Winter in Alexandria Activity Portal

Explore connections between Alexandria, past and present, during the winter season.

Page updated on Nov 4, 2021 at 4:00 PM

Winter in Alexandria Activity Portal

Winter in AlexandriaWhile our lives today look different than generations past, winter still brings a common feeling of change. 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 gathering with friends!

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 in 2020), 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. Read A History of 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.  

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. Visit Volunteer Alexandria’s 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.

Marking Milestones

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: Whether gathering in-person or virtually with friends and family this year, time spent together can still include traditions that mark the season and passing of time. Revive the art of toasting at your next 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 all ages—what will you make and share with friends and family?

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. There are many ways to give back in the community! Volunteer Alexandria maintains an up-to-date list of ways to get involved. 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.

Keeping Warm

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.

Fire Safety: Winter is also an important time to think about fire safety. Play fire safety bingo with your household and be sure to make a fire safety plan! Learn more about fire safety here.

Housing and Heating Assistance: Housing and 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