Getting to the Heart of the Holidays

"Order consists in recognizing the place for each object in relation to its environment and remembering where each thing should be. This implies that one is able to orient one's self within one's environment and to dominate it in all its details. The proper environment of the soul is one in which an individual can move about with eyes closed and find, simply by reaching out his hand, anything he desires. Such an environment is necessary for peace and happiness."

Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood

As I write this, my Jewish friends around the world have lit the first Hanukkah candle; Christian friends have begun the season of Advent and much of the world is gearing up for the winter holidays including the Solstice, Christmas, and New Year celebrations that will span the globe from January through February.

Families will be planning events, putting up decorations, and visits with Santa. Our homes may become places of magical lights, special movies, and music. At the darkest time of the year in the northern hemisphere, we’ll create all sorts of opportunities to have fun and enjoy the people we love.

Montessori blogs, just like this one, reflect our practices of being with children in respectful ways. Do we keep the “Santa secret” or stay truthful to our children? If we do, are we robbing our children of the mystery and wonder of this time of year, or are we teaching them to trust that we will always speak honestly with them? I’ll leave this question to you and your heart.

Instead, I want to encourage you to think about your child’s need for order…not just in the environment, but also, as Dr. Montessori shares in this quote, an order of their soul.

Among the holiday festivities, are you noticing how each “special” event is being experienced by your child? Are you observing your child to make note of what holds their attention and what causes disappointment…even when you worked so hard to create the special moment? Are you aware of their limits when it comes to too much stimulation? What about their expectations for each event? Do they beg for more and more and more? 

Or, are you building in gentle meaningful memories that your child will return to again and again; memories that create a soulful environment that they can return to again and again in the years to come just by closing their eyes.

I know that the holiday tradition I started with my little ones is not particularly creative or unique: a holiday ornament that reminded them of a special event that had occurred during each year of their lives up to 20 or so. The meaning of that simple ongoing gesture was made known to me the year that my grown son lamented that the box of irreplaceable ornaments had accidentally been tossed out with the trash, yet not as notable as the elation he felt when they turned up a week later! After a tumultuous adolescence, that box of ornaments was an annual reminder of growing through the tough times with a family that supported him. Even now, and often without a tree to put them on, we’ve unpacked those ornaments when possible, remembering the events they represent, not all of them pleasant, but always inspiring the peace and happiness of being together. 

Happy Holidays, everyone!