"In the darkness of Winter’s night, when the great breath of the Earth Mother finds its greatest point of inhalation, human beings are afforded the grace to touch into both magic and miracle. In the pause between her mighty in-breath and out-breath there is a still-point of rest. This still-point has long been known as the Holy Nights." ~ Claudia McLaren
The falling snow glimmers and glistens under the orange glow of the street lamp as the frost thickens on the window pane. I take a slow deep breath as I pause to watch the steam from my warm mug of tea waft upwards in spirals. On this quiet cold night, the whole neighborhood seems to have gone to bed early. Only a small fox silently walks across the lawn, leaving tracks to be quickly covered with the new-fallen snow. Everything feels still, as if for a moment we could all take a slow soft exhale.
Every year since my childhood, I’ve honored the time between December 24th and January 6th as a time of quiet contemplation, a time for dreams, a time for twinkling soft candles and warm cozy blankets, a time to envision the year ahead, and a time to get quiet and listen.
I was fortunate to have had a Waldorf Education, a philosophy of education inspired by Rudolf Steiner. I feel tremendously grateful to have had this opportunity and there is so much I have gained from my Waldorf years. One seasonal tradition I learned from the Waldorf community that I continue to love is the practice of honoring what some call the "Holy Nights,” the time roughly between December 24th (some say the 25th) and January 6th. In 2011 I shared my first public offering for these nights called Twelve Nights of Peace.
The annual practice happens again this year and you are invited to join! I have a free Guided Journal that I created for anyone who would like to join. This year I created a new addition to the practice, Twelve Days of Wonder! You can join for free by signing up here.
To support your Twelve Nights of Peace practice, I wanted to create a list of twelve ways to honor these nights. I want to note that these are not from the anthroposophical tradition specifically, but more broadly reflect how I like to honor this time for celebrating the wonders of winter.
Twelve Nights of Peace is not a religious program. Anyone from any faith, tradition or belief system is welcome! Although I speak a great deal about the cold dark winter nights, our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are also welcome to join as well, but you may need to adapt the practice to work for the peak of summer.
I also want to note that the holidays can bring up a lot of emotions and if you are feeling lonely, sad, or anxious during this time of year, I hear you. You are not alone. I must say that this year has been a challenging one for me too, specifically with chronic health issues that knocked me off my feet. Thankfully wonder, awe, and reverence have been deep healing balm for me. May they be for you as well.
Without further ado, here are twelve ways to honor the Twelve Nights of Peace! May this inspire, uplift, and spark warm nourishment for your soul.
"Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again."
~ Bill Morgan, Jr.
1. Slow Down, Get Quiet, and Listen
“All sounds are sharper in winter; the air transmits better". ~John Burroughs, The Snow-Walkers
After the hustle and bustle of setting up for the holidays, taking the time to pause and slow down can be deep nourishment. I always look forward to this time when I can slow down, get quiet, and listen. I love listening to my dreams during this time of year. I love listening to what my soul longs for and what wants to come through me in the new year. It is also a time to listen to those around you and what they are actually saying. And then there is the simple pleasure of listening to the quiet sounds of deep winter.
As a child, I was told that each Holy Night was like a macrocosm of the months of the upcoming year and if I paid close attention, I might be able to get glimpses into what my year may hold. I loved the delight of paying closer attention, becoming more aware, and slowing down to better arrive in the present moment.
Even if you feel like you don't have the time to pause and slow down, I invite you to see if you could carve out just 5 or 10 minutes a night to write in your Twelve Nights of Peace Guided Journal, meditate, or just sit quietly and listen. It doesn't take much to begin to feel the nourishment that this can give you.
2. Create a Sense of Coziness
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” ~ Edith Sitwell
In the dark days of winter when the sun sinks early below the horizon, the desire to be warm and cozy nestled up in our warm homes for hibernation grows stronger. This is a beautiful time to connect with loved ones, to light candles, and have long conversations over good meals. This year for Thanksgiving I made clove orange candles, a delightful activity for the senses on a cold winter's nights. I recently wrote a blog post on hygge, the Danish word for a mood of coziness, warmth, and connection. Check it out for more ways to create a sense of coziness in your life.
3. Delight in the Magic of the Season
“Snow flurries began to fall and they swirled around people's legs like house cats. It was magical, this snow globe world.” ~ Sarah Addison Allen, The Sugar Queen
Even though I sometimes don't enjoy cold weather, there is so much to appreciate about the magic of winter. From the spectacularly intricate wonders of snowflakes, to spotting red berries standing out in a stark white landscape of snow, there are so many treasures to discover. Check out this post I wrote last year highlighting the wonders of the season that I captured with my macro lens.
This year, I've been house-sitting near a botanical garden that has been covered in tens of thousands of twinkling LED lights of many colors (see pic below). Every night I bundle up and go on my Wonder Walk around the parameter of the gardens to watch the moon rise over the joyous lights. What fills you with wonder for this time of year?
Check out Twelve Days of Wonder for more inspirations of wonder, awe, reverence, and seeing beauty all around you.
4. Honor the Sacred
“There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred.” ~ Madeleine L'Engle
Contemplating the ephemeral magic and intricate beauty of a single snowflake often fills me with a deep reverence for the sacred. I feel a sense of the sacred when I'm in nature and marveling at the fact that out of all the planets in our solar system, we emerged from Planet Earth, and what a magnificent planet Earth is! Whether religious or not, how do you like to honor and remember that which is sacred this time of year?
5. Reflect in Quiet Contemplation
“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.” ~ Christina Baldwin
Journaling, meditation, or sitting in quiet contemplation are wonderful practices to take up during this time. Many of us use the ending of the calendar year as a time to reflect on the past year and contemplate what we want our new year to look like. This is a wonderful time to pull out your journal and help yourself get clear on where you've been, what you've learned, and where you want to go.
I created Your Flourishing Year Blueprint, a workbook to help you with just this! It is currently on sale for the holidays!
6. Find the Lessons
While reflecting, reviewing and contemplating one's past year, it is a wonderful time to harvest the wisdom, to write down the lessons that were learned, the insights gained, and any 'ah has,' ideas, or inspirations. Carrying these pearls of wisdom with us into the new year will enrich our journey.
7. Make Intentional Art
“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” ~ Vincent Willem van Gogh
For years, my mom and I would make a small collage each day for the twelve nights. Sometimes we would also draw, paint, sculpt or create other forms of art as well. This time of quiet and dreaming and stillness is a potent time to let the subconscious express itself through art, writing, dreams, and creative expression.
“In the winter she curls up around a good book and dreams away the cold.” ~ Ben Aaronovitch, Broken Homes
I love writing down both my sleeping dreams as well as my waking dreams during these nights. I often find them to be especially rich and vivid. Having a (sleeping) dream journal is a lovely practice. It is best to write in it first thing every morning to capture what you remember from your night's adventures before it drifts away. And incorporating a waking dream log during these twelve days is another wonderful practice. What are your dreams for your new year? What are the longings of your heart? Writing, drawing, or collaging them can help to plant and water those seeds so that they may flourish in the new year!
“Whatever I ‘align’’ myself with are the very things that will create a ‘line’ into my future.” ~ Craig D. Lounsbrough
As you reflect, contemplate, look for the lessons, and begin to get clear on your dreams and visions for the new year, you begin to realign with that which is important to you. Having a regular practice (whether its annual, quarterly, or weekly) that invites you to realign is a beautiful way to help you live with greater intention.
10. Set Intentions
“Every journey begins with the first step of articulating the intention, and then becoming the intention.” ~ Bryant McGill
This is one of my favorite times of year to set intentions and dream into possibilities for my life. I am very into the metaphor of planting the seeds we wish to grow in our year. This is the metaphor for both the Twelve Nights of Peace and Your Flourishing Year offerings.
11. Wrap it up with the Epiphany
The 6th of January is sometimes called the "Epiphany." It's lovely to honor the twelve nights by reviewing what you created, wrote, planted or envisioned, and finding a way to bring your practice to completion.
12. Watch Your Seeds Sprout and Blossom
After twelve nights of getting clear about the seeds that you wish to plant for your new year, now is the time to take a step back and watch as they begin to sprout! This does not mean becoming passive and not taking action, but instead taking inspired action that will best support the flourishing of your dreams. If you would like more support around this, Your Flourishing Year Bundle offers a workbook, guided visualizations, and practices for taking action from an aligned and clear place so you can more fully flourish in this new year. Whether you join Your Flourishing Year or not, may all of your seeds take root, sprout, and blossom!
Twelve Nights of Peace and Your Flourishing Year
Sign up here to join the free Twelve Nights of Peace practice and receive your Guided Journal.
Go deeper with Your Flourishing Year Bundle, which is currently on sale for the holidays!