poem, or a drum circle to add to the drama and significance of our winter reflection spot. More ideas

Though ours is just one way to create a winter altar, as I’m sure there are hundreds of other equally inspiring ways to do it, here’s what we did:

1) Create a Focal Point

To start our winter table, I placed a Santa Claus doll in the center of our table and surrounded him with lovely wooden forest animals. This doll and the animals are adored by both the girls and draw them back to the altar again and again.

2) Have Fun Finding Objects Such as Leaves, Pine Cones, Branches …

I tried to infuse our natural objects with fun. In the park, we built huge piles of leaves and buried each other in them. Before “leaving,” we collected our favorites and bring them home.

And today, we walked through the woods to collect pine cones. But, some days the girls are really interested in an activity like this, and others they become absorbed in their own games. Jasmine and Chloe were both more interested in racing up and down the little hills in the woods, so I gathered the things we needed while they ran.

Finally, a recent storm downed a huge cypress branch. We clipped off pieces and put them on the altar as well, talking about how the strong winter storms have the power to rip not just leaves but branches from trees.

3) Decorate Objects

I like how natural materials come alive with a little sparkle. Glitter accentuates the natural beauty in pine cones and leaves.


Leaves, pine cones
Glitter (I like Martha Stewart’s Florentine Gold Glitter because it’s very fine and sticks easily)
Old dish of some kind, or large piece of paper for catching glitter
Paint brush

In a large square baking pan (an old one), we laid a leaf or pine cone in the pan. Jasmine used a paintbrush to paint it with glue. She then sprinkled the glitter over the object and shook out the excess. We hung the object on our drying line.

Tomorrow we’ll place them, dry, on the altar. In a few days, we’ll add new elements–perhaps something representing smells or tastes of winter, our own ornaments, or some marshmallow snowflakes (Jasmine lives for sweets to spite me.)

Hilary Stamper


Alison F.
Alison F9 years ago

This reminds me of the "Wonder Centre" that I kept going in my kindergarten classes. Children and parents enjoyed bringing in items from nature to help me keep the centre current as the seasons changed. The centre added a bit of beauty to the classroom and helped to foster a climate of delight.

pickerel weed
rosemary weston9 years ago

interesting idea! one might decorate a fallen branch with nature objects or make an advent calender adding nature objects each day. all sorts of possibilities.

Susan L.
Susan L9 years ago

Sounds like a lovely idea.

Elainna Crowell
Elainna Crowell9 years ago

What a lovely tradition to pass on to your children!
I celebrate the Solstice by inviting my friends over for a special dinner.