Celebrating Winter: Retreat and Renew

Celebrating Winter: Retreat and Renew

Use these practices to inspire more ease and play this season

During this often hectic holiday season, let’s remember the value of slowing down, connecting to the earth’s vast changes, and finding sweet moments to reflect within and renew. On December 22, we celebrate Winter Solstice: the arrival of winter and the longest night of the year. A turning point in the seasonal calendar, it marks the day of many earth-based traditions across the globe honoring the peaceful, healing gifts of the darkness while simultaneously celebrating the gradual return of the sun’s light.

Rituals for Winter

Some of us are naturally enchanted by winter’s magical qualities, while others experience hardship from the cold weather and decline of the sun. Whatever your constitution, I hope these practices inspire more ease and play for you this season!

Slow down and connect: Carve out tranquil moments to pause and connect with winter. What does this time of year mean to you? Savor simple pleasures like watching the snow fall, taking a contemplative walk to appreciate nature, making a snow angel, or admiring the sun’s reflection upon a luminous blanket of snow. Make a warm beverage, rest, and soak up the long, still nights.

Make a winter altar: Create a seasonal altar and bring winter inside! Collect pine cones, aromatic greens, dried berries, or some mistletoe. Adorn a special table with these winter delights and top it off with a string of colorful lights! Let this altar serve as a reminder that we can sink our own roots deep into the earth to find strength during the cold, just like the plants and trees.

Rest and renew: What nourishes you? Just like many animals that undergo hibernation, we also need to conserve energy and replenish our reserves. Engage in restorative activities, like enjoying healthful foods, naps, creative activity, yoga, meditation, relaxing with friends, or curling up with an inspiring book. Simply be, breathe, and practice gratitude.

Reflect and seed your desires for the New Year: Contemplate your life experiences during 2011. What do you most appreciate? What have you learned? What brought you the greatest joy and love? It’s equally important to consider what may be missing in your life, what you are most deeply longing for. Listen closely to these desires in your heart. Write them down or speak them aloud while you light a candle, symbolizing that the expanding sun will nurture your dreams. As we begin to identify and seed our desires now, we open to an abundant life in 2012 filled with infinite possibilities!

About the author: Leigh Ann Phillips-Knope lives in a purple farmhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with her wife, Kim, where they enjoy living close to nature and excitedly await the birth of their first child at the New Year. Leigh Ann is the co-director of Roots of Change, an organization dedicated to bridging social change, spirituality, and holistic living. As a Life-Cycle Celebrant, she finds immense joy and reward in designing transformative ceremonies which honor the passages in our lives. To learn more, visit or contact Leigh Ann at [email protected].

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