Living Arts Weekly: Seasonal Altars, Rituals and Celebrations

December 11, 2022

Festivals are universally-shared celebrations of life, and they are as diverse as the people of our beautiful planet. In celebration of the festival traditions that bring us together, we would like to share with you the experiences of several of our LifeWays family this year, all from different walks of life and spiritual traditions.

Today, our friend Judith Frizlen shares about her personal celebration of Advent, full of ritual and seasonal reflection. Judith is an author and early childhood educator, as well as the instructor for our on-demand online course, Creating Home Away from Home. You can find Judith’s books in the LifeWays store or read more at her website.

Since my youth, I have created little altars in my home, even in my childhood bedroom. If I was unable to go to church on Sunday, I knelt before the altar in my room and recreated the familiar ritual in my own way. Altars were a way of nourishing my soul and elevating my spirit.

My altars and rituals are not aligned with an institution anymore, but rather with my soul and the cycles of nature. Throughout my home, I have tiny altars that remind me of goodness and beauty in the world, a spiritual perspective, and my deepest aspirations.

Every season has its rituals. Autumn brings cleaning up the garden and putting away outdoor cushions and potted plants while nature is transitioning from summer to winter. When I look at the window in my office, I see the last windstorm blew the leaves off the trees; there are only a few still clinging to branches. Will this be the last time of the season to clean up leaves or will snow come first?

Bare branches remind me of the season we are entering. The month prior to the return of the light, is when we are drawn inward to prepare our homes and our hearts for the celebration. While we await the light in the outer world, we nourish it inside.

Besides holiday decorating beginning, I make space in my life for soul preparation and a place within my soul for light and love to dwell. When the Thanksgiving meal is over and we have celebrated the harvest, I bring out the decorations and engage in seasonal rituals.

I change the cloth on the sideboard from orange to white; flowers in the big vase are replaced with naked branches strung with tiny lights and hung with straw stars.

During these four weeks before the winter solstice, one of the ways I prepare my soul is by reviewing the year that is ending, clearing space for love to be born anew. It is a process of sifting through the sediment of what came to pass, to find the golden nuggets.

What has been rejected or unprocessed is given attention. Avoiding suffering only increases it. I allow myself to note, feel and accept what came to pass; there is no way to change what has already happened, except to change my perspective of it.

While looking back on the year, I engage the four aspects of human beings, noting one each week: mineral, plant, animal, and human. On the altar in my home, I make an advent wreath also known as a winter garden with four candles in a circle..

The first week, I put rocks within the circle to represent the physical nature of our humanity. The second week, I add something from the plant world, to represent our life force. In the third week, I add something from the animal world, representing our soul quality. Then in the fourth week, I place an object to represent our highest consciousness, our divine nature.

Along with those gestures, I engage in soul-searching to review the year coming to an end. I wonder about four questions. Questions are always an invitation to discover something new.

Week one – What happened in the physical realm (successes and failures) this year?
Week two – What practices did I adopt or refine?
Week three – What happened in my relationships (new friends, conflicts, deepening of old relationships)?
Week four – How did I become/express my Self, my destiny?

When I ponder and write about these questions, my awareness expands, gratitude grows, I become conscious of who I am and who I am becoming. I locate my north star. I celebrate the joy of giving and receiving. I become willing to note and to accept what is, to create space for what is possible, to begin again like a child.

In the process, I have also created a beautiful display, a winter garden on my seasonal altar. It is adorned with simple elements from nature; ones that young children can relate to, wonder about, and contribute to.

The winter solstice, when the light begins its gradual return, each day grows a little longer. It is nature’s whispering of hope that spring will come again. It is powerful although subtle. In the still of winter we witness with awe the wonder of creation!

We welcome the light! We welcome the birth of all that is new and precious and innocent! Let the glory of life be expressed and may each of us be awakened to love!

Let’s prepare our homes, our hearts and our souls to be ready for what is coming, saying yes with every breath!


5 thoughts on “Living Arts Weekly: Seasonal Altars, Rituals and Celebrations”

  1. This is so simple yet powerful. Thank you for sharing, especially the questions you work with. Blessings on your season of preparation.

  2. Dear Judith,
    Taking time to express gratitude to you for this soul warming article is my first attempt to step off the the frenzied wheel of activity I’ve been running on this weekend. I was losing any peace and joy I had and could not bring myself to try to halt the downward spiralling. Some direction was sorely needed in order for me to come back to a meaningful experience on this third Advent Sunday.
    Already, after reading your suggestions, viewing the pictures, and anticipating pondering the questions, I feel a lifting and a lightening. Thank you so much.

    Many wishes to you,
    Linda Kemp

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful way to honor and connect with myself through reflecting on the year. I am going to put this into practice right away. I have never known the deeper meanings of advent and you really helped to shed light. This will also be some wonderful prep work for Susan Downs Womens Writes of passage: Finder your Noble Selves course I have signed up for this year during the Holy Nights- through Juniper Tree Puppetry!!

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