Expressing Gratitude with Children: Cinnamon Offerings

I posted recently about the prayer flags that I made with my children and playgroup to express gratitude. They are fluttering away in streaks of colour on my verandah, such a beautiful visual reminder of our wonderful blessings.

Another gratitude exercise we did together was to make cinnamon offerings as part of our Easter Celebrations. I didn’t plan this activity very well for playgroup, and we ran out of time to make it the special experience it could have been. I sent some families home with some dough of their own – that is, what was left after my youngest sat there eating it.

Cinnamon offerings are made from apple sauce and cinnamon. A lot of cinnamon. They are not meant to be edible, but as I said, my baby girl ate quite a bit of it while we weren’t looking, clearly thinking they were biscuits. Not sure how digestible that amount of cinnamon is, but she was perfectly fine. So – this activity works best with older children ūüôā

I did manage to make a few with my seven-year-old and my four-year-old at home. We talked briefly about our blessings and what we are thankful for. We cut out shapes and gave them our blessings. When they were dry hung them in the olive tree by our front path, and Buddha was given some blessings also.

The recipe for this dough comes from the book Circle Round, written by Starhawk, Diane Baker and Anne Hill. It is a book full of wonderful ideas for celebrating the seasonal festivals with your family from the Goddess Tradition: crafts, songs, stories and recipes as well as rituals. The dough is listed there under the heading of ‘Cinnanimals’ on page 271.

When these are cooking they are sooo fragrant. They smell¬†divine¬†when they are dried too. Make them to hang in your Easter Tree,¬†you can also make them for your altar or seasonal table. We didn’t have an Easter Tree this year because we were not home for this festival, so we hung them in our garden for everyone to enjoy.

APPLE-CINNAMON DOUGH

1 cup (smooth) applesauce

1 1/2 cups cinnamon

Mix together in a food processor. If you mix by hand do it carefully and slowly, adding a tsp of cinnamon at a time because the cinnamon is so fine that clouds of it will burst out of your bowl! Work it into a smooth and firm dough, adding more cinnamon if necessary.

Dust a flat surface with cinnamon and roll out small balls of dough to press out with cookie cutters. Bless each shape, name the object of your gratitude. Poke a little hole in the top with a skewer if you intend to hang them.

Let the animals dry in the sun, put them in the dehydrator or bake in a slow oven at the lowest temperature until they are dry and firm. They should be much firmer than a cookie.

They should last a very long time (although I think a few birds and animals have had a nibble at ours hanging outside!). The ones we didn’t hang are kept in a paper bag hanging in my cupboard. Spicy and sweet!

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All I Want for Christmas …

… is to keep things simple.

Christmas is waaaaay out of control.

I ventured into a shopping centre today for non-Christmas items and even though it is only the 1st of December and it was 9am the shops were packed and people were charging about all over the place looking for their perfect Christmas gift. The air was tingling with stress and excitement (but mostly stress). Every year I cringe when the Christmas madness begins, and of course the Christmas season starts in September and like total suckers we get caught up in the hype.

I really resent the stress that I feel every year at Christmas. Having to buy or make presents for people takes time and money and for me, both of those are in short supply to begin with. I have always made a point of giving our children only one gift each, and¬†two years ago I vowed not to buy any more toys (and I have stuck to it!). ¬†I just cannot enjoy Christmas with the stress that comes with having to think of presents: finding either the money and time to buy them or the materials and time to ¬†make them is equally stressful when everyone is trying to go shopping at once, catch up with each other at lunches, dinners and parties. It is a mad time of year and for a good reason it is called the silly season. Why would I want to contribute to it by running about trying to get things crossed off my Christmas list? I am busy at the best of times with three children. I just don’t feel inclined to give myself any extra stress by stretching myself further.

I cannot give every person I know a present at Christmas. I certainly can’t afford to and neither do I want to. Last year I made family members a gift each (they all got cloth bags) but this year I don’t think I’ll even be able to manage that. My time is precious to me, so the very act of making and giving a present is a gift in itself that I would assume people would appreciate.

Christmas is NOT about presents or hype or Santa. Christmas began with the miracle birth of a special baby. That is what we are celebrating: the gift of family and love and hope and the blessings we HAVE (not the blessings we WANT). So if I give a gift because I feel obliged to, that gift is not doing anyone any favours, and neither does it make me feel good.¬†I¬†could give gift cards to organisations that use the money for people who need basic things for everyday living, and at the moment that appears to be my best option – because NOT giving gifts and just sending my heart-felt blessing doesn’t seem to be an option.

Now don’t get me wrong: I am not a Scrooge. I am not being stingy with my time and money. I LOVE Christmas! I love Christmas for the stories. I can just drink in all the beautiful Christmas stories!¬†I love it for the community celebrations, for the daggy christmas lights on people’s houses, for the carols, for the fun in decorating and transforming our house into a sparkling wonderland. I love it for the magic and wonder of Father Christmas (not Santa!) that never leaves me. I love it for the opportunity to gather with loved ones and share food and enjoy relaxing together.¬†That¬†is wonderful enough!

I love Christmas for the sentiment of gift-giving but the sentiment rapidly tranforms into resentment when it is a week before Christmas and I still haven’t found or made a present for all my special people. Some years have passed when I’ve gone to bed on Christmas night in absolute relief that it is all over for another year. Now that just isn’t fun!¬†Why can’t we just enjoy the day together without so many expectations?

Last year we got it right: our Christmas was fabulous: a no fuss breakfast at the beach followed by a relaxed and minimalist present opening at home … and an afternoon nap.

So all I want for Christmas is the memory of an extraordinarily joyful day … relaxed and happy and simple.



Keep the blessings going …

I made this wall hanging for myself. It is me in the middle. Above and below me are my beautiful parents. They have their parents either side of them, and so on for generations. Each one of them is a part of me. Each one of them gave a gift to me. Each one of them has a story and it doesn’t matter that I don’t know what their story is. They are a part of me and they walk with me even though they may no longer be here.

I love being in the middle. Anyone can be in the middle. It is a comforting thought, spending time in gratitude for the gifts of my ancestors.

I’ve been thinking lately a lot about our ancestors, and how to honour them within ourselves, and within our daily lives. Spending time with the ancestors makes you realise how short our life span is, and how wonderful our journeys of learning are throughout our lives. Creating the wall hanging above was a very deeply moving experience that left me feeling super aware that I carry the gifts of those who have walked before me. I carry them and use them every day.

But you never know when those ancestors are going to call you to their world. Very recently, my own uncle was called, and after a while, he answered. He is now one of my ancestors. The friend of a friend was called too, leaving his wife and three children behind. And now a little boy in my school community. He hasn’t answered yet. Please send blessings/prayers/positive thoughts/ hopes to these people. He has a whole lot more living to do and the power of prayer can not be underestimated.

**update – the little boy was called. There is now a beautiful and peaceful garden in his honour at this school. He has been farewelled with grief and grace from his community. **

Blessings in Disguise

I am sick again! A passing cold has once again made its home in my lungs. Nothing a bit of rest and care won’t fix … but here is a nice thought from Leunig I found today. It has made me feel much better about it all!

 

God bless those who suffer from the common cold.

Nature has entered into them;

Has led them aside and gently lain them low

To contemplate life from the wayside;

To consider human frailty;

To receive the deep and dreamy messages of fever.

We give thanks for the insights of 

this humble perspective.

We give thanks for blessings in disguise.

Amen