Welcome Yule 2013: A Midwinter Celebration Shea Theater

Welcome Yule: A Midwinter Celebration Shea Theater in Turners Falls, MA

As art imitates life, the songs, stories and plays in this year’s show highlight the pleasures of passing on the seasonal traditions of family and community. Join the families of Welcome Yule as they sing and dance away winter’s darkness and call back the warmth and light of spring.

The Welcome Yule players will be hosting their annual Midwinter Celebration with delightful music, dance, songs and stories at the Shea Theatre in Turners Falls on December 13th-15th, 2013. This yearly show close to the winter solstice celebrates the return of light at the heart of winter’s darkness.

The Swedish tradition of Santa Lucia Day is featured in this year’s 29th annual production of Welcome Yule. As local wassailers make their way through their English village they invite a newly arrived family from Sweden to take part in the festivities. The English villagers and Swedes share in each others’ customs, songs and dances as they celebrate the light together on the longest night of the year. Traditional carols, wassailing songs, shape-note tunes and Welcome Yule classics will be featured, with plenty of opportunities for audience members to join in the singing. Dancing is also featured, with Swedish couples dances, a Molly Dance, and a perennial favorite, the Abbots Bromley Horn DanceRead the rest of this entry »

Winter Solstice Community Celebrations in Western MA, 2012

Looking for 2013 Winter Solstice Events? Click here.

Winter Solstice Community Celebrations
in Western MA, 2012

Do you have a community Winter Solstice event or family tradition you’d like to contribute to this list? Click on the banner to share.

Communities in Western MA gather this time of year to celebrate the longest night and the shortest day, welcoming the return of the light. Many celebrations consist of bonfire, storytelling, sharing of community intentions and singing. Below are a list of upcoming community Winter Solstice events.

If you enjoy storytelling at home, check out Cheli’s list of recommended children’s picture books for stories on the many of the holiday traditions.

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

The Guthrie Center is hosting a Circle of Sound: Global Sound Meditation in honor of the Winter Solstice at 6pm.  Bring a drum, a bowl, or your own voice to join in the making of sound, or just come to meditate on the intentions of peace. 413-644-9288. 2 Van Deusenville Road. Great Barrington, MA (FREE)

Celebrate the solstice with students from the Hartsbrook School from 7-9pm.They’ll be performing seasonal music and songs, as well as sharing stories, at Helen Hills Hills. 413-584-3198. 139 South Street. Northampton, MA.

Friday, December 21st, 2011

Watch the sunrise at 7am or sunset at 3:30pm at the UMass Sunwheel. There will be a presentation on the significance of the solstices and equinoxes, phases of the moon, and other sunwheels around the world. Learn about the cultural significance of the solstice worldwide! Rocky Hill Road. Amherst, MA. (<$)

The Trustees of Reservations are hosting a winter solstice celebration at Bartholomew’s Cobble from 4-6pm. Visit for a campfire, a look at some of the Mayan prophecies for the supposed solstice end of the world, songs, and hot chocolate (with marshmallows, of course). 413-229-8600. Weatogue Road. Sheffield, MA. (FREE)

Celebrate the winter solstice with Mass Audubon from 6-8:30pm. Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary’s solstice tradition is a warm bonfire, paired with hot cider and music. The event is intended to build community, and to welcome the longer, brighter days ahead. 127 Combs Road. Easthampton, MA. (FREE)

Northfield Mountain celebrates the solstice this year with a hike on the cross-country ski trails from 6-9pm – BYO headlamp to light the way! The trek will be filled with facts and quotes about (and celebrating!) the winter solstice. Registration required. 800-859-2960. Millers Falls Road. Northfield, MA. (FREE)

Ashfield’s community solstice celebration takes place tonight starting at 6:30pm at Elmer’s. Gather around a bonfire on the Town Green at 7pm to share hopes and intentions for the new year, and enjoy storytelling and Morris dancing. Return to Elmer’s for more celebrating, singing and dancing. Ashfield, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, December 22nd, 2011

Celebrate the solstice at the Magical Roundhouse starting at 6:30pm by sharing stories about holding onto light and love during the darkest part of the year.  This event is a way to introduce your family to solstice celebrations and a way to foster togetherness within the community.  Bring a snack to share and something to donate to the Franklin Area Survival Center.  Reservations recommended. 413-624-5140.  68 Van Nuys Road.  Colrain, MA.  ($)

Winter Solstice Community Celebrations in Western MA, 2011

Winter Solstice Community Celebrations
in Western MA, 2011

Do you have a community Winter Solstice event or family tradition you'd like to contribute to this list? Click on the banner to share.

Communities in Western MA gather this time of year to celebrate the longest night and the shortest day, welcoming the return of the light. Many celebrations consist of bonfire, storytelling, sharing of community intentions and singing. Below are a list of community Winter Solstice events beginning this weekend.

If you enjoy storytelling at home, check out Cheli’s list of recommended children’s picture books for stories on the many of the holiday traditions.

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

1-2:45pm – SOLSTICE STORIES & SONGS: Season of Light storytelling and songs from many tradition will be share at Owl and Raven by Joshua Gannon-Salomon. BYO mug for homemade hot cocoa! 413-341-6494. 2 Conz Street. Northampton, MA (>$)

6:30pm – SOLSTICE STORYTELLING: Celebrate the solstice at the Magical Roundhouse.  Celebrate the season by sharing stories about holding onto light and love during the darkest part of the year.  This is a community event, and is also pat of Colrain’s 250th birthday celebrations- stories about the community in Colrain will be featured!  This event is a way to introduce your family to solstice celebrations and a way to foster togetherness within the community.  Bring a snack to share and something to donate to the Franklin Area Survival Center.  413-625-5140.  68 Van Nuys Road.  Colrain, MA.  ($)

4-6pm – SOLSTICE FIRE & STORIES: Welcome the longest night of the year tonight at Bartholomew’s Cobble!  There will be a campfire accompanied by stories, songs, marshmallows, and hot chocolate.  413-229-8600. Sheffield, MA (<$)

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

6-8:30pm – SOLSTICE FIRE & SONG: Celebrate the solstice with a bonfire and music!  Aracadia Wildlife Sanctuary hosts a solstice celebration for families tonight- bring a nonperishable food item to donate to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.  413-584-3009.  127 Coombs Road.  Easthampton, MA.  (FREE) 

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

7am and 3pm – SOLSTICE SUNWHEEL: Watch the sunrise or sunset at the UMass Sunwheel.  There will be a presentation on the significance of the solstices and equinoxes, phases of the moon, and other sunwheels around the world.  Learn about the cultural significance of the solstice worldwide!  Rocky Hill Road.  Amherst, MA.  (<$) 

5-8pm – SOLSTICE STORIES & SONGS: Celebrate the winter solstice at a community event on the Shutesbury town common.  Bring your own light source to light up the circle, and share stories and songs.  Town Common Road.  Shutebury, MA.  (FREE)

6-9pm – SOLSTICE HIKE: Hike with a headlamp tonight at Northfield Mountain!  Celebrate the solstice by enjoying nature- especially the stars and moon.  Ages 12+, registration requested..  800-859-2960.  99 Millers Falls Road.  Northfield, MA.  (FREE) 

6pm – SOLSTICE FIRE & STORYTELLING: Bonfire lights the common as town residents gather to share their “community intentions” for the New Year. Storytelling and Morris folk dancing too, and gathering at Elmer’s follow. Main Street. Ashfield, MA (FREE)

7-9pm – SOLSTICE PAGENT: Celebrate the solstice with students from the Hartsbrook School!  They’ll be performing seasonal music and songs, as well as sharing stories, at the Northampton Center for the Arts.  413-584-7327.  17 New South Street.  Northampton, MA.  

Swedish Paper Hearts For Valentine’s Day

Hilltown Families Valentine Social: A Look Back

(c) Hilltown Families - Making Swedish Paper Hearts

Weaving Swedish Paper Hearts (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

With classroom rosters in hand, several hilltown families set to work on making Valentines during a Hilltown Families Valentine Making Social on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2007. Families from Ashfield, Chesterfield, Cummington, Plainfield, and West Chesterfield gathered together with red and pink construction paper, glitter glue, white doilies and an assortment of stickers to set forth on the venture of making Valentines for friends, family and classmates.

Making 20 Valentines can seem daunting. Making nearly 50 seems unreasonable. But when you have two children in school, that’s what the tally can add up to. Never mind having more than two children attending the same school! Some might say, “That’s what Hallmark’s for,” but we’re talking about hilltown families – motivated, creative and expressive folks who take on the task of Valentines with excitement and enthusiasm, letting the glitter fly!

Preceding the cutting, glueing and glittering, children were shown a five-minute video which demonstrated how construction paper was made. Narrated by Fred Rogers, children took a video tour through a construction paper factory, illustrating how red construction paper is made – from log to shrink wrapped product. This video tour can be found as an extra feature on the DVD Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood: What Do You Do with the Mad That You Feel?

As the Valentine social progressed, and the kids finished their little love-notes, running off to play, the parents settled into their own projects and conversations. Over discussions on education, winter sports and safety, parents made heart-shaped mobiles, steamers of doilies and Swedish Paper Hearts. And when the kids tummies started to rumble, muffins donated by Bread Euphoria were served with tea and fruit.

WEAVING SWEDISH PAPER HEARTS

Weaving Swedish Paper Hearts can seem difficult at first, but once a rhythm is discovered, it is a pleasant activity to unwind with while relaxing with friends and community.  These paper hearts were traditionally made as ornaments filled with goodies that went on the Christmas Tree, but they also  make a wonderful Valentine’s craft. Learn how to make Swedish Paper Hearts for your loved ones.

(Originally posted: 2/13/07)

Suggested Events 12/05/09 – 12/11/09

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Discover fun and educational events happening this weekend in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.

SUGGEST AN EVENT

Click here to suggest an event

Click here to suggest an event.

FEATURED EVENT: Eco-Craftmaking & Winter Fair in the Hilltowns - As an alternative to traditional holiday buying, the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School will host a family book and eco-craftmaking fair on Saturday December 5, 2009 from 10 am to 4 pm at the “Brassworks” building on Rte. 9 (132 Main St.) in Haydenville, MA. Parents and children alike will have the opportunity to make a variety of eco-craft items, many using recycled and natural materials including full-sized wreaths, fabric gift bags, felt key chains, gnomes and fairies, decorated candles, lavender sachets and gingerbread people. Click on the banner for more info.

If you have a family-friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, location, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

BULLETIN BOARD

  • Maureen Shea of Cummington, MA writes: New ABC Club: Storytelling for Young Children, at the Bryant Free Library in Cummington from 10-11:30am on the first Monday of every month.  Parent-led and all are welcome.  Call for more info: 634-5431.
  • CONGRATULATIONS: to Kimberly Canning of Springfield, MA and Justin Bassett of Vergennes, VT. Both of these families have won a family 4-pack of tickets to see two time Grammy winner Bill Harley at the Iron Horse in Northampton, MA this coming Sunday at 2pm. Thank you to everyone for participating in our giveaway. Tickets are still available to see Bill Harley at the Northampton Box office, online at http://www.IHEG.com, or by calling 413-586-8686.
  • HILLTOWN SKIING FOR KIDS: Register by December 15th for Bill Koch Youth Ski League, held on Sundays, 2-4 pm, Notchview Reservation, Windsor, MA.  This cross-country ski program introduces young people to the lifelong sport of cross-country skiing. Have a winter of fun with relays, games on skis, and age-appropriate races to develop cross-country ski skills for ages 5 to 13. Parents and children participate in league activities.  Contact cdefrancis@MassMutual.com or call Notchview at 413-684-0148 for information.
  • VIDEO CONTEST: Putumayo Kids Dance-Off Video Contest wants your home videos! Right now and through December 30th, you can submit videos of kids and parents dancing to Putumayo tunes. Winners in each category will have their videos posted on our website and will receive the full Putumayo Kids Collection. Details are on the site.
  • LOCAL EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES: Teachers and families, find out about the educational programs, resources and activities offered with current exhibits at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA.
  • WEATHER ADVISORIES: The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has issued their annual winter weather advisories. Thanks to Charlie Kaniecki, District Health Officer for the Department of Public Health, they are all compiled into a single document. Brush up and plan ahead for winter snow, ice, winds, power outages, and the like!
  • FOOD DRIVE IN HILLTOWNS: Students at R. H. Conwell are collecting food for the Gateway Hilltown Food Pantry, as part of a larger community effort to collect 1000 food items for the pantry. These donations help local families who are currently struggling to provide adequate food to their children. Please be as generous as possible. The food drive will run from November 23 to December 21. Items may be brought to the school.
  • HANUKKAH MUSIC FOR KIDS:  Celebrate the Festival of Lights with the Hanukkah music for kids.
  • MA 4H PROGRAM – Hampshire County 4-H Fair Association Annual Wreath Sale at Amherst Farm Supply on Saturday from 9am-3pm, and at Belchertown Tractor Supply on Sunday from 9am-3pm.  May order wreaths by calling 413-253-7721.
  • SPONSORSHIP, ADVERTISING & ANNOUNCEMENTS: Deliver your message to a large local family based audience while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Advertise your event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business or announcement on our Weekly List of Suggested Events. Serious inquiries can email us at hilltownfamilies@gmail.com for details.

WEEKLY LIST OF SUGGESTED EVENTS

Suggest an Event | Local Forecast | School Closings and Delays | Free Museum Passes | Family Centers (Ages 0-4)

Events Happening in the Hilltowns

SATURDAY – 12/05/09

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Community Potlach in the Hilltowns

3rd Annual Community Holiday Potlach
10am-3pm on Saturday, November 28th in Cummington, MA

Join us for the 3rd Annual Community Potlatch in Cummington, MA at the Village Congregational Church for a new (but very OLD!) concept in gift giving! This is holiday fun with your neighbors, plus more sharing and less consumption. It will even clean out your closet and save you money!

Potlatch, a word of Chinook origins that means GIVING, is based on a tradition of native tribal chiefs competing to see who could be the most generous. It’s an odd idea (to us!) but the “winner” was whoever gave away the most stuff. Here is the our version:

Come to the Potlatch with as many GIFT QUALITY (this part is important!) items that you already have but do not need, are not using or even plain just don’t like. Especially popular are books, toys and games, clothing (new quality only) and gadgets. They don’t have to be perfect or in a box, you just have to believe they would make a good gift for someone else. We will display them at the Potlatch for others to choose as a gift they would like to give for the holidays. And of course, while you are there, pick out anything you see that you might like to give. All items are given and taken freely. No money is involved.

Hot drinks will be offered. Last year, food for sharing spontaneously appeared. So if you are wondering, “Would it be appropriate to bring a plate of cookies?” YES!

Although we would love to see you, if you would just like to contribute “re-gifting” items but can’t be there on Sat., we will accept drop-offs. Please send an e-mail to corvus57@yahoo.com with POTLATCH in the subject line so a time can be arranged.

Sponsored by: You and Your Neighbors

Shadows Between Winter and Spring

CANDLEMAS DAY

The mid-point of winter in the United States is marked by Groundhog Day, a day with rich European history, “clouded in the mists of time with ethnic cultures and animals awakening in specific dates,” writes Bill Anderson in his book Groundhog Day: 1886 to 1992.

Anderson also writes, “The groundhog tradition stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day and the days of early Christians in Europe, and for centuries the custom was to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the people. Even then, it marked a milestone in the winter and the weather that day was important.

Recommended Links for Exploring Groundhog Day and Candlemas:

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Suggested Events 12/27/08-01/02/09

Happy New Year!  How does your family ring in the New Year?

First Night Northampton 2007

First Night Northampton 2007

This coming week we welcome in another new year!   How does your family ring in the New Year?  Fireworks?  First day hike? Culinary traditions are very popular. In Spain they eat 12 grapes in 12 seconds. In the Netherlands it’s apple fritters. And down South it’s black-eyed peas.  Share with us in our comment box, local listserv or over on the HF Facebook page.

SUGGEST AN EVENT

If you have a family-friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page.

Suggest an Event | Local Forecast | Get Directions | Free Museum Passes | School Closings and Delays | Family Centers (Ages 0-4) | Facebook

Events Happening in the Hilltowns

FEATURED EVENT:

Wednesday, December 31st, is First Night Northampton.  The city fills with family-friendly festivities from noon until midnight.  The celebration begins at the Northampton Center for the Arts with a parade, followed by entertainment options at venues throughout downtown.  Fireworks will be at 6:15pm, and the evening is filled with much talent and creativity.  Participants must purchase a button that allows you into all venues.  Find out more at the official First Night Northampton 2009 website.

SATURDAY – 12/27

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Web Review: St. Nicholas & Sinterklaas Celebrations

St. Nicholas Center: Discovering the Truth About Santa Claus

www.stnicholascenter.org

Material about St. Nicholas, “lover of the poor and patron saint of children.” Features background about this 4th-century saint, illustrated descriptions of St. Nicholas customs from around the world (such as Sinterklaas celebrations on December 6 in the Netherlands), and activities, crafts, recipes, and stories related to St. Nicholas celebrations. The gallery provides images of St. Nicholas from cards, toys, church banners, and more. From two enthusiasts. www.stnicholascenter.org

[(c)LII.org]

Suggested Events 12/13/08-12/19/08

SUGGEST AN EVENT

Old Man Winter

Old Man Winter

If you have a family-friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page.

Suggest an Event | Local Forecast | Get Directions | Free Museum Passes | School Closings and Delays | Family Centers (Ages 0-4) | Facebook

FEATURED EVENTS:

There are great opportunities this weekend to craft handmade gifts, decorations and goodies for the holiday season, a theme a great many families are interested in, especially this year:  The Montague Grange and the Historic Deerfield Museum are both hosting opportunities for families to make beautiful and affordable holiday gifts.  – Mom’s are invited to Atherton Farm in Buckland to make wreaths to decorate your home or give as gifts.  – And Bread Euphoria in Haydenville is offering a Gingerbread Making Workshop for families too!  Lots or opportunities to get crafty this weekend.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES:

Families looking for volunteer opportunities this holiday season (and beyond!) check out Network for Good.  Network for Good connects individuals, families and groups seeking volunteer opportunities with organizations/groups in need of volunteers.  Click here to search for an organization within your city/state or use your zip code to find an opportunity within 25 miles of your home.  All results have links to more information about the opportunity and organization.  Areas of interests include Children and Youth, Civic and Community, Animals and Environment, Health, Human Services, Religion, General and several others.

If you know of any volunteer opportunities in Western Massachusetts that families could participate in, please post details in our comment box for families to discover.

Saturday – 12/13

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Community Walk/Run in West Chesterfield

Gorge aprés Gorge at the Chesterfield Gorge

This is the time of year families are cooking and traveling and getting ready for their big Thanksgiving feast (= gorge #1). Following a Thanksgiving gorge, this is the time of the year area families are getting ready for the 5th Annual Gorge aprés Gorge at the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield (= gorge #2)! The GaG is a 3 mile walk/run (out & back) morning event for families to come together for exercise and a fun time, held on the Sunday following Thanksgiving. Go as long or as little as you want.

WHEN & WHERE?

  • Sunday, Nov. 30 @ 10am
    Chesterfield Gorge parking lot
    West Chesterfield, MA
    All are welcomed! It’s a family affair

WHAT TO EXPECT

  • It’s FREE.
  • If there is snow, bring your skies, snow shoes, or sleds. Or you can run and walk to make the 1.5 mile trek out to the first gate on a dirt fire road.
  • If there is sun, come run, bike, and/or walk.
  • Water will be available about 3/4 miles out.
  • Hot drinks will be served back at the parking lot, including coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and apple cider (bring mugs, if you want).


The Gorge aprés Gorge is organized by local resident (and mother of two) Leslie Charles and is supported by a Cultural Council Grant issued by the Chesterfield Cultural Council. Email: leslie@lacdesign.com
(Poster design by LAC Design, www.lacdesign.com)

Celebrating the Chinese New Year with Your Kids

Chinese New Year 2008: The Year of the Rat

Last year was the Year of the Boar. This year, on February 7th, it’s the rat’s turn. Read Celebrating the Year of the Red Fire Pig, our Chinese New Year post from last year on Hilltown Families, and learn about superstitions, traditional foods, decorations, length of celebrations, great reading list for kids and a list of resources for actvities, lessons and crafts.

    Web Review: Chinese New Year on Kaboose
    Chinese New Year: “Celebrate the Chinese New Year holiday with great kids’ activities and crafts.” Crafts include making red envelopes, a Chinese orange tray, and paper plum blossoms. Also includes Chinese-style recipes and a short list of Chinese New Year books for children. From Kaboose. http://crafts.kaboose.com/holidays/chinese_new_year.html
    [(c) lii.org]

    Reading List

    • Dara’s Cambodian New Year
      by S. Chiemruom,. D. Pin (illustrator)
    • Happy New Year, Everywhere!
      by A. Erlbach, S. Holm (illustrator)
    • My First Chinese New Year
      by K. Katz
    • Goodbye Old Year, Hello New Year
      by F. Modell
    • This Next New Year
      by J. Wong, Y. Choi (illustrator)

    Suggested Events 12/22/07 – 12/28/07

    The Snowman

    One my favorite films to watch during the holidays is The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, a 23 minute pencil-drawn animation. It’s the purity of The Snowman that I enjoy the most. The film is without words and set to the composition “Walking in the Air” by Howard Blake and performed by Peter Auty. With his wonderful illustrations and a timeless musical composition, Briggs brilliantly captures the innocence of a young boy’s imagination during the holiday season.

    Somehow we’ve misplaced our copy of The Snowman and have had to get our holiday movie classic quota from outside sources … BUT, I was happy to find the video for view on-line. So if you’re looking for something to do with the kids, grab them and enjoy the magic of Raymond Briggs:

    To add this video to your movie collection, click here to buy it from Amazon.

    Thank you to this week’s Suggested Events Sponsor, Spirit of the Heart. Nancy has a couple of weekend classes for families available. Check them out and get the kids active!

    www.spiritoftheheart.org

  • Become a Sponsor

  • To find out how you or your business can help support Hilltown Families by becoming a sponsor, drop us an email or give us a call at 413.296.0096 for more information. We’re offering very reasonable rates throughout the holiday season. By having individuals in our community and area businesses become sponsors, Hilltown Families can continue to offer a weekly list of suggested events, a weekly podcast, updated resources, articles and much more.

    • Submit an Event

    If you have a family-friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, or would like to submit your event to the Hilltown Families calendar of Suggested Events, email Sienna at swildfield@juno.com. Comments are warmly welcomed!

    Local forecast | Get directions | Free Museum Passes | School Closings & Delays

    Events Happening in the Hilltowns

    Saturday – 12/22

    WINTER SOLSTICE

    8am – FAMILY RADIO – (Air Waves) While traveling around town, tune-in to WXOJ 103.3 FM in Northampton, MA, from 8-10am to hear fabulous family-friendly music on Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child. [All ages] (Free)

    Noon – SPORTS – (Amherst) Take the family to see the “big girls” play basketball at UMass (vs. Buffalo) in the Mullins Center. 413.545.0810 [Families] ($$)

    2pm – THEATER – (Stockbridge) The Berkshire Theatre Festival will be presenting Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol at the Unicorn Theatre. 413.298.5536 x33. [Families] ($$)

    2:30pm – FAMILY MUSIC – (Greenfield) Join the rocking kids music group The Pop Rockets at Barts Ice Cream for a family fun holiday show. They’ll be serving up new music and hot cocoa, along with a sing-a-long to traditional holiday music. www.poprocketsmusic.com [Families] (Free)

    4:30pm – HOLIDAY CAROLING – (Cummington) The CFC invites families to go caroling down Main Street, followed by hot chocolate and a potluck dinner. Caroling begins at the Cummington Community House. [Families] (Free)

    5pm-8pm – HOLIDAY HAYRIDES – (Florence) Look Park is offering a tour of their holiday lights display on a horse drawn hayride. [Families] (>$)

    5:30pm-8:30pm – SOLSTICE CELEBRATION – (Easthampton) Arcadia Nature Center & Wildlife Sanctuary will be hosting a Winter Solstice Celebration with candles, readings, music, bonfire & hot cider. 413.584.3009 [Famileis] (Free)

    6pm – HOLIDAY DISPLAY – (Florence) Join the community for the annual Luminaria Display in the Village of Florence. There will be a public display, holiday reception at the Civic Center and free hayrides. 413.320.2306 [Families] (Free, Benefit)

    6pm-8:30pm – SOLSTICE CELEBRATION – (Westhampton) A Full Moon Howl and Solstice Celebration will be held at Parsonage Field. There will be refreshments, bonfire, singing, sledding, and marshmallow roast. 413.527.1731 [Families] (Free)

    6:30pm-8:30pm – SOLSTICE CELEBRATION – (Ashfield) On the town green join other families for a Winter Solstice Celebration with candles, a bonfire, singing, story tellingand Morris Dancers. [Families] (Free)

    7:30pm – SPORTS – (Amherst) Take the family to see the “big boys” play basketball at UMass (vs. CCSU) in the Mullins Center. 413.545.0810 [Families] ($$)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Lunch-Without-a-Special- Event-Surrounding-It Comes to the Hilltowns

    Notes from Nan: Good Evening and Welcome to Elmer’s!
    BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

    Kelli  Ann & Family (from Canada) at Elmer's (c) Hilltown Families

    Hello and thanks for tuning in tonight! We have a really big show for you that I think you’re going to like a lot.

    Hey! So we started Lunch-Without-a- Special-Event-Surrounding-It this past weekend and it was so very good. We’re doing Beta testing on lunch right now, working out all of the kinks with the transfer from breakfast (which cuts off at noon) to lunch (which goes from noon to 2.) Because of our tiny little kitchen, we can’t continue the breakfast menu into the lunch time, with the exception of omelettes—we can still do those from noon to 2 if you’re still feeling an envie for some breaking of the fast. So since we’re still doing Beta-testing, I’m not announcing the addition of lunch to everyone—just to you. So come in, get yourself some great lunch and be guinea pigs (not for the food! That we have worked out!) Be guinea pigs for the changing of the staff, for the figuring out exactly how many wait people we need, etc.

    This weekend for lunch we’re having:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Suggested Events 12/08/07-12/14/07

    SNOW DAY, HOORAY!

    Dog sledding in West Chesterfield with Marla BB & Lightening. (c) Hilltown FamiliesThis past Monday kids and teachers across the valley and throughout the hilltowns cheered “HOORAY!”, for it was the first Snow Day of the school year. Being only in Kindergarten however, our daughter was disappointed that she didn’t get to go to school to play.”But mommy, who will I play with?” she whined while rubbing her sleepy little eyes… well, at least I was happy. I didn’t have to pack a lunch, figure out what she was going to wear, get myself dressed and presentable, nor cart her over the hill to the next town. I could stay in my PJ’s all day … and play! Once the indoor stir-crazie’s started to settle in, we did eventually venture out to our neighbor’s house for a little dog sledding! The kids loved it!

    SCHOOL CLOSINGS

    I spent a portion of Monday morning putting together a “cheat sheet” for School Closings and Delays in surrounding districts that I’ve posted here. You can also find it on the side bar under “HF Pages to Peruse.” Unfortunately the GazetteNet Hotline is not in service right now (as of 12/06/07). Does anyone have the skinny on why it’s not working and if there is another number we should be calling?

    A FEW UPCOMING THINGS WORTH NOTING:Ruby catching snowflakes on her tongue. (c) Hilltown Families

    • Outdoor Adventures for Kids in the Hilltowns: Hilltown Families has collaborated with Tekoa Mountain Outdoors to offer a ten week Monday afternoon (4pm-5pm) adventure program for kids ages 5-7 at the TMO Base Camp in Chesterfield, MA, starting January 7th and ending March 31st, 2008. Led by Program Coordinator, Timothy Vogel of Tekoa Mountain Outdoors. If you’re interested in participating be sure to sign up soon. Click here for more information.

    • Gustafer Yellowgold is coming to town! A family concert will be on Sunday in Florence at 4:30pm. Click here to read more.

    • Tune in to the Hilltown Family Variety Show on Tuesday (12/11/07) at 7pm to hear Morgan Taylor of Gustafer Yellowgold doing a guest DJ set with Persephone. If you can’t listen then, come back here to listen to the archived show.

    • The Children’s Art Museum is having a fund-raising raffle. The grand prize is a tote bag filled to the top with quality art and craft supplies, projects and creative play games (including Stockmar beeswax crayons, Haba games, a Harrisburg Peg Loom and Usborne Art Book and much more). Click here to find out how you can enter into their holiday raffle.

    THIS WEEK’S LIST OF SUGGESTED EVENTS IS SPONSORED BY:

    Tekoa Mountain Adventures www.tekoamountainadventures.com

  • Become a Sponsor
  • To find out how you or your business can help support Hilltown Families by becoming a sponsor, drop us an email or give us a call at 413.296.0096 for more information. We’re offering very reasonable rates throughout the holiday season. By having individuals in our community and area businesses become sponsors, Hilltown Families can continue to offer a weekly list of suggested events, a weekly podcast, updated resources, articles and much more.

    • Submit an Event

    If you have a family-friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, or would like to submit your event to the Hilltown Families calendar of Suggested Events, email Sienna at swildfield@juno.com. Comments are warmly welcomed!

    Local forecast | Get directions | Free Museum Passes | School Closings & Delays

    Events Happening in the Hilltowns

    Saturday – 12/08

    8am – FAMILY RADIO – While traveling around town, tune-in to WXOJ 103.3 FM in Northampton, MA, from 8-10am to hear fabulous family-friendly music on Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child. [All ages] (Free)

    9am-11am – BREAKFAST WITH SANTA – The Cummington Recreation Department will be sponsoring breakfast with Santa at the Cummington Community House in Cummington, MA. [Families] (Free)

    10am-11:30am – ANIMALS – The Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst, MA, will be having a Small Animals Up Close and Personal workshop. Call to register. 413.256.6006. [Ages 5-8] ($)

    10am-3:30pm – HOLIDAY CRAFTS – Make a personalized Christmas ornament at the Huntington Library in Huntington, MA, with the kids.413.667.3506 [Families] (>$)

    10:15am & 11:30am – BREAKFAST WITH SANTA – At the Garden House at Look Park in Florence, MA. Two seatings. Call to reserve. 413.584.5457. [Families] ($, under 2 free)

    Noon-3pm – KIDS HOLIDAY PARTY – The Firefighters Association will be hosting their annual kids holiday party at the Congregational Church in Chesterfield, MA. Santa will arrive around 12:30pm. [Families] (Free)

    1pm – LIVE BIRDS – See live birds of prey at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA, and learn about their habits. 413.658.1100 [Families] ($)

    2pm-3pm – KIDS COOKING & CRAFTS – Whole Foods in Hadley, MA will be hosting a Kids’ Winter Wonderland Class: Crafts & Cookies, creating edible gifts for the holidays. 413.586.9932 [Ages 12 & under] (>$)

    3pm – HOLIDAY BALLET – The Nutcracker, presented by the Pioneer Valley Ballet, will be at the Academy of Music in Northampton, MA. 413.584.9032 [Families] ($$)

    5pm-8pm – HOLIDAY HAYRIDES – Look Park in Florence, MA, is offering a tour of their holiday lights display on a horse drawn hayride. [Families] (>$)

    6pm – FAMILY PERFORMANCE – The Snow Queen’s Masquerade Ball at Art Bridge in Shelburne, MA. Potluck, performance, dance. Click here for more info. 413.625.8275 [Families] (Donation)

    7pm – WHIRLING DERVISH – Take the family to see this traditional dance at the Lichtenstein Center in Pittsfield, MA. 413.499.9348[Families] (Free)

    7:30pm – HOLIDAY BALLET – The Nutcracker, presented by the Pioneer Valley Ballet, will be at the Academy of Music in Northampton, MA. 413.584.9032 [Families] ($$)

    7:30pm – CHRISTMAS CHORUS – The Hilltown Choral Society will be holding their holiday concert at the First Congregational Church of Worthington, MA. [Families] (Donation)

    8pm – SQUARE DANCING – Date night. Round up your partner and head over to the Town Hall in Goshen, MA for some dancing. Ralph Sweet is the caller. [Adults] (n/a)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Lunch, Holiday Food & In the Gallery at Elmer’s

    Notes from Nan: Lunch!!!
    BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

    Wasn’t that fun!

    Our first annual Winter Craft Show in a Quaint New England Town went as well as, maybe the combined weather and economy could have allowed. It was a good first-annual, I think and I look forward to doing a second-annual next year.

    And the snow came in just in time! I had actually ordered it for Friday, and what I wanted was just a light fluffy bit, not too cold, not too frozen but apparently the order got typed in wrong (I called it in) and when I said I wanted a BLEND of snow and sleet, someone apparently heard that I wanted a WIND of snow and sleet and so they sent up Siberia on Saturday. Sorry about that. By Sunday we got the whole weather thing worked out and it wasn’t nearly as cold, but still pretty.

    DID YOU HAVE LUNCH AT ELMER’S?

    Because I didn’t cook it I can tell you it was SO GOOD! I kept ordering the grilled cheese sandwich with caramelized onions and local apples. I also had the gumbo. Whoo it was good!

    And so Sunday night we all sat down and said, “You know, we can’t go backwards.” So starting this Saturday, we are going to start serving LUNCH! On Saturdays and Sundays (for now only on those days). I’m not sure exactly what it’s going to be, but here’s what I do know we will offer a soup, a salad and a sandwich. It will be every Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 2. We’ll stop serving breakfast at noon and go to lunch then. Our kitchen is so small that (we found out last weekend) trying to continue breakfast into the lunch time is too much stuff in too small a space. So come after church on Sunday! Come after chores on Saturday! Come on over here and eat!

    FRIDAY NIGHT MENU (12/07/08):
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Year of the Boar

    Valentine Contra Dance Fundraiser in Ashfield

    (c) Hilltown Families - Valentine Contra Dance

    A Heart-felt Dance Party

    by Victoria Worth
    for Hilltown Families

    The songs are still humming in my head, and when I look down, my feet are still moving to a recent rhythm. Long after Saturday night’s Valentine’s Family Contra Dance has ended, the joyous gathering lingers on in my mind. At the Town Hall, good food filled our tummies downstairs, and when dinner was over, we joined a crowd of children and adults already moving to the beat of the music.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Valentine’s Day ’07

    Hilltown Families Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday

    African-American Soul Food for Martin Luther Kig, Jr. birthday at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    Hilltown families enjoyed African-American soul food during the “I Have a Dream” community celebration at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA, on Monday, January 16th, honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

    The “I Have A Dream” celebration was kicked off at 1 p.m. with a reading from King’s famous speech, followed by a performance by the popular Pittsfield step dance troupe, Youth Alive. Youth Alive is a troupe of young dancers from Pittsfield, who perform Hip-Hop, African, and Modern dances using their bodies as musical instruments to create a mix of sounds through feet stomping, hand clapping, and body movement.

    Making "I Have a Dream" posters. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    A sampling of African-American soul food was offered to visitors following the performance. Children and parents enjoyed free samples of cornbread, collard greens seasoned with pork, and sweet potato pie.

    Children sat around tables and on the floors in the upstairs gallery to make “I Have A Dream” posters to be displayed around the gallery for the day or to take and hang at home. Statements like “Use your own mind and listen to yourself,” and “Speak up when you know you should,” were written along with illustrations. Wise words for such young minds!

     

    Kids marvel at the Savage Ancient Seas exhibit. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    Currently on view at the museum is the exhibit Savage Ancient Seas, which presents the many gigantic forms of life that populated the prehistoric waters at the same time dinosaurs roamed the earth. The gallery is lit in hues of blue and green, creating an underwater ambience.

    Exploring undersea world of the late Cretaceous Period at Berkshire Museum. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    The exhibition explores the undersea world of the late Cretaceous Period, filled with huge carnivorous marine reptiles with double-hinged jaws and teeth in the middle of their palates, gigantic flesh-eating fish big enough to swallow an adult human whole, and more. With voracious appetites, incredible teeth, and gaping jaws, these creatures are unlike anything known in today’s world. Highlights include an Elasmosaur with a 30-foot long neck, the toothy scowl of a giant carnivorous fish (Xiphactinus), and the jaws of a Megalodon, or giant shark, along with other skeletons, fossils, and life replicas.

    Hilltown Families Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Noho

    With clear winter skies and no snow in sight, you couldn’t have asked for a better day to explore all the family activities happening on Sunday afternoon for Northampton (Noho) First Night. The day’s program of activities was filled with nearly 40 venues of entertainment, including dance, theater and music at 18 different performance halls, churches and public spaces in Northampton. Well worth the trip down from the hills with something for everyone, especially families!

    At twelve noon the festivities kicked off at the Northampton Center for the Arts with a Caribbean Street Carnival, presented by the Enchanted Circle Theater (ECT). ECT has been infusing arts and education for 30 year! At Noho First Night they put on a spirited performance of music, dance and storytelling. Read the rest of this entry »

    Medieval Faire at the Springfield Museum

    (c) Hiilltown Families

    The Springfield Museum is hosting a Medieval Faire during the winter school break. On Tuesday, Rosalita’s Puppets performed a marionette puppet show. Keeping in theme with the Medieval Faire, the performance was Goldilocks and the Three Dragons and was performed to an interactive crowd in the Davis Auditorium. With an endearing improvisational method, puppeteer Charlotte Anne Dore invoked the crowd of families to participate on cue, while incorporating into the performance suggestions and comments children would shout out from the audience.

    All week long families can participate in a variety of craft activities, including medieval mosaics in the G.W.V.S. Art Museum. Mosaic art was very popular during the Renaissance era. Children were given the opportunity to create their own mosaic art while visiting the museum during the Medieval Faire. Read the rest of this entry »

    Solstice Bonfire Bring’s Hilltown Families Together

    Winter Solstice Tradition Begins, 2006
    By Sienna Wildfield

    Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

    ASHFIELD, MA (Dec 23, 2006) – Ancient and modern Winter Solstice traditions were celebrated on the town green in Ashfield, MA this past Friday evening, organized by Ashfield residents, Laura Stravino and Victoria Worth. Wanting to begin a local Solstice celebration tradition they could share with their community inspired Stravino and Worth. With the help of several community members, they successfully put together an inspiring event. Ashfield teachers Edie and Julie joined in with their families under umbrellas as a light freezing rain fell. A beautiful bonfire warmed the crowd and Stephen Worth and Lael Boesel tended to the fire. Elmer’s Store offered hot cocoa and a warm meal and Country Pie was open for oven fresh pizza. Storytelling, songs and dancing filled the darkest night of the year, and families from all over the hills came to celebrate together.

    Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

    The Hilltown Children’s Chorus had their debut at the Solstice celebration. Spear-headed by Stephanie Pasternack of Cummington, MA, this new chorus sang This Little Light of Mine, Jingle Bells and Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel, led by blues singer Marla BB of West Chesterfield, MA. Marla also led the crowd in a variety of songs of light as they gathered around the fire.

    Morris Dancers arrived after the kids sang. Morris dancing is an English folk dance and is choreographed with rhythmic stepping while wielding wooden swords they’d knock together. Music played and the dancers performed a festive dance around the fire, knocking their swords together and singing out praises.

    With children participating, storyteller Rona Leventhal wove together a Native American creation tale about forest animals attempting to retrieve the sun’s light. Only the wise Mother Spider was able to bring the sun’s light back to them.

    Toward the end of the celebration, families took part in a candle dedication. Each participant lit candles, offered their own personal message and placed them together with others.

    How an ancient tradition is celebrated today.

    Ellen Jackson’s book, The Winter Solstice, (published by Millbrook Press) takes a look at the many different cultures throughout history who have celebrated the Winter Solstice and developed cutoms for this shortest day of the year.

    With a simple storyline and attractive watercolor illustrations by Jan Davey Ellis, Jackson’s book is a nice addition to a social studies curriculum for children ages 4-8 this time of the year. The Scottish, Romans, Scandinavians, Celts, Northern Europeans, Peruvians, Pueblo Indians, and the Kwakiutl Indians are presented with their customs and beliefs; in addition to a scientific look and simple experiment to illustrate the planetary alignment that creates this seasonal change.

    Jackson also explains how the winter solstice is celebrated today in modern American and European cultures, and how solstice customs have found their way into the celebrations of Hanukkah and Christmas.

    She ends her book with a Cherokee folktale of creation that tells why evergreens stay green because of their faith that the sun would return. Read the rest of this entry »

    Where can a girl get some sushi around here?

    (c) Hilltown Families - Sushi Social

    Sushi Social in West Chesterfield

    Hilltown mom’s gathered in West Chesterfield, MA, for a sushi social and Yankee Swap. Women came from miles to celebrate the season, including from Ashfield, Dalton, Cummington, East Hampton, Plainfield, Chesterfield, Worthington, Shelburne Falls, Goshen and Windsor, to have all manner of sushi in a lounge like atmosphere. Everyone gathered to reconnect with old friends while making many new connections, sharing family stories from this past year and looking ahead as a community to the year to come. Read the rest of this entry »

    Hilltown Families Discover Hanukkah

    Hanukkah in the Hills

    (c) Sienna Wildfield - Hilltown Families

    Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield


    Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah, Chanukah, Hanukah, Hannukah and Channukahis) is the Jewish Holiday known as the Festival of Lights. For eight days Jewish families kindle the light of a menorah by lighting one of the eight remaining candles every evening.This past Friday evening, hilltown families of mixed spiritual/religious faiths gathered in West Chesterfield, MA, to discover this ancient (over 2,000 years old) Jewish festival. When guests were asked if they knew what other holiday was celebrated on that day, one child shouted out, “CHRISTMAS!” Actually, it’s Shabbat. Two candles were lit, apple juice was served in small cups, blessings were sang and loaves of homemade Challah were passed around for children to tear off pieces of bread.

    (c) Hilltown Families

    homemade latkes (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    Nancy Rothensberg cooked up an endless supply of delicious, homemade latkes (potato and onion pancakes), quickly devoured by everyone with sour cream or apple sauce. For perfect potato latkes, Master Chef Levana Kirschenbaum recommends keeping your recipe dry, thick, hot, steady, lean, white and fresh. Not sure if Nancy followed these guidelines, but they were the best latkes around town!

    Upstairs families learn how to play dreidel. Chocolate coins (called gelt) were passed out to all players and Marla BB explained the rules and Hebrew markings on the dreidel. The dreidel is a spinning top with four sides, with each side corresponding to the following Hebrew words:

    • Nun (not) Nothing happens and the next player spins the dreidel.
    • Gimel (gimme) The player takes the entire pot of gelt and the next player spins the dreidel.
    • Hey (half) The player takes half of the pot of gelt and the next player spins the dreidel.
    • Shin (put in) The player puts one piece of gelt the pot and the next player spins the dreidel.

    Of course a few younger children had a hard time giving up some or all of their gelt, but the older kids were intent on learning the game and continued playing even after all the adults finished.

    Dancing followed with a warm up to Hanukah Bamba from a new Hanukah CD made available from the PJ Library. Later, with Klezmer music playing, the Hora was taught to all. Participants gathered hands in a circle and learned steps to this Israeli folk dance.

    Stories were shared at the end of the evening. Marla BB read The Eight Nights of Hanukah and Runaway Dreidel to an interactive crowd of families. Both books were also made available from the PJ Library.

    Reindog Parade

    (c) Hilltown Families

    Hilltown families feeling adventurous this weekend headed out to Williamstown, home of the Clarke Museum. Images Cinema hosted a special movie screening of A Charlie Brown Christmas and Olive, the Other Reindeer.

    Following the screenings, Spring Street was closed off for the towns annual Reindog Parade, an interesting tradition of the folks from Williamstown. The street was lined with luminaries, balloons were passed out to children, and the local public access television station was poised with their cameras to film the parade. Read the rest of this entry »

    Holiday Social in Peru

    Santa in Peru, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    On Saturday morning in Peru the ground was lightly covered with snow, giving promise that a New England holiday season just might make an entrance soon. At the community center in Peru families gathered with their children for a social to celebrate the season. Hot chocolate and pastries were served and the center was decorated in seasonal lights and holiday icons. The children made crafts supplied by the Peru Recreation Department while parents socialized and discussed the topic of their children’s school, holiday plans and other parent related issues.

    Towards the end of the gathering Santa arrived. The kids were delighted! Each and every child was given a toy from Santa. Not a chintzy toy either, but really nice toys! Organizer Dawn Warner explained that the Peru Rec. Dept. (being a non-profit organization) gets funding from the United Way, so they have a healthy budget every year to bring families in the Hilltowns together during the holidays, providing quality gifts, pastries, craft items, a visit from Santa, and in the past, music! Something to look forward to for next year.

    Hayrides at Look Park

    (c) Hilltown FamiliesThe moon was nearly full and the holiday lights were strung about. A beautiful night for a hayride at Look Park in Florence, MA. The kids got to pet the horses and even offer a carrot or two.There are over 50 different holiday light displays, including Christmas and Hanukkah icons, an assortment of animals, and all the way from Scottland, Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.

    The hayrides are being offered by Stillwater Stables of Chesterfield, MA, and take about 25 mins to travel around the park. The cost is $3 for kids and $5 for adults. They will be giving hayrides at the park every Friday and Saturday evening from 5-8pm, through 12/23/07.

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