Tuesday, December 25, 2012

What Are Your Winter Holiday Traditions & Rituals?

Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate it
Happy Winter & New Year to all that don't

The past few years have had me thinking a lot about holidays and traditions. I have thought about the joy they brought me as a child, the disappointments, the expectations, the longings, and the way I connect with them then and now. Since I don't have any kids yet and live so far from my sisters and their children I most often find myself skipping holidays or just minimally indulging them as an excuse to have a dinner party with friends. Yet still I have this longing for tradition & ritual. The old traditions just don't seem right though. Christmas, for example, has turned in to this monster guilt driven, money centric beast. This time of year people are stressed, out-turning their pockets, buying meaningless gifts for everyone they know just so they can have SOMETHING to hand over. It is a lot of pressure and takes away from what this time of year is supposed to be about. Gifts, if given, should be something one gives because they want to, not because they feel they have to. It should be something you feel reminds you of the person, something that makes you happy to know the person has, or something you made with that person in mind. These are the only gifts that matter.

I find that I connect most with the observation of nature, changing seasons, and the cyclical passing of time. Celebrating this time of year as a way to honor what is happening around us makes sense to me. I can connect with this. The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year, and thus, the return of the sun and gradually longer days ahead. This time of year also signals the cold winter ahead when we tend to spend more time indoors with friends & family, have more time for self reflection & goal making (new years resolutions anyone?), eat hearty warm foods, and settle in to a slower, sleepy time like the plants and animals around us. These are the things I want my winter holiday rituals to focus on & honor. These are the things that are real and truthful to me. Not the new soda maker or hot dog bun toaster that wastes precious resources and never actually gets used.

In my search for new, meaningful traditions I decided I needed to first look back to my childhood and the traditions & rituals I had and loved growing up. How can I honor those traditions and achieve those feelings of joy through new traditions that I can feel good about.  My list reminded me that being around people, friends and especially family is so very important. Making seasonal crafts was always something that I looked forward to. I remember making garlands and ornaments with my sisters and I know I want that to be a part of my holidays forever. Sharing seasonal food is something that I found holds a lot of emotional weight with me. My memories of Christmas morning quiches  and cinnamon rolls bring me such joy I will definitely find a way of working them in. I have also been searching out other peoples traditions for ideas I can adopt and am finding so much inspiration out there. One I especially find heart warming is to have your family sit in a circle and have everyone tell the family member on their right a positive wish or hope they have for them in the upcoming year. I love how this act shows nothing but love for the receiver with no hope of anything in return (since the person you give your wish to is not the person giving you a wish). It's lovely.

Your Turn!
I would love to hear about YOUR Winter Holiday rituals. What do you look forward to every year and how do you choose to celebrate? Is it something you created yourself, something that evolved naturally, or a tradition that has been passed down in your family from generation to generation? What specifically do you do that represents this time of year for you?


  1. -A holiday hike to decorate a tree in the forest with biodegradable and edible (to the local wild life) decorations.
    -baking goodies to pass out to friends and neighbors
    -tamale making with friends
    -handmade winter crafts (maybe decorations for the tree decorating hike!)

  2. Hello!!
    I come from Slovakia and we have several traditions that I know are different from the American ones... Our Christmas is celebrated on the 24th December, when we have big dinner. on this day, it is said that if you do not eat anthing until the evening, you will see a golden pig :) the the dinner is served - it consists of sour cabbage soup and the second course is a fish - traditionally carp, with some kind of side-dish. After the dinner is eaten, we open our presents under the Christmas tree.
    My family soends the time after that by watching tv, drinking egg nog or mulled wine and relaxing.
    Religious families go to midnight service at church.

    For me, winter is a slow time and kind of cuddly time, when all I want to do is be in bed with a cup of hot tea or bake (I recently fell in love with baking) and write letters to friends. I send out Christmas cards that I make, but when I come to my parents to Slovakia for Christmas, I always write Christmas letters to my pen pals.

    Just like you, I noticed the stress that people feel and create themselves just bfore Christmas... The feeling that you MUST give something to everyone and you MUST go shopping and spend money. That makes me feel like the whole point of the holidays is turned inside out. :(

  3. Always hope for snow, a multi-course homemade meal and lights at night....with a loved one. Cycling at least 3-4 times to see some local Christmas lights in evening.

    Yes, it happened this year. http://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/christmas-haiku-meditations/