Pagan Activities for Winter: 50+ Family Oriented Crafts & Traditions
Winter is a time of reflection, but it’s also a time of family, feasting, and fun. Here are my favorite fun, family-oriented pagan activities for winter. Time to get out the mittens, mugs, and mistletoe! Keep in mind, you’ll see Christmas mentioned in this article, because many of us grew up celebrating Christmas and have blended the Winter holidays to meet our family’s needs. Just because the term Christmas is used, doesn’t make a tradition less pagan. In fact, most of the Christmas traditions originate from older pagan traditions. Feel free to adapt each tradition and name to fit your beliefs and preferences.
50+ Fun, Family Pagan Activities for Winter!
1. Candles in the Window
An Irish custom for centuries, placing candles in the windows guides your loved ones home in the winter months. It also invites the sun’s return. My grandmother did this every Christmas and it was a tradition I always loved.
2. Cloves in Oranges
Who doesn’t love the clove and cinnamon scents of the winter holidays? There’s a winter tradition of sticking cloves into oranges which is called pomanders. Pomanders date back to Medieval times and were used to ward off infection and bad odors. Hang cloved oranges around the house to scent your home and also draw in abundance. Cloves represent success and the oranges summon the sun’s return.
3. Bake Cookies
Whether you call them Yule or Christmas cookies is up to you, but baking cookies is a tradition for any family who loves sweets during the winter holidays. Let your kids decorate gingerbread and sugar cookies. Use cookie cutters in the shapes of stars, Santa, and his reindeer to represent the night sky, Odin, and his steed.
4. Advent Calendar
Advent Calendars are a fun way to countdown to Yule and/or Christmas. Instead of using candies for each day’s gift, replace with natural items like crystals. Advent means “coming” in Latin. Christians think of it as the coming of Jesus, while Pagans think of it as the coming of the sun.
5. Christmas Lights
The winter nights are long and dark, hence the tradition of Christmas lights. They light the way plus work sympathetic magic in inviting the sun’s return. Hang them up on the house and around the interior of your house. And don’t forget to go on a car ride around the neighborhood to see all the beautiful light displays!
6. Cider or Mulled Wine
A cold night can always be warmed up with a hot cup of cider or mulled wine. Give the kids the hot apple cider with a stick of cinnamon and an orange slice, and let the adults partake in mulled wine with cloves, star anise, cinnamon and oranges. The Norse peoples used to refer to Yule as “Drinking Yule”, so why not let it live up to its name?
7. Women’s Christmas
The Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th) is also called Women’s Christmas in Ireland. Its tradition in County Kerry and County Cork to allow the women to have a day out on the town, while the men do the housework and cooking! Honor the women in your life, as you do the Goddess, and give them a day off for Women’s Christmas this winter. It’s also tradition on this day to take down Christmas decorations and the Christmas tree.
8. Gingerbread House
Gingerbread originated in Germany in the fifteen hundreds. If you have German ancestry, honor their memory by making a gingerbread house with your family.
9. Reindeer Food
Odin was known to ride his steed, Sleipnir, through the skies on winter nights. Sleipnir is thought to be the original “Santa’s reindeer”. Reindeer were sacred animals to Siberian shamans. Make reindeer food with the kids and leave it out for the reindeer on Christmas or Sleipnir on Yule.
10. Cookies for Odin & Santa
Whether you celebrate Yule or Christmas (or both), leave out a cookie offering for Odin on Yule and/or for Santa on Christmas Eve. The tradition of leaving cookies and milk for Santa clearly originated in leaving sweet offerings to appease the winter gods in the old days.
Caroling has ancient roots that go back further than we know. “We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” Going from door to door, singing blessings to the people inside in exchange for a cup of hot cocoa or a round of applause? Sounds like you’re bestowing good luck and abundance in exchange for offerings to me! Caroling is the newer version of traditions called mumming and wassailing.
12. Offerings to the Winter Fairies
They say there are a different set of fairies for each season. In the winter season, wouldn’t it be nice to set out offerings for the winter fairies? Frosted cookies and hot beverages would be greatly appreciated by the wee folk. This makes for a fun tradition with the whole family. Set the offerings outside on a tree trunk or somewhere in the garden. This is one of those purely pagan activities
13. Holly & Ivy
Decorate your house and hearth with holly and ivy. Holly and ivy as Christmas decorations predates Christianity. Our pagan ancestors used evergreens to decorate hearth and home for a couple reasons: to keep the “warmth” of the earth alive in their home and hearts, to ward off evil spirits in the winter, and to bring abundance in the new year. In new pagan traditions, the Holly King and Oak King battle it out on the Winter Solstice and the Oak King wins! He represents the return of the sun/earth/summer.
14. Gaze at the Winter Sky
Sometimes the sky looks so clear on a winter’s night. Spend a minute or two gazing up into the sky – notice the brilliance of the stars and the darkness of the black space between. If the moon is out – praise her for her light and glory. Wish upon the north star.
A similar/same tradition as caroling, yet wassailing in apple orchards is believed to provide a good harvest in the coming year. Wassailing is basically singing to the trees, honoring the spirits in the trees, and ensuring a plentiful bounty of apples in the coming year.
16. Yule Herbal Sachets
Make herbal sachets full of Yule and Christmas spices to hang around the house. Cinnamon, clove, star anise, and apple serve to sweeten the air, plus bring abundance in the coming year to your home. Choose herbal sachet bags of red, green, silver, and gold.
17. Sun Bread
The Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. But the following day brings hope with the sun’s glorious return. Bake bread in the shape of the sun to celebrate the sun’s return to the earth. Recipes and instructions can be found online. Eat and partake in the sun’s warmth and abundance for the year to come.
The pinecones have dropped. Hopefully you collected some last Fall! Now you and the family can decorate them with silver and gold spray paint and glitter OR decorate them like Christmas trees and hang them on the tree!
19. Winter Solstice Spiral
The spiral symbol represents the never-ending cycle of life, death, and rebirth and did so for our ancient Celtic ancestors. On a snowy day, go outside and create a spiral made of evergreens and stones to honor our ancestors and the great cycle of life. It also makes for gorgeous photos and a lovely offering to the winter spirits.
20. Resurrection Flower
The Resurrection flower is also known as the Rose of Jericho. It is a tumbleweed and desert plant that seems dead, until soaked in a bit of water then springs back to life! It’s used in hoodoo tradition to bring abundance if 5 coins are placed in the water along with the resurrection flower then the water is used to wash one’s front door. Keep the resurrection flower all year, then add water in the winter to represent the return of the sun and renewal of the earth.
21. Yule Altar
Clean, consecrate, and re-decorate your altar to honor the Winter sabbats, gods, and spirits. Choose evergreen garland, red and green candles, and silver candle holders to name a few.
22. Yule Log
The Yule log is steeped in ancient tradition. Choose a log and decorate it with greenery. You can even carve out holes to use as candle holders until it’s time to burn the yule log. Traditionally, it was burnt slowly over the course of the 12 days of Christmas then a piece was saved to light the next year’s yule log. That piece of the yule log was thought to ward off misfortune in the coming year.
23. Yule Christmas Tree
The true origins of the Christmas or Yule tree are heavily debated, but I think its clear bringing an evergreen tree into one’s home is an ancient pagan thing to do. Whether to preserve the tree’s spirit through the winter or to bring life into the home, the Yule tree is a popular tradition during the winter holidays for many people, religious or not.
24. Books on Xmas Eve
In Iceland it’s called Jolabokaflod or “Christmas Book Flood.” This tradition is about giving each other books as presents on Christmas Eve and then staying up late that night to read them. Give your family books this year and read them together as the Icelanders do!
25. Yule Bock
A Northern European tradition that dates back centuries is the Yule Bock (Yule Goat). Scholars believe it is tied to ancient Germanic paganism, the Harvest, and/or the Norse god Thor. Make your own yule bock out of hay and red ribbon. If it’s small – hang it on your tree. If it’s large – place in random places around the home.
26. Christmas Wreaths
Make your own Christmas wreath out of evergreens like holly or spruce. Hang on the front door for good luck and Christmas cheer. The Christmas wreath is thought to date back to ancient times as a symbol of eternity or divinity (circular shape and evergreen).
27. Hot Cocoa
Drinking hot cocoa is a sweet tradition that all kids love…and many adults. This sweet treat has surprising pagan origins. Sources say the ancient Mayans or Aztecs invented hot cocoa as a drink for royalty.
Without falling into the cycle of mindless consumerism, giving gifts to loved ones during the winter is a time-honored tradition. During a season of cold, bleak days, gifts can cheer us up and bring us closer together. Choose to give gifts with meaning. Special framed photographs, experiences, etc. instead of useless objects that will end up at a thrift store or at the dump.
29. Fruit & Cinnamon Garland
Another fun seasonal craft is making your own garland out of fruits and herbs. String together dried orange or apple slices along with star anise and cinnamon as a beautiful, rustic piece to hang on the mantle or around your home. This is a simple craft the whole family can do!
30. Simmering Potpourri
Want to make your house smell like Yule? Try making a simmering pot of potpourri on the stove this year. Its as simple as adding cinnamon sticks, orange slices, star anise, and cloves to a simmering pot of water.
31. Sun Decor
Bring back the sun by decorating your altar and home with sun decor. Find sun plaques online, or make your own from felt and hot glue.
32. Oranges in Stockings
My grandmother used to add oranges to our stockings at Christmas. This tradition is said by some to be a Christian representation of the gold thrown down the chimney by St. Nicholas; however, pagans know it as a nod to the end of winter and the sun’s return (think citrus – sun).
33. New Winter Holidays
Add a different winter holiday to your winter repertoire. Depending on your culture, there may be a holiday you’ve never celebrated with pagan roots.
Not only does a bonfire keep us warm on winter nights, it also reminds us of the same element our ancestors used to survive the winter months. Without fire, we might not be here. Roast marshmallows and sing Christmas songs together this winter.
35. St. Stephen’s Day
One of those “other” winter holidays we discussed previously, St. Stephen’s Day is celebrated the day after Christmas Day. In Canada, it’s called Boxing Day. Whatever you want to call it, make your own tradition of celebrating this winter holiday in your own pagan way.
36. St. Lucia’s Day
St. Lucia’s Day is celebrated in Scandinavia and is thought to be a more modern Christian celebration of St. Lucia who was once a pagan goddess. Perhaps she had another name, perhaps not. The Grimm Brothers say St. Lucia as another representation of the ancient goddess Berchta. It was originally celebrated on the Winter Solstice, giving it a clear pagan foundation.
37. Dough Ornaments
Another craft tradition centered around the Yule tree – try making dough ornaments with your kids and family members. Stars and suns add a perfect pagan touch to the tree.
38. Ghost Stories
Traditionally, winter was thought to be the season following Samhain (Summer’s end) where spirits roamed the earth…particularly dangerous spirits. Ghost stories were once told around the fire. Bring back the ghost story tradition this winter!
39. Oak King and Holly King
If you have a family of thespians, assign roles to your family members, print out a script, and put on a play of the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King. You could even make special costumes for the event! The winter solstice is when the Oak King takes over rule of the earth, winning against the Holly King in battle.
40. Feast on Yule
What’s one thing we love to do as human beings? Eat, of course! Feasting during the winter holidays has been going on for thousands of years. Long before the church’s rise, our pagan ancestors feasted during the winter as a way to “lighten the mood”, bring the tribe together, and thank the gods for a bountiful harvest. So feast on Yule!
41. Feast on Christmas
See above. Already had a feast on Yule? Throw another feast on Christmas!
42. 12 Days of Christmas
Once upon a time, Christmas was celebrated over a span of twelve whole days! Where do you think the song comes from? Also called Christmastide, the celebration of a holiday lasting more than a few days is said to originate before the rise of the church but was adapted by the church to make conversion easier. Who doesn’t want to celebrate Christmas longer? Do something simple for each of the 12 days of Christmas starting Christmas Day and lasting until January 5th.
Nevermind religion, giving of your time or goods to those in need feels good during the holidays and teaches kids a wonderful morality lesson of compassion and kindness. The holidays are about community and giving.
44. Story of the Baker’s Dozen
There’s an old tale about where the baker’s dozen comes from. It involves Saint Nicholas, an old witch, and a baker in New Amsterdam (NYC). Read it to your kids by the fireside.
45. Story of La Befana
Continuing on the lesser known Christmas stories, children in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world might have never heard the story of the Christmas witch – La Befana. If you live in Italy, you will know the story. La Befana is a witch who gives presents to children on Christmas Eve. Read the story and add the tradition to your home!
46. Story of the Perchten
Does your family like scary stories? Read and tell the story of the Perchten, a horde of scary monsters that parade through the streets of Germany, Hungary, and other countries during the winter holidays, scaring off evil winter spirits. The Perchten are named after the germanic goddess Berchta – read their story here.
47. Christmas Movies
One of the best things about the Winter season is all the family-oriented Christmas movies on TV. Watch a different winter movie each weekend together. Our pagan ancestors put a huge emphasis on family. Elf, Rudolph, and The Santa Clause are just a few of my family’s favorites.
More emphasis on family, but also to keep warm, make time to cuddle up with your favorite person this winter. Did you know 20-second-long hugs release oxytocin therefore relieving stress and anxiety? All the more reason to hug someone close to you.
Have the kids write letters to Santa or Odin and send them “up the chimney” (aka leave it on the fireplace/mantle) or send in the “mailbox”.
Mistletoe is steeped in pagan history. The Druids found mistletoe to be a sacred plant because it grew on their holy tree – the oak. Mistletoe was banned from the church because of its pagan associations for many years. Hang mistletoe in the house and when two people are caught under it together – they’re supposed to kiss so goes the old custom.
51. Goddess Ritual
With Santa, the elves, and Odin getting all the attention during the winter holidays, don’t forget to include the Goddess in your holiday fun. Write and perform a ritual dedicated solely to the Mother Goddess. Perform on the Winter Solstice or on the Full Cold Moon.
52. Snow Fun
If you live in a region that gets snow in the winter, why not get outside in warm clothes and enjoy the winter landscape? Go sledding, build a snowman, have a snowball fight, and make snow angels! Bundle up and enjoy Mother Earth in her glistening, snowy glory!
Krampus is an ancient winter figure known well through Bavaria, Germany and parts of Austria. Recently, Hollywood made a dark humor/scary movie called Krampus based on the old legends. If your family likes to tell scary stories or watch scary movies during the Winter, I highly recommend including Krampus in the festivities. He is likely based on an ancient pagan god. Read more about Krampus here.
54. Hot Tea
If you’re not a big fan of hot cocoa, winter is a great time to make your own tea blends and drink hot tea. Include the kids in this pagan winter activity…it’ll warm you all up and bring you closer together. In addition, craft a tea blend in the name of your gods and ancestors. Then drink in their honor as an offering.
55. Grimoire Work
Do you have a family grimoire or book of shadows? Work on your book together. Little kids can add stickers and stamps to your grimoire pages. Older children can help writing and organizing your grimoire. When you’re stuck inside because of weather in the winter, this is a creative and fun pagan winter activity for all to enjoy.
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connie glaanopoulosDecember 6, 2018 at 11:05 pm
I wonder how many Christians know that Christmas has a lot of pagan ideas behind it. Some denominations admit to it, some just forget the past.
adminDecember 7, 2018 at 2:08 pm
Most people don’t realize it!
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ElyDecember 2, 2018 at 6:28 am
Hello! I’m from Italy and I wanted to tell you that here “La Befana” brings sweets to good kids on January 6, and charcoal (usually fake charcoal made from candy) to the not so good ones. We hang up stocking and the morning after the kids find them filled with sweets.