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December 17, 2013 > Welcoming winter with Coyote Hills

Welcoming winter with Coyote Hills

By Jessica Nol Flohr

The cool, crisp days of fall are quickly slipping away into winter. ItÕs time to bundle up and gather around the fireplace! Holiday shopping is well under way, and Hanukkah has already come and gone. Candy canes, lights, evergreens, and ornaments decorate shop windows and street lamps. What is it that makes this time of year so special?

Some of the ancient holiday stories are familiar. The baby born in a manger, given gifts by kings, is one weÕve all heard. The miracle of one dayÕs oil lasting eight days in the temple is also a treasured favorite. But is there something even more ancient than these?

Long before the baby from Bethlehem, even before the oil in the temple, seasonal celebrations marked a turning point of the year. Pre-Christian peoples acknowledged seasonal change with festivals full of light, feasting, dancing, and song. Many symbols of these ancient festivals were adapted into newer stories and celebrations.

Origins of winter solstice celebrations are unknown, but evidence of early observance may date back to the late Stone Age; the sun, moon, and stars served as a calendar. Early humans observed changes in the seasons and assigned personal meaning to them. As winter approached, temperature dropped, days were short, and nights longer. The short day of winter solstice proceeds the longest night of the year. After the solstice, days gradually lengthen and nights become shorter until the summer solstice in June, when the process reverses. Fire became a natural focal point for the solstice celebration. The use of evergreens and lights remind us that life goes onÑlonger hours of sunlight will return. The rebirth of the sun, its light and warmth is a central focus of winter holiday celebrations.

Coyote Hills Regional Park is hosting a ÒWinter Solstice CelebrationÓ on Saturday, December 21. This event is open to the whole family, but especially for children ages ten and up. Park naturalist Kristina Parkison will lead park-goers on a hike through the marshland habitat and share stories from a wide variety of winter holiday traditions. ÒIÕm planning to talk about the evolution of the holidays: where did mistletoe come from, what is celebrated in different traditions and who celebrates these holidays,Ó says Parkison. When asked what draws her to the winter solstice she says, ÒI like winter a lot. I like that the solstice is the first day of winter and the longest night of the year. It makes me feel like I want to get cozy, drink hot chocolate, and eat soup.Ó

This is the first year the park is hosting a winter solstice event, though they have held several summer solstice celebrations in previous years. The hike and talk will begin at 4 p.m. and last about an hour and a half. Boys and girls will be invited to construct a solstice crown from paper flowers. At eveningÕs end, attendees can help themselves to some soothing hot chocolate.

Earlier in the day, Coyote Hills will host an Open House. Participants can join in nature crafts, listen to stories, and visit the animals in residence. On Sunday, December 22, children ages 14 and up are invited to make miniature tule basket ornaments using natural, local materials. Naturalist Dino Labiste will lead this class on the variety of ways to use the tule plant. Parent participation and registration are required for these events. Please contact Coyote Hills Regional Park at (510) 544-3220 for more information.

Coyote Hills Open House
Saturday, Dec. 21
1 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Solstice Celebration
Saturday, Dec. 21
4 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Mini Tule Basket Ornament Workshop
Sunday, Dec. 22
Noon - 4 p.m.

Coyote Hills Regional Park
8000 Patterson Ranch Road, Fremont
(510) 544-3220
Free event
Parking: $5

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