As we head into the winter holiday season we are surrounded by the sights and smells that symbolize this time of year, perhaps more so than for any other seasonal event. Christmas trees and wreaths in all forms, gift boxes, sleigh bells, scented candles, strings of lights, potpourris of fruits and spices, foods rich with ginger and cinnamon, colors of red, green and gold. We recognize these as symbols of the holidays- as many of us bring out our holiday boxes from the attic and ornament our homes, set up our tree, wrap our gifts. Yet most of us do so without realizing or contemplating the full meaning behind these acts.
Years ago I was asked to create a display about the ‘Meaning of Plants at Christmas’ for a public event and I delved into learning about the symbolism of the plants we use during the holidays. I emerged with a new love for this holiday, and have found countless ways to add meaning to each and every act I choose to do, from the wreath on the door, decorations in the house, and foods that are served, the lighting of beeswax and colored candles, to the tree at the center of Christmas, for those who celebrate it.
I revel in the collective, though mostly unconscious celebration of this sacred time of year, the community lighting of the huge holiday trees, usually outdoors where they belong, crowds gathering for Santa to offer their deepest wishes for the future year, colorful strings of light brightening the long dark nights, parties in festive clothing, eggnog and mulled cider, fragrant, warm and spicy holiday foods. I seek the meaning for myself, ignoring the crassness of the holiday, refusing to let other perspectives take away from my deep and personal experience of this season. I wake before light at winter solstice and stand outdoors to greet the sunrise, often with a little bell ringing in greeting to the solstice sun, encouraging its return, always in the company of the birds who also revel in the return of the light. Adding this awareness and ritual have made a huge difference for me in this time of year, and I encourage others to find ways to do the same.
To read more: The Meanings of Plants at Christmas
Photo by Chrissy Valluzzi
To learn more about Heidi Bohan and her work: http://www.heidibohan.com
To see more about her book, ‘The People of Cascadia- Pacific Northwest Native American History’- with over 12,000 sold go to: www.peopleofcascadia.com
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