by Meghan Fitzgerald
Woah, we’re half way there (queue the Bon Jovi)—Today marks the halfway point between the start of winter and the first day of spring. And, after a week of polar vortex and snow squalls, there’s little doubt many of us are already living on a prayer of spring. That said, today is one of eight perfect days in the life cycle of a year to slow down, be present and celebrate the here and now.
What are these eight great days? Four of the eight are the familiar quarter points that mark the start of a new season, including winter and summer solstices and the spring and fall equinoxes. There are also four other points in between, that can be called “cross quarter points” that mark the days that are half way between two seasons.
In our house, we call these cross quarter days the “Halfway Days.” It wasn’t until starting Tinkergarten that we paid much mind to these days, but it has become tradition for us to note and even celebrate them in small but sweet ways. To us, it’s seemed clear that embracing halfway days has helped us all connect to the environment, look forward to the next season and actually savor the season we’re in all the more.
And, we’re not alone on this. Ancient peoples were very attentive to seasons and the position of the sun in the sky, because their livelihood depended on planting and harvesting at the proper times. Festivals were timed around this half way day between winter and spring—some of which gave roots to holidays still celebrated in our culture. From the Groundhog Day (strikingly similar to the ancient Celtic festival of Imbolc still celebrated by many people across the world) to Chinese New Year, people stop to note this important moment—so let’s make the most of it this weekend!
Why is marking these eight days helpful to kids?
Connects us to nature: First, noticing and naming these eight days grounds our kids and us in the rhythm of nature. Many of us no longer rely on timing our harvest to survive, but we still need to connect to the natural world in order to thrive.
Teaches about cycles: The world is full of cycles, and the earlier kids develop a sense of the cycle of a year, the more readily they can understand and look for the cyclical patterns all around them.
Traditions ground kids: Groundhogs are not the only ones who need grounding. Our kids need to develop a sense of belonging to our family and to the Earth. Family traditions give kids just that sense of being part of something. And, when our family traditions include these natural moments, we help solidify kids’ bond with nature.
Connects us to one another: No matter what you believe, no matter where you live and what winter looks and feels like there, you’ll notice the change in light—and you will be sharing that moment with all humans on your block, in your region, and, really, in your hemisphere. These changes offer a shared experience that is hard to come by in a divided world.
5 easy ways to mark today’s halfway point
Winter bucket list: While you celebrate that we’re closer to spring, flip it around to also recognize that we only have half of winter left. Make a list of the things you’ve loved doing so far this winter. Add things that you haven’t gotten to do yet, but want to do. Make a plan for how you’ll grab every bit of what is special about winter in the coming weeks. We promise, you’ll love the back half of winter all the more for it, and you’ll teach your kids to recognize what is so wonderful about the season.
Enjoy half treats: What are half treats?! Basically, half treats are any treat your family enjoys...cut it in half! You can get even more crafty and Instagram-worthy by doing things like making black-and-white cookies or decorating half of a cake with a wintery scene and the other with spring. Whatever it is, connect sweet celebration with this special moment in the Earth’s year. As long as it’s not too cold, enjoy the treats outdoors.
Make a fire, light some candles or take the moon for a walk: Every day from here, days will grow longer, which means nights will grow shorter. So, our chances to savor cozy moments, leverage lantern light and take wee ones out in the dark of night are also dwindling. Make the most of these still-dark days by grabbing a lantern (here’s how to make one) and going for a night walk. The chance to be out and to see beautiful lights is dazzling to kiddos, and those memories will stick with them always. When you get back in, enjoy a fire, candle light and cozy blankets too.
Groundhog Day and Imbolc: Quirky though it is, our Groundhog Day tradition clearly has roots in celebrations of the midpoint of winter. Many of us are are quite eager to learn from Punxutawney Phil if spring will come quicker this year (although, his predictions have not proven too accurate over time). If you want to celebrate halfway with the groundhog, wake up early, make some yummy muffins and tune in to watch coverage of Punxatawney Phil. He emerges around 7:25am. Looking for a nature-based, time-loved celebration tradition? Learn more about the beautiful ways people celebrate Imbolc.
Play with shadows: Given the timing and amount of daylight, winter is a marvelous time to play with our shadows. Grab some sidewalk chalk, or just head outdoors and have fun with this list of our favorite ways to make shadow play extra fun and memorable.