Wednesday, December 14, 2016

By Holly Pruett, Life-Cycle Celebrant

These short, dark days of December can be difficult, especially when they come soaked in relentless sheets of rain as they do in my home in Portland, Oregon.

There's no better reminder that we're tethered to the wheel of life: the longest night, followed by the return of the sun, the larger order we are part of, a cycle of change and renewal.

On the dawning of the shortest day of the year I try to sleep in as long as my hibernation-prone body needs. When I rise I light the candle in the center of my solstice wreath, the candles on my mantle, the colored bulbs on my Christmas tree. I savor the cozy home I'm so fortunate to have as winter winds tumble the world outside my windows.


I draw on Phillip Moffitt’s words: "There is no new dawn without the night; their seeming separateness disguises a unity that reflects the unity of life, an unfathomable dance of opposites. This paradox is the very essence of what it is to be alive—joy and pain, sickness and health, light and dark, wonder and fear."

I’ve established an annual tradition of celebrating the winter solstice with a three-part invocation built off Moffat's words:
-      In honor of all the dark times within us and all who now suffer in pain, with sickness, in fear.
-      In honor of the light within each of us, our capacity to feel, anticipate, and generate joy, health, and wonder.
-      In honor of our great teacher, Mother Nature, who shows us how to hold it all, joy and pain, sickness and health, light and dark, wonder and fear, in one continuous cycle of being.​

I offer this blessing when I gather with others in community settings at this time of year. I lead an annual class on Winter Rituals at a local plant nursery. We share stories of winter traditions from our families and explore the old world origins of the holiday customs that persist today in their commercialized and Christianized guises. After we each decorate a candle wreath we admire each other's creations and bless each other with this simple chant:

May the dark days of winter nourish you well. May the light of your candle illuminate your connection to the great wheel of life. 

Lighting a solstice candle connects us to those who illuminate the darkness all over the world. In the Holten Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands, for example, Christmas Eve finds 300 school children lighting candles and placing them on each grave at dusk. The graveyard holds the bones and the stories of 1,394 servicemen who died in the final days of WWII as Canadian troops advanced into northern Germany.

As the cemetery web site says of this annual candle-lighting ceremony:  “The soldiers who are buried in Holten gave their lives for our freedom, that we can now live peacefully in a democratic society. By telling and retelling the story, we pay respect to those who gave their lives and hope that the children (the responsible adults of the next generation) will keep the light of freedom burning.”

Peace be with you all, in darkness and in light. 






About the author: Holly Pruett is a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant who works with individuals, families, and organizations to create personalized ceremonies from cradle to grave. She is a sought-after speaker, workshop leader, and ritual consultant in Portland, Oregon and the founder of PDX Death CafĂ© and the Death Talk Project.

About the Celebrant Foundation & Institute
The Celebrant Foundation & Institute (CF&I) is the nation’s preeminent online educational institute that teaches and certifies people as modern day ritual and ceremony professionals called Life-Cycle Celebrants®. Founded in 2001, the educational nonprofit organization headquartered in Montclair, NJ, is a member of the International Federation of Celebrants.  To date, the CF&I has graduated nearly 900 Life-Cycle Celebrants® who preside over 20,000 ceremonies each year throughout North America, Asia and Europe. To learn more about the CF&I, visit www.celebrantinstitute.org


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