I think cutting snowflakes was the first tradition that our family adopted from scratch. Neither too Christian for our Jewish sons, nor too feminine for boys, the snowflakes began as an art project to celebrate the winter holidays.
Early on, we filled just one window of our house. We were so pleased with our handiwork that we saved what we made, and put them up the next year, even as we made more. Before long our dining room windows were covered with snowflakes. Then our living room…. Now paper lace dresses every window in our house. We hang them up for Thanksgiving, and they don’t come down until Valentine’s Day. Everyone who visits is invited to join in the cutting, and most do.
While the tradition continues, some things have changed. Our boys are grown, and I have retired from full time work. In winter, I see the snowflakes at all times of day. Their paper shapes are crisp, like ironed lace. They filter morning light through our ancient, poured-glass windows. They throw shape-shifting shadows over furniture and walls. At night I wake to their outlines, projected like constellations on our bedroom ceiling. They mark our shortest days, and stave off the chill of our darkest nights.
They keep me company. And when it’s time to take them down, I feel the loss.