Winter in Alexandria Activity Portal
While our lives today look different than generations past, winter still brings a common feeling of change. Even this year, when COVID-19 is changing much of what we do, colder days, longer nights, and holiday celebrations still mark this time of year.
Explore collection highlights and seasonal activities through four themes and discover ways you can make a difference in your community this winter season. Historic Alexandria hopes you enjoy exploring on you own, with those in your household, or as an activity in a virtual gathering!
Historic Alexandria's Winter in Alexandria kits are sold out! For only $25, the kits included instructions and supplies for over 10 different activities shipped directly to you. The kit will arrive in time for the school winter break—a perfect way to keep elementary-aged children engaged!
Celebrating Family and Community
The winter season brings holidays where many people pause to gather with family and community. Learn more about how Alexandrians have celebrated with family and community past and present through these videos and activities.
Kwanzaa is an African American holiday that focuses on celebrating family, community, and culture. Learn more about how to celebrate Kwanzaa in your home by watching the video below, from the free virtual Kwanzaa How-To Workshop (held on Saturday, December 5), and by reading more about this special holiday. Create a celebration table at home by making a Mkeka (mat) and learn more about 21st-century Black men and women in Alexandria who have made a difference through this Word Search.
Meet Carlton Funn, whose collection of stories about the African American community and experience are now part of the Alexandria Black History Museum. More of the collection can be viewed online.
Christmas has been celebrated in Alexandria through the centuries. Discover what Christmas was like for soldiers at Fort Ward during the American Civil War and make
Victorian ornaments that harken back to when decorated Christmas trees first became popular in the U.S. Learn more about the history of
decorating a Christmas tree and enjoy the
annual lighting of the Alexandria tree virtually. Read A History or Christmas in Alexandria reprinted from The Zebra.
Hanukkah: Alexandria has been home to people of many faiths. Jewish immigrants have been part of the City since the 1850s, with Beth El establishing its first temple on Washington Street in Old Town. Learn more about Hanukkah and this historic congregation and make a menorah to celebrate.
Keeping in touch with family: With the advent of digital photography, sending family photos at the holidays has become a common way to keep in touch this time of year. Before photography, the most affordable way to capture the likeness of a family member was through a silhouette. Try your hand at cutting a silhouette —they make great gifts, especially for loved ones who can’t be near this year.
Decorating for the Holidays: Many families enjoy holiday decorations, whatever holidays they celebrate. Print these coloring pages to decorate a room or the houses of historic Captain's Row for your special holiday. Make a Shooting Star decoration to remember our city’s early volunteer fire companies, and celebrate today’s first responders.
Sharing: As many of us purchase gifts for friends and family, our thoughts also turn to traditions like Toy Drives that share gifts with those in need. COVID-19 has changed the ways physical items are donated and distributed, but you can still give if able. Visit Volunteer Alexandria’s 2020 Toy Drive or the Fund for Alexandria’s Child for ways you can support local families this season. Also, consider supporting local businesses by “shopping small” this season. Visit Alexandria offers a helpful guide to independent stores in Alexandria and black-owned businesses in Alexandria.
Winter brings not just the changing of the seasons but the beginning of a new year. Marking these milestones helps us to reflect on what we have been through and where we are going. While we often think of celebrating milestones, they are also times to grieve losses and remember loved ones. The following videos and activities offer some traditions from our past that allow us to mark this winter’s milestones.
Traditions: While virtual gatherings are the safest way to see friends and family this year, they can still include traditions that mark the season and passing of time. Revive the art of toasting at your next virtual gathering or call a family member or friend to interview for an oral history. You can even share your stories with Chronicling the Pandemic to preserve them for future generations.
Commemorative Ware: Looking for something different? Try making your own commemorative ware. All you need is a paper plate and markers to copy this tradition of capturing the year or a particular milestone on tableware. Follow along with this how-to video or download step-by-step instructions. This is a great activity for a virtual gathering—what will you make and share via video?
Time Capsule: If you prefer collecting over creating, a time capsule may be ideal. Time capsules, like the one featured in the video below, gather memorabilia that helps mark an occasion. What might you include in a time capsule to reflect the year?
Giving Back: Many people make a resolution to better themselves and their community to mark the New Year. While volunteering in the community may look different this year, there are still many ways to give back. Volunteer Alexandria maintains an up-to-date list of ways to get involved during COVID and beyond. ACT for Alexandria is another way to give back and discover other non-profits in Alexandria.
Making and Preserving Food
It is hard picture winter without the comfort foods and holiday dishes that come with it. While our lives are no longer dictated by the farming seasons, the celebration of harvest and preservation of food is still part of our collective rhythm.
Enjoy these recipes and the history behind them:
Learn how Moss Kendrix changed the face of advertising through this collection highlight from the Alexandria Black History Museum. See the recipes above to try the Turkey and Ham Divan from the video.
Fight Food Insecurity: Many people in our community are struggling to make ends meet this season. Alexandria is providing food assistance through a variety of organizations. ALIVE is one of many organizations you can support who are fighting food insecurity in our area.
While how we stay warm has changed over time, as the weather turns colder, we naturally turn to ways to bundle up and stay warm.
Quilting: Learn the basics of hand sewing while making a small quilted blanket perfect for your stuffed animal or doll. You can watch the video tutorial here. The tradition of sewing quilts was a way to add art to everyday life, and warmth to cold winter nights.
Candle Making: Try your hand at making candles as a reminder of ways we have sought to add light and warmth to our homes before electricity. Learn the fascinating history of Lucifers, the first matches, through this collection highlight from Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site.
Housing and Heating Assistance:
heating assistance becomes paramount as the weather turns colder. The
Washington Area Fuel Fund is one of many ways individuals can support the efforts to keep everyone’s heat on this winter.
Full List of Activities and Recipes
- Candle: Create a candle from sheets of beeswax
- Commemorative Ware: Use disposable tableware to create your own commemorative piece.
- Captains Row and Holiday Decorating Coloring pages: Print and decorate coloring pages to bring the holidays to life.
- Hanukkah Menorah: Use household items to make a menorah.
- Kwanzaa Mat: Create the basis for the Kwanzaa Celebration Table.
- Oral History: Interview a family member about their year and how it has changed.
- Toasts: Revive the art of toasting, inspired by 18th-century language.
- Shooting Star Firefighting Decoration: Make Shooting Star decoration to inspired by our city’s early volunteer fire companies.
- Silhouette Cutting: Preserve a person’s likeness with this historic technique.
- Toy Quilt & Video Tutorial: Learn to hand sew and make a small blanket for your stuffy.
- Victorian Ornaments: Create two different ornaments inspired by Victorian decorations.
- Word Search: Remember modern African American change agents as part of your Kwanzaa celebration.
- Cheese hedgehog: Make something different for your holiday table this year.
- Hot Mulled Cider: Enjoy a historic beverage and learn about the history of wassail.
- Ship Biscuit: This food was meant to last—months or even years!
- Turkey and Ham Divan: Try this classic 1950s dish from the Moss Kendrix collection.