When my Sweetie and I met and married over 40 years ago, we had to combine the traditions we were used to for the holidays in November and December. Back then, our only concern was how to introduce each other to the holiday we had not grown up celebrating-Hanukah for me and Christmas for Al. Thanksgiving we could both do…although some of the side dishes he was used to were not ones my family had and vice versa. Small beans in terms of problems to be negotiated.
Fast forward to our lives in 2021 where the complications have grown. We raised our Daughter celebrating both December holidays; however she has created her own traditions as she has grown older that are more focused on gathering with friends than celebrating specific holidays.. She has been a vegetarian over half her life, and Al recently became a vegan, so as you can see, traditional turkey dinner doesn’t work for them. In addition, I have drifted away from celebrating Christmas and focus more on the nature based Winter Solstice rituals which are more spiritually gratifying for me. And when you add the burgeoning awareness of how the Thanksgiving “story” exploited the indigenous Americans, I am even less inclined to joyfully celebrate Thanksgiving with the old themes of “Pilgrims” and “Indians”.
I now realize the value in being intentional about what I celebrate and who I invite into these celebrations. I also prioritize meaningfully selecting the foods and activities I include. The simple pleasures and quiet joys of holidays smells and sights are what I treasure. Small rituals like lighting a candle and remembering a memory or person from the past bring priceless gifts…Keeping an ongoing list of what I am grateful for enriches my days and reduces my anxiety about the chaos swirling outside my door.
I wanted to share one of my favorite visualizations for this time of year.
Find a place that is quiet where you can relax without being disturbed. Gently close your eyes and let your breath deepen. You find yourself driving to a forest outside of town. Park your car and start walking down the trail and into the woods. You can hear the leaves under your feet and smell the pine as the trees gently blow in rhythm to the wind. You continue to walk down, down, down until you arrive at an empty cabin on a lake. You go in and warm yourself by the crackling fire…grab a cup of warm tea, and head out the door again. To the left there is a large stand of towering trees…the trail beckons you to go there and walk deeper and deeper into the forest. After some time, you come to a clearing. In the center there is a giant pine tree aglow with decorative snow globes lit from within. Each one contains a different scene. There is a light dusting of snow and the stars are emerging as day turns into dusk. You are magnetically drawn to the tree and your eyes light up with the wonder at such magic and beauty. You are drawn to remove one of the snow globes from a lower branch and as you gaze into it, a holiday scene from your childhood emerges. You find yourself merging with the scene. How old are you? Who is there? Drink in the sights, sounds, and smells of this precious memory. Sit with this magical moment as long as you need to. When you feel complete, replace the globe and choose another. You can continue to surround yourself with these precious memories for as long as you like. When you are complete, bow to the tree in gratitude and start to hike out of the forest, a lantern lighting your way. Stop once again to warm yourself in the cabin and then proceed up the hill. Continue up and up and up until you reach your car. As you prepare yourself to leave this area of the enchanted forest, vow to return as often as you desire to connect with those snapshots of yesteryear and the people who are suspended in time and are everlasting on the “Tree of Memory”.
As the days grow shorter and the year wanes, I wish you the warm embrace of all you love. May you shine a light on what your Soul needs and may all of your holidays/holy days be celebrations of the heart.