20 Community Highlights: Winter Solstice to Christmas. Mummers’ Play to Flash Mob.

Saturday, December 21st is the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. There are a number of community events, including outdoor celebrations with stories, songs and warming fires…

Flash Mob to Symphony. Winter Solstice to Christmas. Long Sword Dance to Animal Tracking

These are just a few of the community learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

Peruse our list below and make plans to get out into your community and learn while you play!

Featured learning highlight this week:  There are a number of dances with European origins that take place this time of year. On Saturday morning, a Holiday Tea, co-sponsored by the Pelham Library and Historical Society, takes place in Pelham and will include the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, an English folk dance from the Middle Ages. Another featured dance is the Long Sword Dance, traditional dance performed on Boxing Day in England (the day following Christmas Day).  Along with these dance, traditional songs will be sung and a mummers’ play (European folk plays) will be performed too.  Bring the family for a morning rich in European history… and maybe even a visit by Santa!


Chorus & CarolingWinter SolsticeEuropean HistoryMYO CraftsWinter PoetryAnimal TrackingLEGO Block PartyMuseum Adventures



Chorus & Caroling

With nearly 10 million children and 32 million adults singing in choruses, choral singing is the most popular form of participation in the performing arts. According to a recent study by Chorus America, choral singers exhibit increased social skills, civic involvement, volunteerism, philanthropy, and support of other art forms, when compared with non-singers. During the holiday season, more choral performances happen than any other time of year.  Why not take your kids to one of the many choral performances and caroling events happening this weekend and get them inspired to participate in this popular performance art.

If you’re up for a good old fashion caroling, families are joining Creative Community Caroling in South Deerfield late Saturday afternoon, traveling around town singing Christmas classics (song books & candles provided.). If you’re not up for walking, opt for a horse drawn wagon ride while you sing with Blue Star Equiculture Horse Rescue in Palmer instead.

A little more formal, but just as much fun, the Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra & Chorus will perform their Annual Family Holiday Concert at Greenfield High School on Saturday evening, including both classical and popular favorites.  There will be musical puzzles and games for younger audience members too.

In Berkshire County on Saturday evening, the Berkshire Lyrics Chorus and the Blafield Children’s Chorus come together  for “Making Spirits Bright,” a family Christmas concert at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Pittsfield. The featured work at this concert will be English composer and conductor, Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols.” Britten was central figure of 20th-century British classical music in the early part of the 1900′s whose music will be brought to life during this family choral performance.x

Another central figure, this time to children’s literature, is Dr. Seuss (did you know that Easthampton is thought to be the inspiration for Dr. Seuss’s Whoville, the town in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas?”). On Sunday evening, December 22nd, bundle up the kids and meet at the town Christmas tree at Easthampton Center for a “Whoville Flash Mob!” Sing with neighbors and friends like the Whos in Whoville, spending time with community members to celebrate the holidays.

Winter Solstice

Saturday, December 21st is the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year.  There are a number of community events, including outdoor celebrations with stories, songs and warming fires in Ashfield (Friday, Dec 20th), Sheffield, Easthampton, and Northfield.  Other opportunities with a bent on learning about the culture and science behind the Winter Solstice include morning and afternoon gathering at the UMass Sunwheel on Saturday in Amherst where presentations that describe the significance of the solstices and equinoxes, the cause of seasons and moon phases, and the history of the Sunwheel and other calendar sites around the world will be presented. Another learning opportunity takes place at the Western Gateway Heritage State Park on Saturday afternoon in North Adams where an educational astronomy lecture on the Winter Solstice will be offered.

History: European Dances & Play

There are a number of dances with European origins that take place this time of year. On Saturday morning, a Holiday Tea, co-sponsored by the Pelham Library and Historical Society, takes place in Pelham and will include the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, an English folk dance from the Middle Ages. Another featured dance is the Long Sword Dance, traditional dance performed on Boxing Day in England (the day following Christmas Day).  Along with these dance, traditional songs will be sung and a mummers’ play (European folk plays) will be performed too.  Bring the family for a morning rich in European history… and maybe even a visit by Santa!

Arts & Crafts: Needle Felting

It’s always so touching to receive gifts that are handmade by family and friends, and super satisfying when you are able to craft a gift to give, especially when made with locally grown supplies!  On Saturday at noon at the Amherst Winter Market, learn how to Needle Felting with Linda Balk of Balky Farm. Linda will be leading a workshop for older students and adults wanting to learn a new skill while potentially laying down the ground work for a new favorite hobby.  At this workshop, you can learn basic felting techniques to create holiday ornaments and wool balls to use as beads or other applications.

Language Arts: Poetry

Local poets will be at the Springfield Central Library on Saturday afternoon, December 21st for “Poems of the Season: A Celebration of Winter and its Holidays.” This family-friendly, bilingual (English and Spanish) event features poets sharing their poems about winter and the holidays. Get excited about poetry and the music of language arts while enjoying the shortest day of the year.  Have a poem you want to share.  Give the library a call!

Animal Studies: Tracking

With fresh snow all around, the winter time lends well to learning about animal tracking. This is a skill that helps us feel connected with our animal neighbors by allowing us to see them through their tracks and evidence of various behaviors. Earthwork Programs is offering an animal tracking family workshop on Sunday afternoon, December 22nd in Conway. This is an opportunity for families to learn together how to identify tracks and signs of local animals while discovering what wildlife moves about in winter months and what types of behaviors in which they partake.

Architecture: LEGO Block Party

LEGOs are much more than small pieces of plastic that clutter up your living room floor and smart something awful when stepped upon with your bare feet… they are a great creative medium for kids interested in design and architecture, and can help them develop their own creative stories based on characters and structures that they build.  Kids can come have fun with Legos and Duplos on Monday, December 23rd in the late afternoon at the East Longmeadow Public Library’s “Legos Block Party!” Stop by and use your imagination to create a Lego masterpiece!

Museums Adventures

After the Christmas holiday, our many local museums are worthy destinations for learning and creativity.  Check with your local library for a free museum pass.  Many have passes to patrons can check out for the day!

In Hampshire County, in the Art Studio at The Eric Carle Museum in Amherst on Thursday and Friday, bring  a little color to these darker days and create a collage with a vibrant selection of tissue papers, inspired by the art of Eric Carle! There will be a special treat on Friday when CactusHead Puppets perform “Little Red Riding Hood” in the auditorium using both hand and shadow puppets.

In north Berkshire County, MASS MoCA’s Break for Art is a “One-Minute Art-Making Festival” in their Kidspace in North Adams. Children can exercise their creativity with several different projects – kids make 15 different projects for 60 seconds each, making this a fun, fast-paced art-making event. Down in south Berkshire County, there will be a drop-in picture book activity at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Sturbridge in the afternoons! Kids can come in costume to make up characters and design their own storylines, plots, and settings inspired by the picture book art on display at the museum. Both opportunities support creative-free play, keeping kids active and engaged during vacation week.

In Hampden County, put some STEA(rt)M into your vacation days with art and science at the Springfield Museums. Stop into the Art Discover Center to try on costumes and participate in art projects, then head to the planetarium for a show that explores the cosmos, stopping to see the dinosaurs along the way! As part of School Vacation Week, the Springfield Museums will a special performance by Lucky Bob on Friday afternoon! He will perform magic tricks, juggling, and comedy to entertain all ages.

In Franklin County, continue your enjoyment of the holiday spirit by joining Historic Deerfield hearth cooks, guides and educators.  Holiday decor and seasonal aromas set the mood for making spirits bright. Families are offered guided and self-guided tours of 12 historic homes ranging in age from 1730 to 1850.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and many other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events. All of our listed events are “suggested.” Please take a moment to confirm that these events are happening as scheduled, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before heading out.

Check out this TEDx Talk,Supporting Education Through Community Engagement,” for an engaging story on why feeling connected to where you live matters, and how community-based education and community-service learning can help grow active citizens who care about where they live… then share it with your friends and neighbors!

[Photo credit: (cc) AP Lamothe]

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