With this being the Winter Solstice, I wanted to brighten your day — and maybe help spark your creativity — by sharing a ritual I created when I was a new stepmother.
Shining a Light on the Darkest Day of the Year
In my blended family, Christmas Day was particularly stressful, as my stepdaughters wanted to physically be with both of their parents at the same time. Their mother was more attached to being with her girls on Christmas day, so their father and I worked around her need. We wanted to create a ritual that would be satisfying and would not conflict with what anyone else wanted.
I was raised Jewish and always looked forward to Hanukah. I loved lighting the candles and watching them burn down each night. For me, celebrating the enduring power of light was more important than gift giving — probably because of all the quality family time full of play and laughter we would have over those eight days.
My stepdaughters loved Christmas. They couldn’t wait to put up lights while watching the Muppets Christmas Carol, or listening to Raffi’s Christmas Album. They were not impressed when I played my favorite holiday song from the Bodeans.
It was out of our shared enjoyment of candles that our Solstice ritual was born. After dinner on December 21st, I asked if we could all spend about 30 minutes together. I set up five candles of different colors in the middle of the table and invited my husband and stepdaughters to each choose one. I then turned out all the lights and, as I lit the remaining candle, I explained what we would be doing. We each took turns and lit our candles from the center one, sharing as we did so, the things we were each most grateful for that year, and our hopes and dreams for the New Year. When we were all done, the five candles together made a warm, soft glow that filled the whole room with light.
As we enjoyed being together and watching our candles burn, we began to reflect on what we were seeing. The light from the first candle did not diminish as we lit ours from it. Similarly, the light and love within us does not diminish as we each let it shine towards each other. We also saw how the power of the original light was magnified and quadrupled, and had much more warmth and brightness than it ever could have alone. Much like the four of us.
We then began to lift and drip our candles, all of us being fans of playing with warm wax. We noticed that no matter which way we turned our candles, the flame always burned up. Both of my stepdaughters were teenagers when I met them and we definitely had our challenges. Playing with those candles together created a fun, new memory for us, and lit a new perspective in my heart towards them. No matter what they put into their bodies, no matter what kinds of choices they made, no matter what they might say or think about me — their inner light always burned brightly and straight up, towards the highest that is within them. I decided that night to see them in a new light, and to start shining my light a little brighter around them.
As Marianne Williamson reminds us in her famous poem, the more we let our light shine, the more we give permission for others to shine their light all the more brightly! Think of what the world would be like if we each decided to cultivate the lights within each other and within ourselves!
Share Your Light
During this holiday season, keep the image of that inner flame burning in your thoughts and mind. As you meet harried checkout tellers, give them the gift of your bright smile. As you go out into the community to meet all of your deadlines and goals, allow yourself to receive the light being offered to you by others along the way. And most of all, when interacting with your family, connect with those bright lights inside of each other and drink in the warmth shining to and from your hearts. This is a truly magical time of year, if you let it be!