Creating Holiday Memories: 5 fun winter rituals for the whole family
December 21, 2023
This time of year is ripe with traditions both secular and religious, but there are so many other ways to get in touch with the energy of the season without buying into the more common (and let’s face it, capitalistic) winter traditions. Whether you’re a spiritual person or practice an earth-based religion, you’ll want to look farther and deeper when creating family rituals to pass down for generations. You’ll notice that there are certain similarities between the celebration of Christmas and some of these more spiritually inclined rituals, and that’s because all ancient people celebrated some sort of festival or holiday during this time of year, so there’s a lot of commonalities.
This is the time of year when the sun is as far away from us as it can possibly be, making the days very short and the nights long. Around the 21st of December we experience the winter solstice, which is the day with the longest night. While winter can seem long and daunting in December, the winter solstice is actually an exciting marker in any earth-based religion since it signifies the return of the sun (slowly, but steadily).
Because of this, wearing and decorating your home in sun colors such as yellow, orange and red can be a fun and simple tradition to incorporate into your holidays. Place oranges on your table, light orange candles, wear yellow socks, hang red streamers up in your hallways with help of the whole family in order to invite the guiding light and illumination of the sun back into your lives on these cold winter nights.
This time of year is when we celebrate Yule, a winter holiday that is associated with the earth based religion of Wicca, which celebrates the wheel of the year. The Wiccan holiday system is based on the annual movements of the sun and how those movements affect us here on Earth. So Yule is a time for darkness, contemplation, and rebirth. Even though it is dark and cold outside, Yule is the celebration of the anticipation of the sun returning in full force, the yearly birth of the sun god. It is the celebration of the days growing longer and longer!
The decorating and burning of the Yule log is a tradition that has been practiced for centuries in Europe. It is the art of decorating a chopped log and creating a winter altar from it. Things like holly, cranberries, oranges, cinnamon, candles, and even small presents can be used to adorn the Yule log. On the evening of Yule it is customary to place the Yule log into your hearth or fireplace and burn it. This ritual is meant to promote a warm and healthy winter for the whole family, and it can also work as a manifestation ritual.
You may have also heard of the tasty Yule log cake, which is traditionally a chocolate cake made and decorated to look like a log. This is a great alternative if you don’t have a fireplace, or if you just love cake… though I do suggest that you try not to burn it!
This is such an easy and joyous ritual to add to your family’s winter repertoire. Start by filling a large pot with water and bringing it to a boil on the stove. Next add in orange and lemon slices, cinnamon, and cloves. Some other add-ins you can use are cranberries, pine needles, apples, ginger, and vanilla. After you’ve added your ingredients, bring the pot down to a simmer, stirring and checking on it occasionally to keep it from overflowing or burning.
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These simmer pots are going to make your house smell incredibly festive, and If you have young kids at home, simmer pots are a great way to create beautiful life long memories of holidays at home with the family. Our sense of smell is deeply connected to memories, so these fragrant simmer pots will leave a lifelong imprint of a happy youth.
Take this ritual to the next level by looking into the magical properties of each ingredient. The orange and lemon slices help us welcome the sun and illumination back into the world as well as promote joy and creativity, cinnamon is good for enhancing psychic abilities, and cloves are typically used for cleansing and banishment.
No matter what you celebrate this time of year, we’re all familiar with the decorative trope of red berries and green leaves. It is believed that the holly plant’s ability to sustain green leaves throughout the winter months–while other plants and trees turn and die–is a magical feat. The practice of bringing these plants into your home during the winter months is a ritual meant to inspire survival through the dark, cold and unknown.
Life may not be nearly as rugged and hard fought as it was before, but the message stays the same: winter is harsh. These cold months can be a tough time for many reasons, so hang boughs of holly and decorate your tables with its evergreen leaves this time of year as a daily reminder that life will go on and you have the strength to see it through.
No good holiday is without a feast! Feasting has long since been an integral practice among every community and culture, and for good reason. Food is our life force and a few hundred years ago, what you grew in the spring and summer and harvested in the fall would have to be enough to get you through the winter. Our bodies work really hard during the cold winter months to keep us warm and regulated, and the more food we have to help keep us fit and healthy, the better!
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Not to mention the community aspect of feasting. A good winter feast should really be a potluck, where friends and family gather to share food and company with one another. This is a time of year to practice generosity and to teach the younger generations what it means to give and care for one another. You can even take your feasting to the next level by volunteering at community kitchen and helping to make sure that the more disadvantaged members of your community have a good meal to warm their bellies as well.
Jasmine Wolfe is a professional astrologer, tarot reader, numerologist, and witch. Being a Capricorn sun and Scorpio moon, her readings tend to focus on the more challenging aspects of life and what we can learn about ourselves when we lean into the challenge. Having entered the professional scene in 2018, she's grown a loyal following of students and mentees through social media. You can find her on Instagram and TikTok @satinsaturn or through her website https://www.jasminewolfe.xyz/
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