I love that we live at a time when traditions can become untraditional; recreated to fit our needs and express our own spirit. This works well for me, since I am one who has always sought the kernel of light and beauty at the heart of all things; so when traditions get bogged down, I want to refresh them. Whatever holiday you celebrate, or avoid celebrating, you can enlighten the dark season of the year if you allow your own heart to redefine it, so that it carries your love and truth.
One element of these untraditional times which I so appreciate, is that for many it isn’t the exact date that counts, but the pleasure to be shared when people are together and relaxed with those they love. With so many divorced families, and multiple marriages, young people simply have too many people to visit on a single day. Then when they have children of their own, well, you just feel sad for them, trying to get to so many “special events”! Christmas Eve has become my family’s Christmas day and it is sweet and so relaxed.
Winter Solstice, the ancient celebration of the longest night of the year and the return of light, occurs around December 22. Here is a rich alternative for those who can’t really get on board with Christmas or Hanukkah. My interpretation of this solar event is that when things are dark in the outer world, people may discover the light within their hearts and souls. That light lies at the true heart of all the winter holidays.
Detroit Waldorf School inspired me to create a Solstice event for the children in my community of friends when my daughter was young. We made lanterns from jars wired to sticks, and glued colored tissue paper to them, placing a tea candle inside. Lighting the candles the children walked through the dark night swinging their lanterns — like so many stars beneath the starry sky — to an evergreen tree on which we hung treats for the animals, such as pine cones coated with peanut butter and birdseed. They sang around the tree and asked the loving spirits of life to protect the trees and creatures, providing them with safety and nourishment through the winter months. Then, of course there was a big fire, and warm spiced cider and cookies.
Any traditional holiday, be it Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, or Christmas can be enlightened and enriched by the awareness of our abundance. We can enhance that awareness and increase our joy by giving gifts to our loved ones that provide for others as well. Heifer International is my favorite in this category. They are a service organization which receives the highest recognition for the percentage of donations which actually reach those in need; and their system of giving is so much fun! I get a huge smile from choosing between ducks, goats, geese, angora bunnies, lamas, cows, water buffalo, lambs, chicks, tree seedlings, bees or biogas stoves on behalf of each individual on my list. The gifts you order are delivered to a family in need in this or another country, along with training in their care, and the requirement that they pass along a female offspring and training to another family in need, who in turn will pass it on again… Prices start at $10, so you can share this gift of giving to others with one or many of those you love. Children are wonderfully touched to receive these unusual gifts, feeling close to families in other places, and knowing they are helped by their gift. They love thinking of the other children with their new animals. This is a wonderful gift for professional colleagues, or for children who think the holiday is all about them. Going with friends or family to help out at a soup kitchen or to sing holiday songs for those in a nursing home are other great ways to build amazing memories and deepen the love you feel for the season.
If the spirit in your family’s traditions has fallen flat, perhaps you can enlighten the holiday by bringing in a bit of fresh attitude, and in doing so, empower the light within yourself. You can create the celebration that satisfies your soul! Even if there is just you alone celebrating, you can make the holiday your own way, creating something meaningful, growthful and sweet.
New Year’s Eve is a powerful time for spiritual work. I like a quiet evening with a fire or a candle to meditate, heal and nurture the gifts of the coming year. Even if you love to party, you could take some time during the day or evening to light a candle, welcoming the unconditional love of the universe into your life to heal the previous year, and to bless and guide the coming year for you and for all of us on planet Earth. A tiny bit of mindfulness goes a really long way toward positive change for our world.