A gift for you! — Five reflections taken from holidays of the season

Peace on earth, good will to men”

—from the Christian nativity story

The holidays are here once again. Thanksgiving was just a few days ago here in the United States. This time of year incorporates many seasonal celebrations, each having basic tenets of peace on earth, light and love, as well as gift-giving. This holiday season began with the eight-day Hanukkah, which started the day before Thanksgiving. The next celebration is winter solstice, followed by Christmas, Kwanzaa and the New Year.

Most of these traditions date back hundreds of years; however, the celebration of Kwanzaa began during the 20th century. Each holiday encourages its celebrants to meditate and turn inward. I have pulled out simple reflections from each winter tradition that you may choose to integrate with your own personal holiday observances this season.

Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights and the Feast of Dedication. It commemorates the rededication of the Jewish holy temple in Jerusalem. The main ritual is the lighting of the nine-branched candelabra or Hanukkiyah Menorah. During the course of eight consecutive nights, a candle is lit from an extra “attendant” candle, until all the candles are alight on the last night. The holiday harkens back to a time when the temple was profaned by Greek rulers. The holiday commemorates the survival of a temple lamp and its untouched oil, which miraculously burnt for eight nights. Blessings are often recited, gifts are given each night, children often play with a special spinning top called a “dreidel” and foods are fried in oil that also commemorates the miracle of the Hanukkah oil.

  • From this tradition, we can take elements of survival, light, divine blessings, celebration and joy. We can look for the gift of inner faith that can illuminate our souls during dark times.

Winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere is an astronomical event that represents the first day of winter. It is also known as a transformational time of the year when daylight begins to lengthen once again in order to prepare the way for spring. Many people involved in the New Age movement and Wiccans give gifts and celebrate this event in hopeful anticipation of the birth of a new cycle of light.

  • This event evokes the triumph of light over darkness. The sunlight’s increase represents a new and positive turning point in our lives. We can look for the gift of trusting Mother Nature and her predictable constancy in sustaining our lives on planet Earth.

“Seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing” 
—Judy the Elf from the motion picture The Santa Claus

Christmas means “Christ’s Mass” and is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus was one of only several spiritual leaders that encouraged humility, selflessness and sacrifice for the greater good. Gifts began to be given as symbols of Christ’s gift to the world as well as the three wise men giving gifts to the Christ Child as written in the story of the Nativity found in the Christian Bible. Today, families often reunite, sing carols, attend church, exchange gifts and feast together.

  • Christians around the world believe Christ is the incarnation of God and their spiritual savior. His birth represents the hope of salvation and God’s great mercy on mankind. Christmas celebrates the birth of a spiritual light of the world. One of Christ’s names, “Emmanuel,” means God with us or God in the flesh. Can we think of ourselves each as being a spark of divinity and see that in each other? We can live authentically and intentionally with passion, which ultimately creates our own rebirth on Earth.

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga, a professor of Africana Studies. It was the first specifically African-American holiday. Kwanzaa celebrates the seven principles of African heritage. Professor Karenga stated that Kwanzaa represents, “The best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.” Kwanzaa asserts seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Gifts that are given are symbolic of the seven principles.

  • We can all use these principles as gifts to each other, gifts to ourselves and gifts to our world. The holiday comes from strong African immigrants, who despite tremendous adversity and enslavement, rekindled the great traditions of their people, their communities and their experiences. In Kwanzaa, we have another tale of survival and rebirth. We are reminded of the miraculous potential of cultural integration, the blessings of traditions, and international peace and cooperation.

“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.”
—Anthony Robbins

The New Year celebration (on the Gregorian calendar) symbolizes starting the year off with fresh, new beginnings. There are countless celebrations worldwide commemorating this event.

  • New Year’s Eve always involves the casting off of the old year, reflection on past events and the beginning of new chances for change. Many people set goals called New Year’s resolutions. We have the opportunity to grow, transform and expand; that is profoundly miraculous!

Most of these holidays utilize the ritual of gift-giving. One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is self-love. We can do that by: learning to be kind and compassionate to ourselves; balancing our responsible side with the child within; taking the time for inward reflection, soul searching and listening to our inner guidance by quieting our minds and listening with our hearts; taking care of our physical bodies (our temples) and emotional needs; and nurturing ourselves with positive thoughts. Self-love offers us the chance to become our authentic selves. Once we are authentic, we are capable of seeing the endless possibilities that await us.

Happy Hanukkah! Happy solstice! Merry Christmas! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy New Year!

Jill E. Greinke, MSW, LCSW, SAC, is a holistic psychotherapist and transformational consultant specializing in transformational counseling and coaching, group coaching, workshops, teleconferences, presentations, speaking engagements and consultations. To get her free report, “Five Steps to Miraculous Living,” visit her at http://jillegreinke.com

This article originally published Natures Pathways Magazine December 2013  http://naturespathways.com/

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