A version of this article originally appeared in December 2010; I have made some updates and hope it proves helpful for deepening your experience of the holiday season. Love, Jessica
My parents hosted a large annual Christmas Eve party with music, talking, and the usual festivities for many years until a profound shift occurred. My father was feeling isolated during his own party. He was making a lot of small talk but at the end of the night, he felt disconnected, rather than connected from all the bits of conversation. He was seeking a deeper meaning around the holidays and he couldn’t find it within the hoopla. So, he made a change.
My parents scaled back the guest list to a few families, and decided that the evening would be centered around a Native American tradition called, Counsel, a ritual of intentional talking and listening. My dad gathered the guests and his family in a circle, took the Angel from atop the Christmas tree and introduced it a talking stick for our Christmas Eve Counsel.
My father explained the principles of counsel as he understood them:
- to speak leanly and from the heart
- to listen with the heart
- to only speak when holding the talking stick
- to respect the confidentiality of the circle
We would each have our own turn to speak to the question of “A Gift I Have Given and A Gift I Have Received.” This gift could of course be metaphorical and non-material.
The first year was a smash success. We followed the Counsel with lively music, conversation and a savory meal. The dinner conversation took on a deeper meaning after sharing in such a focused way during Counsel.
The Christmas Eve Counsel on “a gift I have given and a gift I have received” has become our family’s annual tradition, gaining momentum each year since my dad introduced in in the 1980′s. It has become a favorite reverent moment to truly reflect on the year: what has been challenging, what blessings have occurred, how have we been cradled by our friends and family and how have we shown up for our community.
Even the children join in. They always sense the intention in the air, snuggle up on a lap, listen and each year, they end up reaching for the Angel and speaking from their heart.
I am looking forward to this year’s Christmas Eve Counsel. While driving for one task or another, I find myself musing on the year past and the gifts I have given and the gifts I have received; this meditation alone is enough to make me well-up with gratitude. Even when I consider the challenging parts of the year, the Christmas Eve Counsel’s theme helps me to recognize where I was aided along the way, where without the Counsel’s question, I may have remained in thoughts of only the struggle. As well, considering the gifts one has given helps me to honor and celebrate that.
Sending wishes of good cheer and deep connection to you and yours,
About Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams created L.O.V.E. Parenting with a series of techniques for effective communication, deepened connection and more joy in parenting and life. Jessica is also the creator of www.UltimateParentingCourse.com with the best of today’s progressive parenting experts together in one program. Jessica is a featured expert internationally on both Mothering.com’s Ask An Expert and the upcoming www.KidsInTheHouse.com. Jessica is a regular contributor to Mothering Magazine’s All Things Mothering, LA Parent Magazine, LA Mom Magazine & DailyBuzzMoms. She has been interviewed on television and radio and taught workshops at family wellness centers, schools and doctor’s offices. Her BirthKit has helped women have a transformational & empowering birth. Jessica maintains a private coaching practice in her native Los Angeles where she lives with her husband and their three children. “Truly amazing woman. I love her advice.”—Carrie-Anne Moss. “All you have shared has helped tremendously.”—Lisa Bonet. “I am experiencing nothing short of a miracle thanks to your laser beam approach.” –Andrea Bendewald.