I always think it is important for stories to really ‘speak’ to children and that the stories we choose to bring to our children, have strong seasonal and local climate/geographical relevance. We adjust to the corresponding seasonal time, some of our Festivals through the year that speak more strongly of seasons rather than dates to us. Others we leave on the date a Festival is generally celebrated and find meaning for that Festival within our own Australian environment.
When Chilli was young and we were living on the East Coast of New South Wales, the days that approached and carried us through Advent in the lead up to Christmas were hot and humid. We’d spend long days swimming in the river and taking family strolls along the golden sands and shorelines of the surf beaches that our East Coast hometown is known for. There are a few stories that bring a beautiful activity to this Summery Christmas time, of collecting ‘Christmas Stars’ (spinifex grass seed heads) that tumble along the beaches at this time of year. Susan Perrow’s ‘The Star Grass Man’ and ‘A Gift of Starlight’ as well as Jacqui Lindon-Smallpage’s ‘The Summer Star’ (which I am sorry I cannot find any link to a resource for this online) bring beautiful summery, Christmas, beach-themed wonder. As well as this, Agapanthus ‘Star of Bethlehem’ heads are in full bloom in that climate during this time, so bringing ‘star’ symbolism to our children in multiple ways through these daily nature walk activities was easy and nourishing.
When we moved south just before Chilli’s 5th Christmas, I was somewhat lost with these activities that we identified Advent preparations with. These activities that were gently woven into our daily Advent celebrations had become our traditions. However here in Tasmania, agapanthus might have the odd head here and there blooming, but from my observations the height of their season is not until early January – it’s beautiful for Epiphany, but slim pickings for Advent and Christmas. The rocky, bay style beaches that are more common here in our new little island home – which have their own immense beauty – don’t from what I have seen have the tumbling spinifex seed heads rolling along in the island breezes, these seem to be more common to those East Coast surf shorelines. I’ve struggled inside myself these past few years for something that is commonly found in our local habitat which can strongly call to the children through their Spring and Summer time immersion that Christmas is coming.
Over the past few years, we’ve found lovely, nourishing activities that bring quite beautifully the star symbolism to this Festive season – but ‘something’ has just still felt to me, in my heart, to be ‘missing’. Something wasn’t ‘filling in’ this ‘nature star’ wonderland. Sure, the garden is full of stars dancing around on springtime flower heads and there is lovely symbolism of the season in plantain ‘candles’ and coriander ‘baubles’, but nothing really ‘jumped up and sang’ like the symbolism of the grass stars do…. Then this week amongst our daily garden time that we’ve been enjoying through this glorious Spring time rhythm – there it was, right in front of me! Standing tall, waving and ‘shining’ just like the grass stars do as they tumble along the East Coast beaches was Mother Mary’s crown of stars that Little Parsley wears, to remind us in our busy Spring garden enjoyment that soon – the Christ Child will be born. Little Parsley calls out “are you getting ready?” 🙂
As I sat there during our nature time, helping the children to arrange a ‘spring garden’ of letters (for the G1 child) and snails (for the nursery aged child) made out of collected nature treasures including lupin flower petals – this story idea trickled through my mind as we noticed the beauty of little parsely’s seed heads. If you look close enough, they look just like tiny little shimmering stars. I mused how every year – Advent, despite my best intentions to be more organised and prepared than the year before, always seems to creep up on us. Every year it seems it is the week leading up to Advent before we even really notice. Our lives are so busy with all our Springtime happenings in this food-garden-tending life we now live.
I’m excited about the weaving of this ‘star crown’ story into our Advent preparations over the next few days. I must of course thank here, Susan Perrow and Jacqui Lindon-Smallpage for their beautiful stories that not only nourished us all those years ago and started a wonderful family tradition for us, but also for that idea of the children being so busy with the warmer, longer days that they almost might forget about Mother Mary and the journey she is soon to make. It was this concept that was so strongly identified with our preparations revolving around the grass star collecting. In my soul searching of weaving something meaningful into our new southern life, this still had to be the essence of our story. This story now speaks to myself and I know it will to our children as well, with the symbolism of our own environment, climate and busy food-garden-farming life that they are immersed in here in their new southern home.
Little Parsley and her Star Crown
A Southern Tasmanian food-garden-tending Christmas story
It had been a long, cold Winter. The children had enjoyed it immensely; tobogganing, maple taffy making, snowman building and animal tracking. Hot chocolates by the fire, plenty of herbal tea and lots of delicious baked treats. It had even snowed at the children’s house where it doesn’t normally snow! The snow was thick and low.
Such a fun, wintery wonderland.
Well as you can imagine, when the first signs appeared of King Winter stepping off the seasonal throne to make way for Lady Spring’s beautiful dance, the children were very excited. They’d spent even more time sitting by the window through this winter – bundled under quilts, propped up against blanket and pillow forts, dreaming of time outside on warm, sunny days; the colours, the perfumes, the fun, the songs and the longer days. This Spring seemed even more magical than ever before – everything seemed to Jump up to Live Again with great gusto – more vibrant and colourful than the children had ever remembered in any other Spring before. The birds seemed to sing louder, the flowers seemed to bloom brighter and the days seemed to lengthen so quickly. It wasn’t long before their Mother was saying “Yes, it is bedtime – even though Father Sun hasn’t put on his red pyjamas yet and climbed into bed, you, my dears do have to go to bed now” … “Ohhhhh” the children would grumble as they tiredly tumbled into bed. Surely they could (yawn) just have (yawn) one more (yawn) little run out (yawn)….. s…..i…..d……e…. zzzzzzzz…. Mother would barely have finished the first lullaby before the children had fallen faaaaast asleep – so tired they really were from all their outside running, jumping, skipping and hopping. Soon they were dreaming, on the dream land train, of all the wonderful things they’d do outside again
in the gardens tomorrow.
Well as Lady Spring had come and swept these children up in all her glorious beauty, they didn’t even really notice that Lady Spring was slowly starting to hand over the reign to Mrs Summer. The children were still so busy in the garden. And who else do you think was preparing for their annual visit? That is right… Joseph was saddling the donkey, Mother Mary was preparing herself and soon the baby Jesus would be born – but the children, they were still spending so much time in the garden, right up until bedtime some nights, they hadn’t even thought at all about who would soon be visiting, nor had they started to think about what treasures they would build their stable with this year!…
The Christmas Angels became quite concerned that these children in all their Spring excitement really would forget about Christmas this year. Oh how Mother Mary always loved to see the children carrying their little nativity figures slowly through their home each night, building a stable for the Holy Family to arrive in and the hanging of the Christmas Star as the Holy Night approached… Stars! Of course! That gave Mother Nature an idea! If the children were so busy in the garden – then she’d fill the garden with stars to remind the children that Mother Mary would soon be walking down
through the stars to visit them.
The Christmas Angels, Lady Spring, Mrs Summer and Mother Nature all worked together – weaving a beautiful array of tiny stars into the garden with flowers from; borage, tulbaghia, jonquils, violets, rampian and lychnis – the plantain sent up tapered tops on long stalks to remind the children of their Advent candles and the coriander burst into little round seed heads to try and call to the children – reminding them of the baubles they hung on their Christmas tree each year. … The Shepherd’s Purse even sent out little love heart shaped seed pods to try and remind the children how much they loved the Christmas season that they were soon going to forget this year – but nothing! … The children still galloped, sung, planted, weeded, mulched, watered and played all through the gardens. Sure – they noticed the pretty stars and created fairy stews and elemental gardens from them as well as the plantain and coriander that they even picked to take inside for their own meals! But even though the whole garden was singing at the top of their voices the children were so caught up in all the fun of their Springtime joy, that still they didn’t think about Mother Mary who was soon going to be visiting…
Then a little voice spoke up from down under the celery, hidden by the great canopy of Cape Gooseberry and circled around by baby oak leaf lettuce. “I think” said little parsley “that if I stretch up very high, right onto my tippy toes and hold my hands up the highest I can reach, that maybe, I will stand tall enough for the children to take notice. And then” suggested little parsley “possibly I could wear that starry crown of flowers and seeds that I’ve seen other parsley sisters wear, please Mother Nature, could I – could I? I really think it might help”. And then everyone smiled. Of course! Why hadn’t they thought of that! So the next day Mother Nature spoke to Father Sun, he shone bright and happy and beautifully warm. Little Parsley reached and stretched and stood up as tall as she could. And then… Right over the top of all the other plants in her little bed she reached high-high-high … And as she did, Mother Nature appeared with the starry crown little parsley had remembered – “Good Luck” whispered Mother Nature as she placed the crown on little parsley’s head….
Then the next morning when the children ran through the garden, singing to Lady Spring and picking a beautiful posy of all the sweet peas in the garden, they stopped and looked at little parsley standing tall and waving to them with the help of Baby Breeze. “Mumma, Mumma, come quick” they said “Look here at little parsley, look at her starry-starry crown! Isn’t it beautiful! Just like the crown Mother Mary wears when the Three Wise Men arrive – why Mother, isn’t Mother Mary coming to visit us again soon?”
And with that the whole garden cheered. The birds sang out loudly, Brother Wind whistled a sweet little tune and all the flowers cheered by letting out a little bit of extra Springtime perfume for Baby Breeze to blow around. The children smiled at all the delicious Springtime Magic and ran inside to prepare all the magic they liked to have awaiting Mother Mary along her journey.
I also wanted to share this beautiful post from The Little Gnome’s Home. It contains a lot of our own family Advent and Christmas traditions, that were also inspired and brought to life by the wise words of Ebba Bodame, all those years ago when our eldest was just a wee newborn baby.
I wish you all a Happy Advent. May your Festival be filled with rich tradition, meaningful stories and warm celebrations.