Kate Hodges

By Kate Hodges

01st December 2023

Weave Yule magic, make aromatic orange-peel garlands, welcome solstice light! Plus: bake spicy festive breads, take the midwinter nature challenge, celebrate your favourite tree!

Kate Hodges

By Kate Hodges

01st December 2023

Kate Hodges

By Kate Hodges

01st December 2023


Tree Dressing Day is held on the first weekend in December, and not only celebrates our love for our leafy friends, but also our wider community and cultural history, particularly this year, after the terrible loss of the Sycamore Gap tree. It falls just after National Tree Week; find events and more about the ‘Grow a Tree in 23’ campaign here.

The act of dressing a tree binds us to it and celebrates the unique role that trees have in our local neighbourhoods – you’ll find customs that involve tying cloth and tributes to branches around the world from Scotland to Japan and India.

Why not give thanks to a tree that’s special to you or your community in some way, through (biodegradable) decoration, a hug or a ceremony? Find decoration inspiration here and more tree love at the Woodland Trust.

This weekend, events are being held across the country, there’s hoodening, midwinter singing and the Holly King and and Oak King play at the 30th annual aspen party at the Weald and Downland Museum, tree fun at the Centre for Wildlife Gardening in London, or, throughout December, tree dressing at the Hogmoor Inclosure in Hampshire plus, on December 21st, a Solstice Lights trail.

The winter solstice takes place on Friday 22nd, as the sun rises. It’s the darkest day of the year, and a time to celebrate reaching the middle of winter, a chance to reflect on the beauty and magic of the season before the chaos of Christmas. Find ideas for the start of Yule here and here and read Glennie Kindred’s ideas to appreciate the midwinter stillness here.


Perhaps you might head to a favourite spot to watch the sun rise (find inspiration here) or you might want to travel to a stone circle. Winter Solstice at Stonehenge is a magical celebration of the shortest day. There is free, managed open access to the site; a rare chance to get among the stones and witness them up-close. Get there well before sunrise and join the druids, revellers and curious watching the sun rise. Avebury is a slightly less crowded option, while the ceremony Orkney’s Standing Stones of Stenness is even more relaxed. Alternatively, why not visit a stone circle new to you?

Other Yule and solstice events include storytelling and meditation at the wonderful Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire, Glastonbury’s Chalice Well, and at Cornwall’s Montol Festival where town’s population dresses in mock formal clothes, skulls and masks and ‘guises’ – performs plays, skits, songs and dances. Take part in the Children’s Sundown Procession, then watch the burning of a sun effigy and finish with a serpent dance!

On the south coast, the streets of Brighton are lit by hundreds of hand-made paper lanterns and throb to the sound of samba drums at the annual Burning The Clocks parade. Defiant locals bring light and noise to their city on the longest night of the year, then fling their willow-and-parchment lamps on to a huge bonfire on Brighton beach.

Perhaps you might find inspiration in other country’s festive traditions – find a round-up of ways different cultures celebrate midwinter here.

Making seasonal decorations together is a magical way to spend time together as a family. Put on your favourite wintry records and take down your art box. This year, we are going fruit crazy, and making some gorgeous citrus peel garlands (the ultimate in waste-not-want-not decorations) and dried orange slice strings.


Over on the Green Parent site, we love this simple star garland that can be used for all manner of celebrations, or just to jazz up a wall, home-made crackers, spice-scented pomanders to hang on doors or give as gifts, tiny trees made from pine cones and corks and this hand-print tree (you’ll want to keep those tiny prints forever!)


It’s easy to forget there’s a natural world at this time of year and stay cooped up over Christmas. So The Wildlife Trusts midwinter nature challenge, 12 Days Wild, is a breath of fresh air. Every day, families are encouraged to do one wild thing a day, whether that’s making a Christmas wreath for birds, walking off your Christmas dinner in the woods, or admiring the beauty of a starling murmuration at sunset. Sign up here

Or stroll off some of your mince-pie-and-potato bloat with a wild wander. Potter among the ponies in the beautiful New Forest, try one of our favourite winter walks, or test-hike an old favourite selected by the Ramblers. Perhaps you might like a tramp with a theme – try a walk into history, a ramble with a view a family friendly gentle walk that passes by prime playing areas, or try one of these incredible treks across National Trust land.


Christmas should be a time of joy and sparkle, but financial worries can take the shine off the festive season. However, a simple December 25th can be even more rewarding than an indulgent splurge. We have some money-saving alternatives for presents and decorations here, while Green Parent writer Amanda Williams’ family have created their own rules for present buying around Solstice; find out more here, or discover why Martin Lewis believes that sometimes the best present is giving nothing at all here.

Find our guide to rekindling the wonder of the season and focusing on presence rather than presents here and author Patsy Collins’ guide to a simpler Christmas here.

The holidays can be a little too much for some of us. We love these gentle tips to soothe the frenzy, while these techniques from around the world bring some new ideas to the parenting party (we’re going to try the finger holds idea which can be used wherever you are. Reading a wintery book together could also help you find your calm. We’ve rounded up some of our favourites here. Finally, there are some great tips for making your Christmas less overwhelming here or for a child with sensory issues here

WHAT WE’RE READING How to find volunteer work in your local area this Christmas “There’s no better way to fill up your festive period with good cheer than getting involved with volunteering at Christmas. To put it bluntly, things are tough right now and people need help. Spiralling inflation is stretching budgets while soaring energy bills are giving people tough choices about heating their homes. So get stuck in and help how you can. You never know: what starts out as a festive dalliance might turn into a rewarding-long term commitment.”

Read more here and read more about how children can join in the volunteering fun here.

WHAT WE’RE EATING Festive Breads Festive breads have played a central role in religious feast days and seasonal celebrations for thousands of years. These breads are often highly flavoured using fresh eggs and butter, fruit and exotic spices. Make Christmas Stollen or Challah.

Find the recipes here