The natural ways to celebrate the winter holidays.
Winter is a time for introspection, and the winter holidays offer an ideal opportunity for reevaluating our spiritual traditions. For a fresh perspective, focus on the natural cycle of lightness and darkness celebrated in many holidays at this time of year. Light is a symbol of hope and renewal in all cultures and religions. Before electricity, festivals and other celebrations helped people pass through the dark season and reminded them that warmth and longer days would come again.
Celebrate the winter solstice on December 21, and the return of lengthening days by burning a Yule log. Or have a quiet candlelight ceremony that focuses on renewal and fresh starts.
Rethink the significance of your Christmas wreath. Meditate on its representation of nature’s eternal cycle of seasons.
Offer tribute to St. Lucia, the Saint of Light, who is honored by the Swedes because they live without the sun for several months a year. On December 13 the oldest daughter of the house, wearing a candle wreath on her head, wakes the family with a song about the returning light. She then serves them coffee and saffron-flavored rolls.
To celebrate Chanukah, the Jewish festival of Lights, light up your home for eight days with homemade or store-bought menorahs.
In the ancient world, evergreen plants and trees were brought indoors to remind the inhabitants that, even in winter, life is present and constantly renewing.
Select and cut down your own tree at a Christmas tree farm. Trees are considered a crop and are managed on a sustainable basis. For every tree harvested, two or three are planted. For more information, visit the National Christmas Tree Association Website, www.christree.org.
Purchase a living tree with a root ball at a nursery. After the holidays, plant the tree outdoors or donate it to a local park.
Hike or snowshoe into the woods to choose and cut your own wild tree. The Forest Service sells tree-cutting permits in many states. The service is careful to permit cutting only in areas where thinning allows new saplings to get the sunlight they need to survive. It’s nice to leave a small offering of birdseed or dried herbs in place of the tree you take.
Use an abundance of evergreen boughs, holly, and ivy to scent and brighten up every room in the house. We even know one family who builds their own tree. A large limb with holes drilled in it becomes the trunk, with branches inserted in the holes to fill out the tree. Cuttings are available from most places that sell trees, or you can selectively trim the evergreens around your home.
—JENNIFER HERMES NASTU
We’ve borrowed from the ancient Japanese gift wrapping tradition of furoshiki to create this personalized, reusable cloth gift wrap. It’s a less wasteful alternative to those endless rolls of paper and ribbon, and gifts wrapped in this unique way will be much more memorable.
Traditional Japanese furoshiki were first used for carrying necessities to public baths and later for gift giving. While most furoshiki are 28- to 90-inch squares of silk, yours can be of any size and material. You may want to assemble a variety suitable for packages of different shapes and dimensions. Use them over and over again, and encourage your gift recipients to do the same!
We’ve stamped the Natural Home logo on the corners of this unbleached cotton fabric. Using your monogram or a favorite symbol or design, you can rubber-stamp, embroider, or paint a logo onto the cloth corners or edges. Or you can marbleize or batik the cloth! No matter what kind of cloth you choose, your wrapping will cover boxes, bottles, and any odd shaped gifts.
-Handkerchiefs, bandannas, or scarves
-Fabric scraps from old clothing
-Organic cotton or hemp cloth
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