Hilltown Families


Many family-friendly New Year’s celebrations offer a range of opportunities to not only celebrate, but also to explore by inviting families to visit many locations or landmarks in their local communities. These celebrations includes performances, art shows, hands-on activities, ceremonies and sometimes food! Such events encourage Western Massachusetts residents to engage their local community and experience it from new perspectives. The exploratory aspect of such events provides a place-based element to the cultural learning that New Year’s celebrations foster. Participants can solidify their sense of place as they learn about and become a part of a local culture, tradition and heritage. Moving through the local landscape offers insight and understanding of home, place and the meaning of local identity and culture.

The New Year is often seen as a moment of reflection and intention-setting. While on your first hike, consider taking your journal with you. Nature can be inspiring and provides a place for contemplation and meditation. A few writing prompts to help you get started:

What is a new skill you would like to learn this year?
Describe one of your favorite memories from last year.
Make a list of the favorite places you visited in your community last year.
Make a list of places you would like to explore further this year.
What is a new skill that you learned last year?

Local museums are an experiential way to explore the history of New England holiday traditions and how our present customs were influenced by the cultural practices of the past. Whether you’re interested in learning about food traditions from the past, historic decorations or customary festivities, museum exhibitions and demonstrations provide us with tangible examples in their exploration of history and culture.

Hanukkah is the Jewish holiday known as the Festival of Lights. For eight days, Jewish families light one more candle of the eight that create the menorah each evening. In Western Massachusetts there are many places to explore the traditions of Hanukkah and Jewish culture through community events and local museums. Bring your family to celebrate while participating and learning about customs of the holiday.

In 1966, Dr. Maulana Karenga established an African American and Pan-African holiday, Kwanzaa, based on traditional African “first fruit” (harvest) celebrations. Organized around seven principles (unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith), Kwanzaa aims to preserve, continually revitalize, and promote African American culture. A week-long celebration observed from December 26 to January 1. During this time, look for annual community-based celebrations in which to participate.

Celebrated in Spanish-speaking cultures around the world (and in many communities in western Massachusetts), Three King’s Day celebrates the biblical arrival of the kings in Jerusalem, bearing gifts for the baby Jesus. Learn about the extended holiday season and the traditions and celebrations that accompany Three King’s Day through reading, baking, crafting, and celebrating!

Five questions to get you curious about the origin of winter holiday customs and the traditions your family celebrates.

What is your favorite holiday tradition? Do you have one that your family has done since you were a kid? Do you have new ones you have created with your own kids? This month in “The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons,” Sarah shares her thoughts on holiday traditions, both old and new, and how being able to pull a “tradition from your back pocket” can relieve disappointment and frustration when family and friends can’t fulfill their roles in the holiday pageantry…

History and Traditions for the Holidays The holiday season is full of opportunities to teach your kids about the origins of holiday traditions, getting a glimpse into history and cultures.  The Historic Deerfield and Old Sturbridge Village offer opportunities throughout December for holiday history lessons that are fun and engaging! HISTORIC DEERFIELD: Heritage Holiday Historical Deerfield has a month long series of traditional festive activities for families to enjoy in December. Visitors… Read More

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