Setting Your Holiday Intentions
Ahh, the holidays are almost upon us and with that many high expectations. Most of us feel the pressure to select just the right gift, commune with distant family, and spend more money that we can afford. However, the holidays are about far more than this. They are a time for spiritual reflection on a much deeper meaning.
For Christians, Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Advent paves the way to this Holy time, beginning on the first Sunday all the way to Christmas signifying hope, peace, joy, love and Christ. Purple candles are lit on a horizontal wreath one per week with a white candle in the center that is lit on Christmas Eve. Each week special prayers are said along with reflection on the specific meaning for that week.
For Jews, Hanukkah celebrates the heroic dedication of Jewish traditionalists and is often called the Festival of Lights symbolizing freedom, faith, and miracles. The lighting of the manora is done for eight days and nights in remembrance of the oil that lasted seven days longer than expected in the holy Temple in Jerusalem. This holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.
For Muslims, Ramadan is a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control; a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives. The third “pillar” or religious obligation of Islam, fasting has many special benefits. Among these, the most important is that it is a means of learning self-control. Due to the lack of preoccupation with the satisfaction of bodily appetites during the daylight hours of fasting, a measure of ascendancy is given to one’s spiritual nature, which becomes a means of coming closer to God. Ramadan is also a time of intensive worship, reading of the Qur’an, giving charity, purifying one’s behavior, and doing good deeds.
As a secondary goal of Ramadan, fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing sympathy for the less fortunate, and learning to thankfulness and appreciation for all of God’s bounties. Fasting is also beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgence.
Kwanzaa is a time of African/African American celebration created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 whereby each day of Kwanzaa emphasizes a different principle with the lighting of a specific colored candle and discussion of a corresponding principle that “contributes to building and reinforcing community among African-Americans”. The principles, called the Nguzo Saba (seven principles in Swahili) are values of African culture. Kwanzaa also has seven basic symbols which represent values and concepts reflective of African culture. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.
Regardless of your holiday beliefs or traditions, creating personal intentions is paramount to setting the tone for a more meaningful holiday experience. While Faith-based traditions usually help ground us in this area, many people who don’t have a Spiritual home or religious views are often left feeling scattered or depressed by mass commercialism. As fun as shopping can be, it leaves the heart empty and doesn’t provide any lasting positive emotions.
This year why not set your intentions to experience joy, love, connection, and significance to your holiday celebrations. There is no right or wrong way to do this and it can be incorporated into your regular spiritual/religious beliefs. The point is to remember that the holidays are what we make them and by setting intentions we are reminded of what’s truly important.
Have a wonderful holiday season filled with meaning and tranquility.
If you’d like more information on any of these traditions, see the resources below.
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