the Winter Solstice & the Christmas Pyramid

Today is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. A day when the sun won’t rise until well after seven, and will set around four. We’ve been talking with the boys about these natural phenomenon — the earth and the sun, axial tilt, the longest night, and the eventual lengthening of days.

The longest night of the year seemed like the perfect time to bring out the Christmas pyramid to bring some festive light to the darkest of days. I’ve been on the lookout for traditions I’d like to pass along to the boys and the Christmas pyramid is one of my favorites.

Our Christmas pyramid has been in my family since 1987 when my grandmother, the boy’s great grandmother, everyone’s favorite Oma, sent it to our family from Germany (I found the original customs paperwork). The pyramid came to us this winter from “Gan-ma Reen” (my mother, Irene), after I e-mailed her asking where I could find one. My mother graciously offered to send us the one I grew up with. It arrived a few weeks ago, with little fanfare and was stashed away for the appropriate time.

IMG_0898The pyramid is fragile, and with two little boys we have to be extremely vigilant around open flame. With this in mind, I put off getting out the pyramid until last night. This year it will only join us for a short time, it will probably be put away just after Christmas, but I’m sure as they get older (and hopefully more careful) it will grace our table for longer.

We lit the pyramid last night after the children were in bed to make sure it had survived the trip from Houston to Sebastopol, and to make sure everything was properly aligned so things could spin smoothly. At first, Gavin was hesitant, as pyramids were not part of his childhood Christmas traditions. It took a few minutes (and some candle alignment) to get it spinning, and soon he was enchanted by the light and shadows from the slow spinning. After our initial test we realized we needed to put something under the pyramid to catch wax drips.

IMG_0905This morning at o-dark-thirty the boys raced downstairs to see what the Advent Gnomes had left for them. The gnomes have been slacking off recently, forgetting to leave chocolate, sometimes leaving notes about “putting up the Christmas tree today” so the expectations were low.

The boys were delighted to see the Christmas pyramid. We lit the candles, Oliver burst into a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells, and we talked about how hot air rising (like in the Great Big Air Book) turns figures on the platforms — the “baby sheep!” and “baby head” being the most notable.

IMG_0918In the candle light the turning blades cast beautiful intricate moving shadows on the ceiling. The top platforms shows carolers, while the bottom level has a simple nativity scene. The infant Christ Child is represented by a head in a manger — “baby head!” and the “baby sheep” are almost as interesting. The pyramid is much more relaxing without a teddy bear (also from Oma) encroaching on the open flame.

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