Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Many Celebratory Rites of Winter Are Ours

By Elaine Voci, Ph.D.  Certified Life Cycle Celebrant

America is one of the most diverse countries in the world with many different spiritual, religious secular and cultural traditions celebrated throughout the year.  In December, that diversity shines brightly with an abundance of festivals and observances that blend into this festive season that makes the winter feel extra special.  In alphabetic order, let’s visit a few of the festivities:

Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day on December 8th which recalls the day in 596 BC when the Buddha sat beneath a Bodhi tree and is believed to have achieved enlightenment, thus escaping the repeating cycle of reincarnation: birth, life, death and rebirth. A descendent of the original tree is the most important of four holy sites of Buddhism.

Christmas is celebrated by most Christians on December 25, and it honors the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Americans, like many of the world’s peoples, have developed their own Christmas traditions and observances, and they include gift giving, attending social gatherings, indulging in special foods and seasonal beverages, performing acts of charity, while at the same time, devoting energy to quiet reflection, rest, inner focus, and stillness. 

One of the most important Islamic festivals, Eid al-Adha (the feast of sacrifice), begins on the 10th day of the last month of the Islamic calendar.  Lasting for three days, it comes at the ending of the annual Hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca.  (Muslims all over the world celebrate, not just those undertaking the Hajj, which for most Muslims is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.)  The festival commemorates the day when Abraham intended to follow the instructions of God to sacrifice his son Ishmael; it is celebrated by sacrificing a lamb or other animal and sharing the meat with relatives, friends, and especially the elderly and the poor. The sacrifice symbolizes obedience to Allah and its distribution to others is an expression of generosity, one of the five pillars of Islam.

Hanukkah is a beloved 8-day Jewish festival (also known as the festival of lights) celebrating the miracle of temple candles which only had enough oil to burn for one day, yet they burned for eight days. It also commemorates the military victory of the Jewish Maccabees over the powerful Syrian Greek army in the cause of religious freedom which was followed by a rededication (Hanukkah) of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah typically falls between Nov.30 and Dec. 26.  Traditional foods include brisket, short ribs, noodle kugel,   and latkes and doughnuts – and lots of smiles.

Kwanzaa is celebrated by an estimated 18 million African Americans and many more in the diaspora, from December 26 to January 1. It is not a religious holiday, nor is it meant to replace Christmas. It was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of Black Studies, in 1966 who wanted to design a celebration to honor the values of ancient African cultures and inspire African Americans working for progress.  Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa honors a different principle believed to be key to building strong, productive families and healthy communities: unity, self-determination, collective work, responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Celebrations include lighting candles, giving gifts and decorating homes in the African colors of red, green and black, and enjoying a wide range of favorite foods.

Humanlight is a most joyful festival celebrated everywhere on Earth by Humanists and non-theists to pay tribute to the light of life that shines bright in all of us.

December is also the month of the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, respected as a Pagan and naturalist holiday. It marks the time when we trust that the shortest day of the year will be followed by ones in which the light will grow brighter as each lengthens toward spring. Festivals of dance and drumming and great food are enjoyed by those who celebrate the exact planetary position of the Winter Solstice.  Let us each embrace this transition with fervent hope, as best expressed by the question posed by poet Percy Shelley, "If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”  We might also do well to remember the wisdom of the Japanese adage that advises “One kind word can warm three winter months.”

Don’t forget to make this time of the year sing true to who you are too. Find time to create a ritual of your own that enhances your precious life and those you love.

Whichever way you enjoy celebrating during this special time, and we hope you get a chance throughout your life to celebrate them all, may peace, harmony and generosity of heart be with you and all of us beings on Earth.

Elaine Voci is a life coach, specializing in end of life services, in private practice in Carmel, IN and a graduate of the Celebrant Foundation & Institute class of 2014.   Elaine is the Editor of the Celebrant Blog for the Celebrant Foundation & Institute.

Please direct all request, comment or concerns about our CF&I Blog to our Social Media Manager ~ Marcia Almeida, Master Life-Cycle Celebrant. at    Or to the Celebrant Foundation & Institute’s director, Charlotte Eulette at: call us at (973)746-1792.  
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About the Celebrant Foundation &

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 

Monday, November 21, 2016


Dear Celebrant Alumni tribe, 

Since 2001 CF&I now has nearly1000 Certified Life-Cycle Celebrants and that translates to 40 Celebrant Foundation & Institute Alumni Chapters worldwide. We’re so proud to boast that our Celebrants come from many cultures, and just as we have Celebrants that come from different states, provinces and countries we have also attracted Celebrants with rich cultural backgrounds - especially Hispanic and Asian. We are thrilled to announce and launch our Pan-Asian Celebrant Chapter for Celebrant alumni who are either of Asian heritage, live in an Asian country or simply love the culture. Please welcome Ivy Yeh Cox NJ certified Life-Cycle Celebrant as our new Chapter Facilitator for our Pan-Asian Chapter. This chapter will discuss exciting and valuable topics focused on our Asian Celebrant’s practice We invite interested Celebrants to our first chapter meeting on Monday, November 28th at 9PM ET. 

IVY YEH COX our new Pan-Asian CF&I Chapter Facilitator

More about Ivy:
Her essay on honoring ancestors is included in CF&I's own publication, Life-Cycle Ceremonies: A Handbook for Your Whole Life. Ivy is also an award-winning Graphic Designer with experiences in different industries, ranging from luxury apparel to finance.

Ivy's love of different cultures contributes greatly to her one-of-a-kind ceremonies. She has written and conducted beautiful bilingual wedding ceremonies in English and Mandarin Chinese.

Ivy graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York City and cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. 

CONGRATULATIONS! We all thank you Ivy we look forward to being our Chapter Facilitator for our Pan- Asian Celebrant chapter.

What’s next? We’ll soon formally announce our Pan-Hispanic Chapter too!

These invitations are a part of the Celebrant Foundation's Collective Wisdom Conference Series that we offer up with great joy to our Celebrants as an expression of our foundation's generous spirit to encourage us all to share and learn from one another.
Celebrant Foundation & Institute's -
Mission:  The Celebrant Foundation & Institute's (CF&I) mission is to pioneer the widespread use of relevant, customized ceremony to honor the fullness of the human experience across the lifecycle.
Vision:  CF&I seeks to increase opportunities to affirm and celebrate milestones and transitions for all people through the training, certification, and ongoing support of professional Life-cycle Celebrants and by providing public education, outreach, and advocacy.
Dedication: CF&I is dedicated to teaching the principles, history, and practice of Celebrancy in a rigorous seven-month program which educates and certifies Life-Cycle Celebrants® in the art of ritual, ceremony, world and faith traditions, ceremonial writing, and public speaking and presentation. Celebrants are ceremonial facilitators and ritual creators, trained to officiate and guide individuals, couples, and families through key life events. The CF&I is a non-profit educational institution.

Thank you!

Yours sincerely,
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Charlotte Eulette - Director with Marcia Almeida – Alumni Manager

Celebrant Foundation & Institute

DD: (908) 962-0642
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