It’s become a winter solstice tradition at our house to wake before sunrise on the morning after the longest night and head down to the local park where we climb the highest hill and greet the new sun with songs and offerings. My husband’s four kids are with us for the week, and we spend hours in the days leading up to Yule (or as we Druids call it, Alban Arthuan) preparing for our dawn celebration, rehearsing songs like They Might Be Giants’ “Why Does the Sun Shine?” and making birdseed ornaments and other animal-friendly decorations to leave as offerings to the land spirits in the local woods.
This year, we’ll be spending the winter solstice with my parents in Lancaster, and instead of my husband and I attending Christmas Midnight Mass at my father’s church, my parents will be rising at dawn with us and the kids and tramping out to the woods to join in with our Pagan celebrations. The kids are extra excited to be spending their first solstice with their new step-grandparents, and we’ve been working extra hard this year to make sure we have all of our gifts to each other and to the gods ready to go. Here are a few of the recipes we’ve used as we get ready for an earth-centered solstice…
These ornaments make great gifts for grandparents! They’re made from the simplest of materials: flour, salt and water. The kids love helping to mix the ingredients and kneed the dough, and it’s also a great opportunity to talk about the magical and spiritual importance of these staple foods, and how they have helped our ancestors survive the cold, dark winter months of scarcity for generations.
Ingredients & Supplies:
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup salt
- 1 cup water
- cookie cutters
- paints and other decorative accessories
- yarn, twine or string for hanging
- Preheat the oven to 325º.
- Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl.
- Add in half of the water, then gradually add in the remaining water.
- Kneed the dough until it is smooth (10 minutes or so).
- Roll out dough on baking paper to use with cookie cutters, or press the dough into various shapes. Get creative!
- Use a straw or toothpick to make a hole to hang the ornament once it’s finished.
- Bake the ornaments until hard and dry (about 1 – 1.5 hours, depending on the thickness of the ornament).
- Allow to cool.
- Decorate with paint, glitter, beads, buttons, feathers or any other fun accessories.
- If you want to preserve them for a long time, allow all the paint and glue to dry and then coat with a clear acrylic varnish.
After baking, these ornaments harden into a permanent shape perfect for painting and decorating. We used whole wheat flour, so ours came out looking dark, almost like real gingerbread cookies! (But don’t eat these – they’re definitely not edible!) Cookie cutters are a really easy way to go, but this year we decided to use a cookie pan with snowflake designs. Then we decorated them with non-toxic kid-friendly paints and added some seasonal-colored yarn for hanging.
Bird Seed Ornaments
Every year, we also make ornaments out of bird seed that we can leave as offerings in the woods for the local wildlife to nibble on. The kids really enjoy having a hand in creating our solstice offerings and choosing a special tree in the park to decorate for the holiday after our ritual blessing ceremony. These birdseed decorations make perfect offerings, and show kids that caring for the land is not just something we do through prayer and ritual but also through our everyday interactions with the other plants and animals who live with us.
Cookie Cutter Birdseed Ornaments
Ingredients & Supplies:
- 4 cups bird seed mix
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 tablespoons honey
- cookie cutters
- tin foil
- animal-safe yarn or twine, cut into 6-inch long segments
- Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Lay out cookie cutters on a flat surface covered with tin foil.
- Fill each cookie cutter about half way with birdseed mix, packing it down firmly.
- For each ornament, fold a strand of yarn in half and lay the free ends inside the cookie cutter so that a loop of yarn sticks out of the top of the ornament.
- Fill each cookie cutter the rest of the way with birdseed mix, packing it down.
- Set in a cool dry place and allow to dry for 4 – 6 hours, flipping once.
- Once both sides are dry, very carefully unmold the ornament by pushing it gently out of the cookie cutter.
- Allow to dry thoroughly overnight.
Orange Rind Birdseed Baskets
- ingredients for birdseed mix same as above
- 4 large oranges.
- animal-safe yarn or twineDirections:
- Cut each orange in half and use a spoon or ice cream scoop to scoop out all of the pulp from inside. (The pulp makes a yummy snack!)
- Use a chopstick or corkscrew to poke two holes in each half-rind.
- String yarn or twine through each hole and tie off, so that each rind-half hangs like a basket.
- Combine all of the ingredients for the birdseed mix together in a large bowl.
- Scoop spoonfuls of the mix into each rind half, filling them up.
- Allow to dry overnight.
This year, we made one batch of birdseed mix and used half to make cookie cutter ornaments and half to make orange rind baskets. The wonderful thing about these ornaments is that every part of them is useable. Once the birds and squirrels have finished with the seed mix, birds can use the twine or yarn to line their nests. For a decorative flare, you can also create garlands of fresh or dried fruits and nuts (like cranberries, raisins and peanuts) to hang along with your ornaments.