Winter stories

by | Jul 21, 2014 | Uncategorized | 12 comments

We are in the coldest part of winter. Not a time to be alone, pecking at the edge of the tide for morsels.

 No, it’s time for our annual midwinter dinner (two weekends ago). Our family links up with my friend and her daughter, and once again we are joined by the Chinese solo mother and her two children. We bring wintry, Christmassy food, for this is our Christmas and new year season, if we follow the rhythms of the earth and sun. I couldn’t photograph my Christmas pudding with its blue flames because the flash drowned the colour of the flickering blue flames. But we all saw them.
It was good to feast with our extended (and extending) families,

and gather around the fire to tell stories. This year our theme was: ‘A special gift’. I was touched by the story told by the Chinese mother. 
As a young woman she saw a little Chinese boy who seemed strong and independent. When she had children, she wanted them to be like that. This little boy was sent away to school at the age of one year old. (Yes! I know.) She thought that to send her children away at a young age would be the secret to bringing them up tough and strong. But, fortunately, she was by this time growing up in New Zealand. She learned about the Play Centre movement, and by taking her children to Play Centre, learned a whole different way. 
Her special gift to her children was bringing them up in this different way, and being an at-home mother until they were ready to go to school.
Connection, not isolation was the answer to raising a strong child, because that child would be secure and loved. This year her 8 year old daughter joined in the story telling by reading a poem she had written and illustrated. We all loved it, and welcomed her coming-of-story-age. Her six year old son sat mesmerised by the candle flames, taking it all in.
Our little one had a story too, which she was too shy to tell, but the week before, she told me so that I could pass it on.
After the stories, which were rich and wonderful, we each lit a candle and made a wish.

Being together, creating new family constellations, creating new traditions and magic. That’s what encourages the light to return, when we are in the dark nights of winter.

Being with real people who warm us, who endorse and exalt our creativity, is essential to the flow of creative life. Otherwise we freeze. 
—Clarissa Pinkola Estes.


  1. Penny O'Neill

    It is always uplifting reading and learning more about your Christmas and new year celebrations, Juliet and is especially so this year. The traditions you, your family and your guests maintain and build upon are inspiring and I absolutely love the storytelling aspect. What an everlasting gift that becomes.

    Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. Peace.

  2. Juliet Batten

    Penny, I’m so glad you are enjoying hearing about our developing traditions. I’ve always loved story-telling and this is a rich way to enjoy it. Thank you.

  3. silkannthreades

    How special to have a coming-of-story-age. How lovely that, in the gathering, people felt safe to tell their stories.

  4. Anne

    What a lovely custom, Juliet.

  5. Vicki Lane

    What a lovely celebration! There’s a lot to be said for building our own traditions.

  6. Juliet Batten

    * Gallivanta, gradually the children are learning how to tell a story, and that’s so lovely to see.

    * Anne, it’s becoming our tradition and we all love it.

    * Vicki, it just takes commitment and when something is repeated every year, it’s amazing how it grows.

    Thank you Gallivanta, Anne and Vicki, good to see you here.

  7. Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Hi Juliet – it is a wonderful tradition you – and always lovely to read at this time of year .. having little ones join and another from a different world – we learn so much …

    Lovely photos and delightfully memorable New Zealand Christmas time .. so glad the little one told her story to you ..

    Cheers Hilary

  8. Juliet Batten

    Hilary, it’s becoming a celebration that we all look forward to. Thank you, & I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  9. Nadezda

    Juliet, what an interesting way to create a strong child!I remember the child nursery center here 30 years ago, when one could leave a baby since 2 months old for whole day. I’ve never liked this nursery! Lovely ‘Christmas’ tradition you tell us, hope your cold time will quickly pass.

  10. Juliet Batten

    Nadezda, it seems that we know a lot more now about what is good for a child. It’s still cold here, but the sun is shining and I’m about to go away on retreat. Thank you for calling.

  11. Friko

    This is such a wonderful way to celebrate the turning of the seasons. Storytelling should be included in every chid’s education.

    These insights into your way of life are delightful and I admire you greatly.

  12. Juliet Batten

    Friko, how wonderful it would be if children learned story-telling, just as they learn to read and write. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. Thank you.


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