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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Season of Light: Celebrating the Soul of Winter

Nov 30, 2021 09:30AM ● By Marlaina Donato
Graphic of person standing in snowy outdoors wearing a long feather coat and headcrown


Inevitably, the wheel of the year turns with the nuances of the seasons hardly noticed in the blur of our busy days. “Next year,” we say, when we realize that we’ve run out of time to try that holiday recipe, connect with friends or revel in a winter sunset. Collecting small joys takes us out of survival mode and into wide-awake living. Pausing to sip from winter’s steaming cup of comfort can be the perfect way to begin a new chapter that prompts us to come back to the center.

In the ancient world, fire festivals marked holy days celebrating the sun’s promise of return and supplied felicity in a time of hardship. Today, something inside our ancestral memories makes us crave celebration as we wrap the year’s end in shiny ribbon, ethereal lights and scented candles. Singing, chanting or caroling this time of year—“old-fashioned” pastimes—were ancient elements of winter’s revels that invited benevolent energy and chased away bad luck. While most of us no longer grace our neighbors with song, raising our voices to any capacity can be an offering, an invitation to hope and beauty. Singing multicultural songs with the kids, writing a spontaneous prayer or sharing seasonal or funny stories naturally boosts the immune system and helps to fight off the winter blues.

Winter has its own jewel-toned beauty that rivals summer’s most dazzling hour if we pay attention: ruby fruits baked with brown sugar, rosy desert mornings and snowy sapphire twilights. Pointing out December constellations over a beach or lacing up our boots for a brisk walk helps us to unplug from the world’s problems. Sprinkling heart-healthy spices in our morning coffee opens a gloomy day on a lovely note.

Winter can feel long, so go ahead and treat your senses; buy a few yards of red velvet to sleep on or pick up that novel you’ve been planning to read. Live and give a little more deeply. Feed the birds and feed your soul.

Marlaina Donato is an author and a composer of ambient holiday music.

Revels Around the World:

• The celebration of Soyal by the Hopi people of northern Arizona centers on purification, dancing and inviting the favor of the Kachinas, or protective nature spirits.

• The ancient Persian festival Yalda celebrates family time and the triumph of the sun, with people staying awake to see the sunrise and eat foods such as pomegranates and nuts.

• The Chinese festival of Dong Zhi, or the “arrival of winter”, is an ancient celebration of labor and the closing year.

• The Ukrainian celebration of Malanka, or Orthodox New Year, is a type of Mardi Gras involving masks, costumes and singing from house to house.

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