Living Sustainably: Celebrate a Simpler Homestead Holiday

By Sarah Irvin, DeGraaf Nature Center
This holiday season, families can travel back to a simpler time to celebrate a pioneer Christmas with DeGraaf Nature Center at Homestead Holiday. Enjoy spending time with family and friends as you explore all that the nature center has planned: sweet treats, fun crafts, and plenty of holiday cheer!
Throughout most of the year, our replica pioneer log cabin can only be enjoyed from the outside, but it would not be a true pioneer Christmas celebration without a crackling fire in the fireplace! Come experience what home life looked like for Holland’s earliest European residents, and enjoy some hot chocolate and cookies while you see the space that each family would have shared.
Inside the cabin, we will have many historic artifacts to investigate and toys to play with. Santa will visit us from 1:30 until 3 p.m., but don’t let him get too close to the cookie platter!

Inside our main building, we will have many different make-it and take-it crafts.
“Kids today don’t make a lot of material things that they can touch, feel and keep,” said Phil Oczkowski, chairperson of the nature center’s Heartwood Council and long-time volunteer. “Everyone goes home with something, and they made it!”
Children will get to choose between a number of craft projects including:
 hand-dipped candles (either for decoration or to be used as electricity-free lighting);
 cedar-filled and decorated sachets (that would have helped pioneers to keep insects from chewing holes in their clothing and blankets);
 biodegradable pine-cone bird feeders (to help the feathered friends who stick around for the winter);
 tin lid hand-punched ornaments (that pioneers would have brought to decorate their own tree).
“As a volunteer for this event, I get the biggest kick out of kids who come in and are a little shy about making an ornament, and who really get into it,” Oczkowski said. “Some of them suddenly realize that they can actually make something that’s cool, and I’ve had kids who say they want to do a better one and come back to do three or four.”
All of the crafts made at the event can be gifted to others or can be used as decoration around your home for years to come! This is a great event for young children with adult assistance.
While you’re here, feel free to visit all of the animals that live in our Helen O. Brower Interpretive Center. Our trails will also be open, and if the weather allows, snowshoes will be available for rent.
The Homestead Holiday celebration will be 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 14. No registration is required, and there is no entry fee. Crafts and treats can be bought with tickets purchased at the entrance. We look forward to celebrating together!
 Sarah Irvin is a naturalist at DeGraaf Nature Center.

If You Go
What: Homestead Holiday
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Dec. 14
Where: DeGraaf Nature Center, 600 Graafschap Road

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Community & Neighborhood: The places we live and the individuals we interact with support the development of our personalities and perspectives on life. Encouraging vital and effective communities is essential.