Below is a list of traditions for the darkest time of the year - May they serve as inspiration for your Holiday season!
Jolabokaflod is one of the most unique and charming Iceland Christmas traditions. The people of Iceland celebrate it on Christmas Eve. Jolabokaflod translates into "Christmas Book Flood." The tradition is to give or receive new books on Christmas Eve. It's not just about the giving though—it's also about the reading!
Here's a list of the Best-Sellers from the past two weeks to give you some inspiration on great books to gift this year! See the Best-Sellers
Celebrated in Portugal on Christmas Eve, Consoada honors dead friends and relatives who can no longer join in on the holiday celebration. One normally leaves an empty spot at the table for the alminhas a penar (or "souls of the dead"), who may be present at the feast. This is a way to honor the dead and to remember them fondly with family and friends.
Walk the Advent Spiral
The Advent spiral began in the 1920s when a curative nurse brought it into a group home dedicated to the care of children with disabilities. She had been inspired by the custom from long ago in Bavaria, where farmers would bring moss and twigs into their homes and fashion a garden on a table, which was lit with candles in apples. As a child of Waldorf education, I walked the advent spiral every year (it was my favorite tradition).
Here’s how it worked: Evergreen boughs (a symbol of life) are placed in a spiral form on the floor with a large candle in its center. The room is darkened and the mood is peaceful. The spiral begins; one at a time one walks into the spiral with an unlit candle. In the center of the spiral, a large candle is lit, and from it you light your own. You place your lit candle with care along the spiral’s path and leave the spiral.
The experience of the Advent spiral reflects the human experience at this time of the year; entering a time of darkness, of shorter days and longer nights and going forward with hope to welcome the light of the sun after the winter solstice.
Make your own Advent Spiral:
What you’ll need:
Evergreen Boughs (I get mine at Trader Joe’s - affordable and beautiful)
5 - 10 large apples
5 - 10 small votive candles
Create your candle holders using the apples and candles. Watch this video to get an idea
Alternatively, you can use tea lights and skip the apple/candle processing
Make the spiral: Create your spiral using the evergreen boughs (you can even make an evergreen spiral on your kitchen table or on an altar if you don’t have space to walk the spiral) Place a lit candle in the center of the spiral. Holding your apple candle (or tea lights) slowly walk the spiral, lighting your candle from the center candle. Place your lit candle along the spiral. Repeat, or invite friends and family to participate, until the spiral is completely lit.
Reflections: Before beginning your walk into the spiral, reflect on what needs light in your life. What darkness would be benefitted by some light shone on it? How has shining the light in the past transformed your experience? When lighting your candle in the center of the spiral, imagine the light is being shone on whatever you pictured. Imagine the light bringing awareness and clarity. If you light the spiral on a table, take 10 deep breaths as you imagine clarity and awareness expanding with each candle you light.
A holiday celebration that began in Norway, on the night of the winter solstice it was common to hoist a giant log onto the hearth to celebrate the return of the sun each year. The Norsemen believed that the sun was a giant wheel of fire which rolled away from the earth, and then began rolling back again on the winter solstice. The celebration of Yule is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world.
Celebrate the Winter Solstice with Intention Setting
The winter solstice is considered the seasonal dark night of the soul. Spiritually, it’s a time to honor both the light and the darkness that resides within each of us. Take small scraps of paper and write down the things that you would like to let go of. When finished, throw them in the yule log fire (or light them and let them burn in a firepit or can), transforming darkness into light. After “letting go,” set intentions for the new season ahead—speak aloud a thing, idea, habit, or practice that you would like to bring into your life.
The Solstice falls on December 21st - set aside your evening for an intentional evening of reflection and letting go
May we all celebrate this time of year in a way that aligns with our values. The darkness during cold months of the year is a time to slow down, look within and trust in the promise of the sunlight returning.
It can be helpful during this season to remember that when we allow the dark in, we also welcome in the light; to see what is beneath the surface of things and to contemplate. Contemplation necessarily requires quiet alone time, so if you find yourself overwhelmed with plans and commitments, this is a wonderful time of year to reevaluate how you want to spend your days and what is worthy of your time and energy.
Feel free to send me an email with your holiday traditions!