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When I was a child, the holiday season brought feelings of conflict and confusion rather than joy and goodwill. My family did not
celebrate Christmas, and while I wasn’t attracted to the excesses of the season, I still felt left out when all my friends at school were talking about what was going to be in their stockings on Christmas morning.
Although I didn’t see it at the time, I think part of my longing to share in the celebration came from a desire to honor the changing of the seasons and the traditions of my ancestors. For thousands of years, human beings have celebrated the return of the light at the winter solstice, when the days begin to lengthen, promising the return of spring.
Many of the rituals of the holidays celebrated at this time of the year have their roots in ancient cultures’ celebrations of the solstice. To spare my daughter the conflict I experienced as a child, I adapted some of these traditions for our own holiday celebration. Every year on the winter solstice, my daughter and I buy a live tree.
We spend the day with friends and family, eating, drinking, and decorating the tree with strands of popcorn, apples, and flowers while we talk about all we have learned in the past year. Then we write our hopes and dreams for the coming year on strips of paper and tie those to the tree, too. On Christmas morning we head outside to plant the tree (edibly decorated for the birds), to grow and flourish along with our wishes for the new year.
Grow your own Tradition
If the standard gift-giving frenzy doesn’t hold much meaning for
you, create your own holiday ritual.
Give gifts that fit:
Start a tradition of giving gifts with meaning. For a pet-loving pal, offer your time at an animal shelter; for a favorite foodie, volunteer at a community kitchen. Athletes might appreciate a donation to the Challenged Athletes Foundation or the Special Olympics.
And for the family that has everything,
buy warm coats in adult and child sizes and donate them to a local homeless program.
Be the sun you want to see:
Take a nighttime walk in nature on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, noticing how the world looks in the darkness. Afterward, eat dinner by candlelight and think about how you can bring more light into the world.
Light up your life:
Connect with a local group (or form your own) to practice 108 Sun Salutations on the winter solstice to celebrate the coming light.
Share your yoga stories with us at Yoga Journal’s Yoga Diary.