Literature & Exploring the Winter Solstice through Storytelling

Winter: A Time for Sharing Stories and Connecting with Community.

The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year.  From this day forward the days become longer, offering more light as the months continue.  Earlier in the season we explored old Norse traditions which are connected to the celebration of the winter solstice.  This time of the year was known in old Norse as Yule – sound familiar? The expression “yuletide” refers to this season and has been adopted to signify the holiday season.

The winter solstice is an introspective celebration for reconnecting with nature and community. As we begin to stay indoors more and spend time with families and friends, the winter season is an opportunity to disconnect from technology and reconnect with neighbors and family.  Storytelling fosters this connection through intergenerational dialogue and shared experiences.  Read the rest of this entry »

Winter Solstice Community Events

‘Tis the Season for Stories: 20 Picture Books for Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Holiday Books

Open Sesame (photo credit: Cheli Mennella)

‘Tis the season for stories. And what better way to share a story than snuggling up with your favorite kids and turning the pages of a beloved holiday book. Here are twenty suggestions for Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa!

  1. The Polar Express written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. Published by Houghton Mifflin, 1985. A boy takes a magical Christmas Eve train ride to the North Pole.
  2. Chanukah Lights written by Michael J. Rosen and illustrated by Robert Sabuda. Published by Candlewick, 2011. Follow the Festival of Lights through time and place from Herod’s temple to an Israeli kibbutz, by way of poetry and exquisite pop-ups.
  3. Seven Candles for Kwanzaa written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, 1993. Describes the festival of Kwanzaa, its origins and practices, while pictures follow a family through the seven-day celebration.
  4. The Longest Night written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Ted Lewin. Published by Holiday House, 2009. On the longest night of the year, a crow, a moose, and a fox think they can bring back the light, but it is the song of the chickadee that wakes the sun.
  5. The Third Gift written by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Published by Clarion Books, 2011. A boy and his father collect the tears of myrrh trees, then bring them to market, where they sell them to three men who need a special gift for a baby.
  6. The Jolly Christmas Postman Written by Allan Ahlberg and illustrated by Janet Ahlberg. Published by LB Kids, 2001. As the Jolly Postman delivers holiday letters and gifts to fairytale characters readers can join in the fun by finding messages tucked into pocket envelopes.
  7. Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Published by Holiday House, 1994. Clever Herschel of Ostropol uses pickles, eggs, and a dreidel to outwit the hill-dwelling goblins and save Hanukkah.
  8. The Little Tree written by E. E. Cummings and illustrated by Chris Raschka. Published by Hyperion books for Children, 2001. A little tree from the country and a little family from the city find each other at Christmastime.
  9. Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story written by Angela Shelf Medearis and illustrated by Daniel Minter. Published by Albert Whitman & Co., 2000. When given the task of turning thread into gold, seven Ashanti brothers embody the principles of Kwanzaa to attempt the impossible.
  10. The Money We’ll Save written and illustrated by Brock Cole. Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011. When Pa brings home a turkey poult to raise in the family’s 19th century New York City tenement, hilarity and problems arise, but the family pulls together and saves Christmas from being ruined.  Read the rest of this entry »

9 Hilltown Family Variety Show Holiday Podcasts

Originally broadcasted out of Northampton, MA on WXOJ-LP 103.3FM (Valley Free Radio) for the holidays, we’ve gathered nine holiday episodes of the Hilltown Family Variety Show from over the years to share with your family as we celebrate the season. Enjoy these hour long, commercial-free podcasts that celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, the New Year and the spirit of peace and giving. Choose a podcast here…

Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2016

Learning Ahead: Nov & Dec Cultural Itinerary for Western MA

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for
Western Massachusetts
Seasons: November & December

Who am I? Where am I? These are the fundamental questions proposed by the humanities. Inquiries related to local history, literature, and education, inspire us to think deeply about the places where we live and how our identity fits into the context of our community and the seasons.

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is a bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

With these downloadable seasonal itineraries, self-directed teens, lifelong learners, and families are encouraged to engage together in cultural opportunities that support similar interests, resulting in a shared history, strengthening sense of place.

Looking through a seasonal lens, our Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for November and December includes:

  • Learn about FOOD preservation: Harvest, Butchers & Museums
  • Veterans Day as a CATALYST for learning: Literature, History & Music
  • Looking through the LENS of Thanksgiving: Poetry & Painting
  • VALUE based engagement: Handmade &  Non-Commercial
  • Local HABITAT connects us to myth & nature: Christmas Trees
  • PLACEMAKING with annual events: Holiday Strolls & Caroling
  • Experience other CULTURES through the holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa & Three Kings Day
  • Mark the SEASON by sharing & connecting: Winter Solstice & Storytelling
  • Engage in New England TRADITIONS: First Night & First Hikes

Click here to download PDF (38 pages).


Mass Humanities This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Special thank you to sponsors of this issue, including: ♦ Montague BookmillNew England Air MuseumDowntown Northampton AssociationSpringfield Museums.

Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2015

Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2014

7 Holiday Podcasts from the Hilltown Family Variety Show

Originally broadcasted out of Northampton, MA on WXOJ-LP 103.3FM (Valley Free Radio) for the holidays, we’ve gathered seven holiday episodes of the Hilltown Family Variety Show from over the years to share with your family as we celebrate the season. Enjoy these hour long, commercial-free podcasts that celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, the New Year and the spirit of peace and giving. Choose a podcast here…

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 »

Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2013

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 in the Hilltowns

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Pieter Bruegel the Elder's "The Peasant Wedding" (1568).

It’s the Winter Solstice! This year on December 22nd. The actual blessed event is three minutes after midnight on the 22nd, so we are celebrating it like the purists we are!

The evening begins at Elmer’s in Ashfield, MA with dinner starting at 5pm, if you’d like to come to that part. We line up all the tables in a long, family style line. Enter the Morris Dancers and there is much singing and eating together. Then, go outside to the Town Common at 6:30pm with community singing and a bonfire – you bring the songs and sing. You are welcome to bring a log for the fire too.

7:00pmish starts the event with a Horn (real caribou horns on their heads) Dance by the Juggler Meadow Morris Men followed by songs and stories by community members including our own professional storyteller Rona Leventhal and members of Welcome Yule.

Upon completion of the outdoor activities warm up at Elmer’s and enjoy more community fun when the Morris Dancers come back to Elmer’s, get good and likkered up and dance!

If you ever wondered what it might be like to live in a painting by Brughel (the elder,) this is your time.

That looks EXACTLY like Elmer’s on Solstice!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nan Parati - Elmer's StoreNan Parati

Nan is the proprietor of Elmer’s Store in Ashfield, MA. A New England transplant from the Deep South following Hurricane Katrina, Nan shares her southern wit, wisdom and charm in her column, “Notes from Nan.”

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.  

‘Tis the Season for Stories: 20 Picture Books for Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Holiday Books

Open Sesame (photo credit: Cheli Mennella)

‘Tis the season for stories. And what better way to share a story than snuggling up with your favorite kids and turning the pages of a beloved holiday book. Here are twenty suggestions for Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Some are brand new books and some are not-so-new favorites, but all are sure to get you and your kids into the holiday spirit.

  1. The Polar Express written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. Published by Houghton Mifflin, 1985. A boy takes a magical Christmas Eve train ride to the North Pole.
  2. Chanukah Lights written by Michael J. Rosen and illustrated by Robert Sabuda. Published by Candlewick, 2011. Follow the Festival of Lights through time and place from Herod’s temple to an Israeli kibbutz, by way of poetry and exquisite pop-ups.
  3. Seven Candles for Kwanzaa written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, 1993. Describes the festival of Kwanzaa, its origins and practices, while pictures follow a family through the seven-day celebration.
  4. The Longest Night written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Ted Lewin. Published by Holiday House, 2009. On the longest night of the year, a crow, a moose, and a fox think they can bring back the light, but it is the song of the chickadee that wakes the sun.
  5. The Third Gift written by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Published by Clarion Books, 2011. A boy and his father collect the tears of myrrh trees, then bring them to market, where they sell them to three men who need a special gift for a baby.
  6. The Jolly Christmas Postman Written by Allan Ahlberg and illustrated by Janet Ahlberg. Published by LB Kids, 2001. As the Jolly Postman delivers holiday letters and gifts to fairytale characters readers can join in the fun by finding messages tucked into pocket envelopes.
  7. Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Published by Holiday House, 1994. Clever Herschel of Ostropol uses pickles, eggs, and a dreidel to outwit the hill-dwelling goblins and save Hanukkah.
  8. The Little Tree written by E. E. Cummings and illustrated by Chris Raschka. Published by Hyperion books for Children, 2001. A little tree from the country and a little family from the city find each other at Christmastime.
  9. Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story written by Angela Shelf Medearis and illustrated by Daniel Minter. Published by Albert Whitman & Co., 2000. When given the task of turning thread into gold, seven Ashanti brothers embody the principles of Kwanzaa to attempt the impossible.
  10. The Money We’ll Save written and illustrated by Brock Cole. Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011. When Pa brings home a turkey poult to raise in the family’s 19th century New York City tenement, hilarity and problems arise, but the family pulls together and saves Christmas from being ruined.  Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome Yule: Music, Dance, Songs and Stories to Drive the Dark Away

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

In the darkest time of the year, people everywhere gather for songs, stories, and celebrations. Welcome Yule: A Midwinter Celebration brings those traditions alive at the Shea Theater December 9th, 10th, and 11th, 2011. This year, a huge polar bear and a fairy tale cast of puppets join the Welcome Yule chorus of adults and children. Stories and dances are interwoven with a mix of traditional English carols, boisterous pub songs, and rousing four-part shape note songs.

In many different cultures, it is traditional to gather together and celebrate around the darkest time of the year. Celebrations of holidays in many different religions and cultures all take place around the winter solstice- it’s a time of year when a strong sense of community is desired and cultivated as a way of tolerating the season together.

Your family can celebrate the season with the community this year at Welcome Yule: A Midwinter Celebration at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls. The show combines music, dance, puppets, songs, and captivating stories to create an upbeat celebration of togetherness that’s great for all ages.

The show tells the story of a village, itself too immersed in the dark of winter, where the community works together to create their own traditions and celebrations.

Shows take place on December 9th and 10th at 7:30pm, and on the 11th at 2pm. For more information on the show and ticket information, visit www.welcomeyule.org.

Winter Solstice Events & Traditions

Question and Answer

Winter Solstice Celebration on the Ashfield Town Common in 2006. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Does your family celebrate the Winter Solstice? How do you mark the shortest day of the year?

     

  • Alisa Blanchard writes: “We’re watching the lunar eclipse and having friends over for a lighting of the candles and ringing of the bells. I can’t wait!”
  • Leslie Lynn Lucio writes: “Hoping for us to make it out to the solstice celebration at Arcadia…”
  • Susan Loring-Wells writes: “Celebrate Winter Solstice with a walk down through woods with friends to a cave for song and intentions of what we wish to bring from the darkness into the light.”
  • Share your family tradition or a community event HERE.
  •  

Community Winter Solstice events happening on Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

5:30-8:30pm in Easthampton: Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary will be celebrating the Winter Solstice with a community social, music, hot drinks and bonfire. 584-3009 (FREE)

6:30-8pm in Westfield: Snowfire at Amelia Park (21 South Broad St.) 562-2277 (FREE)

7pm in Ashfield: Winter Solstice Celebration on the town common. Bring your stories, songs, poems and share at the community-led event about a bonfire on the longest night of the year. 628-4503 (FREE)

Suggested Events 12/18/10-12/24/10

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

SUGGEST AN EVENT

Ashfield Winter Solstice Celebration on the town common begins at 7pm on Tuesday, 12/21/10. Bring your stories, songs, poems and share at the community-led event around a bonfire on the longest night of the year. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Suggest an EventIf 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, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

FEATURED EVENT

Hilltown Families Board Game Swap

On Saturday, Dec. 18th from 9-10am – BOARD GAME SWAP: Hilltown Families is hosting a Board Game Swap in the Meekins Library community room in Williamsburg, MA. Bring in board games you would like to swap with other families. Kindly make sure the games have all their pieces before bringing in. A fun way to recycle old board games and to discover new ones. Board games make excellent holiday gifts for the children in your life too! Surprise them with a new recycled game. This community swap is free and open to all families. RSVP here, or just drop in. Williamsburg, MA (FREE)

BEST BETS

On Saturday, Dec. 18th from 1-3pm – VICTORIAN CRAFTS: Victorian Crafts for the Holidays at the Wistariahurst Museum. Make orange pomanders, embellished gift boxes, paper lanters. (238 Cabot St.) 322-5660 www.wistariahurst.org Holyoke, MA (>$)

Later on Saturday, Dec. 18th at 6:30pm – SOLSTICE EVENT: 29th Annual Winter Solstice Storytelling and Songfest Celebration at the Roundhouse. Bring canned goods. Stories, songs, juggling and mime artistry. 624-5140 www.roundhouseculture.com Colrain, MA (DONATION)

On Sunday, Dec. 19th from 12Noon-2pm – SANTA: Santa Claus will make an appearance at the Springfield Science Musuem. Check out the special exhibit, “Sugar and Spice: The Land of Gingerbread” while visiting the old guy! 263-6800 www.springfieldmuseums.org Springfield, MA (FREE W/ADMISSION)

Later in the afternoon on Sunday, Dec. 19th from 3-5pm – FAMILY DANCE: Community Family Dance at First Churches (enter across from the Iron Horse). There will be live music and dances will be taught to families. All ages 3yo & up. 230-7037 Northampton, MA (>$)

BULLETIN BOARD

We are continuing our 5 year celebration with the Berkshire Museum, The Eric Carle Museum, Historic Deerfield, MASS MoCA and Springfield Museums! These 5 Western Massachusetts Museums have joined our party and are offering our readers an annual family membership! One very, very lucky family will win a family membership to all five of these local cultural gems! How wicked awesome is that!? It’s our birthday, but you get the presents! Deadline to enter to win: January 3rd, 2011.

SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON: Is everyone done with their holiday shopping yet? (Ha!) There are a couple of great places to get toys for the kids in the Pioneer Valley. One of them is Hilltown Families sponsor, The Toy Stop. Been yet? It’s on Pleasant St. down by the Oxbow Gallery. Owners Susan and Mary have all kinds of sledding toys in stock right now, including sleds, saucers and baby pull sleighs. They also have trucks, trains, dolls, kitchens, play food, magic sets, art projects, easels, games, stuffed life sized plush animals, 6 month and up toys … you name it! Stop in, check out what they have, tell them your a Hilltown Families family, and support this new toy store (just opened 4 months ago) with your holiday season. — Speaking of gifts this holiday season, gift certificates from Hilltown Families sponsors Bread Euphoria, Cup & Top Café, Birdie Bunny Photography, Blazing Star Herbal School and Show Circus Studio would make lovely gifts too!

WINTER CAMP: SHOW Circus Studio in Easthampton, MA will be holding a winter circus camp for ages 5-7 on December 29 and 8-12 on December 30. This day camp will run from 9am – 3pm and it will cover all aspects of circus including trapeze, fabric, juggling, balancing, acrobatics, partnering, human pyramids, stretching, strength, and circus games. Our 10% discount for more than one child signing up from the same family applies to our camps as well as our classes. Sign up today before the camps fill up! Each camp is limited to 15 students. Register online at www.showcircusstudio.com or call us at 203-4282.

TAKE ACTION: MomsRising.org is up to GOOD again! They are inviting you to take action by telling the IRS to allow breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies to be eligible for their tax-sheltered health spending accounts. Find out more at www.momsrising.org. And stay tuned in to breastfeeding issues with MomsRising Pioneer Valley and Motherwear’s Breastfeeding Blog.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY: The Northampton Senior Center is seeking volunteers to shovel snow (great for teens!) for seniors and people with disabilities. All public sidewalks that are along the side of a property are the responsibility of the owner for keeping clear of snow, and many seniors and community members with disabilities need help clearing snow within 24 hours of a snowstorm. Call the Noho Senior Center to connect with a senior in the community to assist: 587-1231.

SPONSORSHIP & ADVERTISING: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Let us help get the word out about your event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business or announcement. Email hilltownfamilies@gmail.com for more information. — Help us help you!

HILLTOWN FAMILY VARIETY SHOW

This holiday season we will have several Holiday Podcasts available to download, including Charity Kahn’s archived holiday show.  Click on the banner to see which ones are available, and check back on Christmas Day.

Tune in every Saturday from 9-10am. Encore episodes are aired every Sunday from 7-8am. Families have several ways to tune in to the Hilltown Family Variety Show:

  • Streaming Audio: Surf on over to ValleyFreeRadio.org on Saturday & Sunday mornings and listen to us live via streaming audio.
  • On Your FM Dial: Tune in to WXOJ 103.3FM if you live near Northampton, MA.
  • Podcast: Listen to the most recent episodes of the Hilltown Family Variety Show anytime you wish! Click here to see our current select of episodes, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast too!

  • WEEKLY LIST OF SUGGESTED EVENTS

    Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

    Suggest an Event | Local Forecast | Free Museum Passes | Playgroups & Family Centers | Movies in the Valley | Movies in the Berkshires | Listen Here

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Winter Solstice: How an Ancient Tradition is Celebrated Today

    The Winter Solstice

    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 customs 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.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Suggested Event 12/20/08-12/26/08

    Happy Winter Solstice, Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and all other seasonal celebrations!

    SUGGEST AN EVENT

    Ice Storm 2008 - Chesterfield, MA. (click here to view more photos)

    Ice Storm 2008 - Chesterfield, MA. (click here to view more photos)

    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:

    On the Ashfield Town Common will gather community members for an annual Winter Solstice Celebration, featuring bonfire, story telling, singing and Morris Dancers.  This community event is free.  Warm up at Elmer’s after with something hot to drink.

    SATURDAY – 12/20

    Read the rest of this entry »

    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 »

    Battle of the Funny Garage Bands

    Notes from Nan: Funny, Funny Staff!
    BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

    BOY am I a good person! You want to know how good I am (virtuous, I mean)? I just opened up Rob’s Grocery Talk with Rob e-mail and laughed so hard I wanted to pee in my pants. And you know what that means?

    Rob is funnier than I am. If we had a funny-off, Rob would win. My friend Diane Young and I once thought we should start a Funny Festival—like a music festival, except that everything would just be funny on all the stages. You could have music, but it would have to be really funny music. Nothing at all soulful – unless it was funny soulful. We could have the Rhythm and Happy stage. We were going to hold the festival in Kansas because it seemed like the least funny state and we wanted a good, solid, high-contrast background for it.

    If we had the Funny Fest, Rob would be the emcee. Or the headliner. In the Battle of the Funny Garage Bands, Rob would win.

    So what does that have to do with me being a good person? I’m so good that I am putting Rob’s Grocery Talk with Rob today’s post even though it’s funnier than I am. I am getting stars in my crown for that, and I will go directly to heaven.

    So here’s what you the reader should do if you want to stay on my good side: When you see me, you should say, “That Rob is a funny boy! Yes indeed!”

    You should NOT bless my heart by saying,

    1.) But you’re funny, too! Really, you are!
    or worse,
    2.) He’s WAY funnier than you!

    FRIDAY NIGHT MENU (12/21/07)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Suggested Events 12/15/07 – 12/21/07

    OUTDOOR ADVENTURES THIS WINTER IN THE HILLTOWNS

    (c) Hilltown FamiliesWhat a snow storm! Think about all the fun outdoor adventures your kids will have this weekend either skiing, sledding or snowshoeing. Which reminds me to remind you about the upcoming afternoon program this winter, Outdoor Adventures for Kids in the Hilltowns. Hilltown Families (that’s us!) 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.

    We wanted to thank this week’s Suggested Events sponsor, Lui Collins (see banner below) and to let readers know that she is now offering a kids movement class for older kids, ages 5-7, called Kids’ Jam. My daughter was in her class this fall and loved it! Click on the banner to discover more about this new program and her other programs too.

    Lui Collins

  • 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 12/15

    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)

    9:30am-11:30am – MOTHER’S GROUP – Mocha Moms, a nationwide support group for stay at-home mothers (part time and full time) of color, will be meeting at the Forbes Library in Northampton, MA. [Mother’s] (Free)

    10:30pm – GINGERBREAD HOUSE – Come make gingerbread houses at the Granby Library in Granby, MA. 413.467.3320[Families] (Free)

    1pm – VICTORIAN HOLIDAYS – A Victorian Holiday Craft Celebration will be held at the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA. Come make Victorian holiday crafts, including lanterns and cards. 413.322.5660 [Families] (Free)

    3pm – WORLD DANCE – The Nataraj Dancers will be doing a holiday performance of Indian dances at the Forbes Library Community Room in Northampton, MA. 413.587.1011 [Families] (Free)

    3:30pm – WORLD DANCE – A Balkan Dance Party will happen at the Whately Dance Barn in Haydenville, MA. Dance workshop begins at 3:30pm. Potluck supper at 6pm. Dance party at 7:30pm 413.549.6748 [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] (>$)

    7pm – YOUTH THEATRE – Youth Theatre Ensemble presents The Reluctant Dragon at the Northampton Center for the Arts in Northampton, MA. A tale about a peace-loving dragon who prefers tea parties, poetry & afternoon naps over fire-breathing and destructions. 413.584.7327 [Ages 2 & up] ($)

    7pm – SOLSTICE CELEBRATION – A Winter Solstice Celebration will be happening at the Center for Cultural Evolution in Colrain, MA. Music, stories, theater. 413.624.5140 [Families] (Donation)

    Read the rest of this entry »

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