Due to the social and commercial impact Christmas has in North America, few are those who do not celebrate Christmas at least in its secular aspects. Many First Nations have accepted and find hope and inspiration in the teachings of Jesus Christ. They celebrate Christmas like most Christians throughout the world.
This is also the time of the winter solstice and for those who do not celebrate Christmas, it’s still a time of celebration. As for the New Year, it really traditionally falls on the winter solstice day as from then on the days get longer. A new year begins. Yet here also due to the social and commercial impact New Years celebrations have in North America, few are those who do not celebrate New Year’s Day.
To give more substance to this answer, let me quote an excerpt for my book ”The Beauty Way”):
“Three months after the fall equinox, comes the winter solstice, celebrated as the “Celebration of internal light”. It is the period of the year when days are the shortest, and nights the longest. It is the time of the year when the forces of darkness are at their peak. It is then time for the warrior of light to manifest his qualities. We want to embody the inner light that will shine and overcome darkness. This ceremony comprehends twenty-four hours of vigil. One person will perform rituals in front of the altar, all night through, while others will take care of the sacred fire.
I remember a year when it was so cold, that it made the trees crack with sharp sounds. Frost was covering their trunks and branches. The day after, the landscape was glistening as if spread all over with diamonds. When the sun rose, innumerable tiny rainbows lit nature into a bright gleaming. On that very night, I was not wearing warm clothes, and was to take care of the fire until daylight. My dog, who has since then left for the vast meadows of heavens, was with me. I had taken her in my lap, sheltering her under a blanket I used to keep ourselves warm. She was the one who taught me how to live through cold temperatures. She was cold, even being covered by the blanket. She kept shivering, then relaxing, shivering again and relaxing. So, I started doing the same: my shivering produced heat, and then I could relax, and feel the heat spread throughout my whole body. Nature will always be there to show us the way.
During that wakening night, we put out every fire in our houses. We look for a spruce tree, which symbolizes the year to come, the new cycle, and we bring it at our home. Starting from the solstice day, light will increase and days will grow longer and longer. The light inside ourselves is related to the light outside ourselves. It is the time of the year when the forces of darkness are most strong, and this step marks the moment when light starts coming back. We chose a young, well-balanced and beautiful spruce tree, which will symbolize the new year. With many prayers and ceremonies, we bring it to our hearth. We cut the four bottom branches and use them to sweep the old year away. We walk all over the house, singing and sweeping the air, the walls and the atmosphere around every object with the branches. Then, we burn the branches in the sacred fire, and the energies of the ending year can vanish into smoke. We place the spruce tree at the place of honor, and decorate it with our wishes for the year to come. It is a beautiful celebration which children love to do. We place representations of our wishes for the coming year to unfold as beautiful decorations on the tree.
During the night following this celebration, the guardians of the fire will practice the warrior’s stance, the attitude of the one who keeps the light ever shining. It is the fire of awareness, the fire of vigil, our devotion to obtain wisdom, so that all beings can enjoy the best. The fire symbolizes the victory of light and our divine heart, which we strive to improve by being awake and vigilant.
The morning that follows our struggle against sleep and the forces of darkness, light comes back in our world. The warrior has overcome the forces of darkness, light is victorious, illuminating wisdom now fills the world with the light of awakening. We celebrate the rising of the sun, gathering next to the sacred fire. Its embers will be used to relight fires in the houses. This will be a new fire, the fire of victory. Not only will it warm our houses, but it will also bring into our lives a spiritual living light. We end the celebration with a banquet. We have deserved it indeed. Although it is the shortest ceremony inaugurating a new season, it is one of the most intense.
All my best in these joyful days of celebration. All our relations.