High and blue the sky trees are very tall
Wild geese flying seem so small
See on silent wing in flocks they go
Never parting from the single row
We go through the land, like the wild geese band
Brothers in one flight are we.
Still and dark the night, stars are very bright
Lanterns shining seem so small
See in single file we walk along
Singing joyfully our lantern song
We go through the land, like the wild geese band
Sisters in one flight are we.
This is one of the songs we sang at our Whidbey Island Waldorf School early childhood lantern walk last week. The great expanse of summer has ended. The plants are dying back. The leaves are falling. We will have to wait for next year to see again the butterflies and dragonflies. The outer activity of the world has quietened. But inwardly there is still work to do. The squirrels have gathered their store of nuts for the winter. The bulbs are underground preparing for their reentry in the spring. And we have been tasked to awaken our inner light for warmth and guidance through the dark months ahead.
There was a time when this season would naturally bring work indoors, more time for review and planning, earlier bedtimes and more sleep. We lived within the rhythm of the year. But in our modern society we are asked to never stop and keep the candle burning at both ends. Christmas comes earlier and earlier in our commercial culture and with it an expectation to buy more, do more, celebrate more. Simple experiences are buried beneath the glitz and glamour of the holidays and the deeper significance of this time of year is often lost.
We are just over halfway between the Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice. The nights are getting longer and the air is getting colder. Across the world there are festivals of light in the fall and winter months including St. Martin’s Day, Diwali, Balachaturdashi, Hanukkah, St. Lucia’s Day, Advent, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hogmanay and Imbolc. In each we can be inspired by traditions that have been established through spiritual truths that have been passed down through generations. We are reminded that there is a universal call to not succumb to the dying back of nature but through contemplation we can rekindle our own guiding flame and through community we can bring light and love to the world.
We light our lanterns to symbolize our inner warmth of compassion and hope. Each spark may feel small on its own but collectively we can bring guidance through the dark road ahead. Our songs carry messages of solidarity — that we are individuals on this path of life but we are not alone. We come together for community, for support and for joy.
As we move towards the shortest day of the year, here are some traditions to consider to create a family culture that honors our natural world and celebrates our spiritual nature:
Experience the darkness
Last year one of my children walked outside in candle light for his kindergarten class Advent Spiral. When we got home he said, “I’m connected to the darkness.” How can we each become connected to the darkness? One idea is to turn off all your lights at night (or even turn off power at your breaker so that all the lights are off and sounds are quietened.) Light a candle or a few candles for a winter tradition of songs, stories, advent wreaths or a meal. You could also take a nightly family walk with your lantern to guide your way.
My daughter just asked me if I was ever going to take off my pjs today. Considering I just got up from taking her nap with her — the answer may just be no. This is a good time of year to allow for earlier bedtimes and more sleep. We can work with the rhythm of the year to allow for this space now and more time for longer days and late nights in the summer. Imagine extra blankets, cozy quilts, walking to bed in candlelight and late mornings with coffee and quiche. Okay, that last one is a particular dream for me since my children can get behind the earlier bedtimes in the winter but don’t quite subscribe to the later, quiet mornings just yet.
Balance time with family and friends with time alone. Journal, read, meditate, do a favorite activity. This is a good time to review the year and to begin planning for the year to come. Cultivating a comfort with our own inner experience and learning how to provide self-care allows us to more fully offer our gifts to the world at the right time and in the right way.
We can offer our family a feeling of abundance during this season without the gluttony of materialism. Create simple decorations, do a few seasonal crafts, sit down together with a favorite shared activity, play games and revisit special recipes every year. Consider giving fewer gifts and be sure that the gifts you do give represent the values that you share as a family. Give some attention to what traditions you want to offer your family. It is these things that we do each year that our children will remember and hold on to forever.
Hygge is a Danish word that roughly translates to “coziness.” It is that warm, comforting feeling of warming your feet by the fire while drinking a cup of Earl Grey with Ameretto and cream. Well, it’s that for me. It may be different for each of us but what it offers is pleasure in gentle, soothing things. And it isn’t just things but atmosphere. Hygge is the act of creating a cozy space and the people who fill it with warmth and love. So gather your loved ones around you, pour another cup of tea and be together.
Wishing you all a cozy autumn and winter time. What are your favorite ways to create warmth this time of year?