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 amidst 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 ritual of intentional sharing and listening. My dad sat the guests and his family in a circle and he used the Angel from atop the Christmas tree as his talking stick and he introduced the new tradition: A Christmas Eve Counsel.
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. 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, and to respect the confidentiality of the circle.
The first year was a smash success. We followed the Counsel with lively music, conversation and a savory meal, and all of the dinner conversation took on a deeper meaning having been proceeded with the Counsel.
The tradition has gained momentum with each continuing year. We have had our Christmas Eve Counsel every year since my father introduced it in the 1980′s. It has become a favored 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.
This year we had Christmas Counsel with my parents, a dear family friend, my pregnant sister, her husband, and my husband and our three children. It was bold to assume our six and a half, four and a half and 20-month old could sit for the counsel, but, the intention of the adults in the room was strong.
I “Set The Stage” (A L.O.V.E. Parenting technique) with my children about what the Counsel was. We never told the little ones what they had to do and it didn’t even occur to us to put them in another room with a video or to wait until they were asleep. We were excited to share this tradition with them.
We have done the Counsel with them each year, but this year, it seemed to really click in. My son and daughter sat cuddled on laps and each took a turn speaking clearly from their hearts with love and gratitude. Even the 20-month old kept herself occupied, climbing around and laughing on cue.
May your family be blessed with health and happiness. All is possible.
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.