Outdoor Celebration

Gathering together and sharing food is how festivals are celebrated across the world. In our family Christmas dinner is time for all the generations to get together. Even though the rules are being relaxed Christmas 2020 will be a bit different for us. My gran is 100 and my parents have been shielding. With new Covid-19 cases at their school everyday we are not going to risk getting together indoors.

I associate Christmas with getting up early to open our stockings, a big dinner round the table, a walk and playing games snuggles up in front of the fire. However, this year I’m going to have to get creative. The risk of transmission is dramatically reduced outdoors so this years at least some of our celebrations will be outside. An outdoor Christmas will hopefully be something to remember for its uniqueness rather than being a poor version of the usual Christmas.

Luckily we are used to celebrating outdoors; lockdown birthdays celebrated by sleeping under the stars and roast lamb on the campfire. Forest School and  campfire cooking courses have given me a wealth of ideas for festive campfire feasts. Here are a few:

Christmas Eve.

Get wrapped up warm and roast chestnuts on the fire outside. Our popcorn maker works a treat for this. The children also love toasting apple slices dipped in brown sugar and cinnamon. A mulled drink can also get you  in the spirit. How about mulled elderberry cordial (reputed to be good for colds and fevers too) just add a cinnamon stick and some cloves, cardamom.

The virus transmission is much lower outside so it makes sense to gather round the campfire rather than the hearth.

Christmas Dinner

Clay roast turkey anyone. I have to admit I’ve only tried the clay baked method with lamb but it was delicious and I’ve looked at lots of pit roast turkey recipes so I think we’ll give it a go. Below are the instructions for the lamb that you could adapt for turkey or other meat of your choice.

  • Source some clay. if you have clay soil like us you can just dig for it. Otherwise buy a big bag of natural clay not the air drying stuff.
  • Light a fire and let it burn down to embers.
  • Place the lamb on some foil.
  • Cover the lamb in herb leaves, rosemary and bay, be careful to remove twigs that could pierce the foil.
  • Wrap it in four or five layers of foil.
  • Plaster a half inch layer of clay all around the foiled lamb.
  • Carefully place the lamb on the embers.
  • Add more logs around and over the lamb
  • Let the fire burn for about 3 hours.
  • Use a shovel to remove the lamb from the fire.
  • The clay should just crack away.
  • When the foil is cool enough touch unwrap the lamb.
  • Serve with roast potatoes cooked in the Dutch oven or chopped vegetables cooked in foil parcels on the fire.

For more tips see the article in the Cambridge Independent

Christmas decorations

Decorate the trees with sustainable decorations like popcorn garlands see our video

Christmas Games

Another fun game to follow the obligatory charades is Secret Santa. Put some key or a bell in a stocking. Blind fold one person who’s seated around the fire. Pick someone to be secret Santa (maybe put a hat on them.) They have to stealthily pick up the stocking and walk all around the circle without making a sound. If the blindfolded person points directly at them they are out. It’s a good way to get children to practice being quiet in the woods so they can observe wildlife better.

Story Telling and Singing

These are both things we do around the fire circle  at Forest School to connect with each other. Children are known for their ability to live in the moment and this is a chance to create a magical moment for everyone. Sing carols round the fire, read a Christmas book or tell a favourite story. Why not ask your grandparents to tell stories about their early Christmas memories?

Mental Health at Christmas

The pressure of Christmas gets to most people at some time. A lower key Christmas outside can really help lower stress levels. Being in nature has a calming effect on many people, it’s like the antidote to supermarket shopping from November being engulfed by Christmas tat. If you know a  family that would like to learn bushcraft skills together why not gift them a family bushscraft day. Only £30 for a family of four and we’ll teach you to use fire and tools in our wonderful woods. A local, sustainable gift for all the family!

In recognition of the therapeutic effects of being in nature we set up Woodventurers. Our Woodland tutors are experienced in working with children with special educational needs. Please do have a look if you think your child would benefit from these sessions,