Winter Traditions

Sacred Earth Journeys offers Sacred Journeys, Wellness Travel & Yoga Retreats, and Wisdom Teachings to many different parts of the world. Participants have a unique opportunity to both connect with the spiritual energies at some of the most important spiritual sites and be immersed in the local culture.  For many of us in the Western world December is a month dominated by Christmas, and whether or not we celebrate the holiday itself, it’s hard to miss its presence in our stores and communities. Here in Canada we are also blessed to share in other festivities that happen in the late fall, from Diwali to Hanukah.  But how about in some of the countries that Sacred Earth Journeys travels to throughout the year? Do these countries also celebrate the winter months with festivals of light and love? What are the local customs at this time of year? This blog takes a peek at some of the countries we will be visiting in 2014 to see how different cultures celebrate.


Aarti Ceremony, India


In India, as in many other countries around the world, Diwali is a national holiday, and is widely celebrated. This Festival of Lights celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and, importantly, inner light over spiritual darkness. It is a happy festival, of cleaning and preparing the home, shopping and buying gifts, listening to stories passed down through the ages, and marvelling at fireworks on Diwali night. Its spiritual essence can have meaning for us all as we work our way through life’s challenges. In the ever-wise words of our India tour leader, Jeffrey Armstrong:

“Just as we see that a small lamp drives away the dark of a whole room, so our doubts, sadness and fear are driven away by the constant renewal of our faith in the eternal light of Divine Love. In truth, we are like lamps that must be cared for. We must tend the wick of our mind, restore the oil of our life and relight the lamp of eternal love and truth that is in our heart. Diwali is the annual celebration of that rekindling of Divine fire within us.”

Lush Kauai, Hawaii


Today in Hawaii Christmas is celebrated much as it is on mainland America, expect that Santa prefers garlands of flowers to his stuffy red suit, and his sleigh – an outrigger canoe – is pulled by dolphins rather than his usual reindeer! But, before Christmas made its way to the Hawaiian islands in the late eighteenth century, Hawaiians celebrated Makahiki, a New Year Festival in honour of the harvest and Lono, the god of fertility and rain. This ancient festival ran for around four months from the middle of October, during which time there were contests, tributes to chiefs and a ban on war. It was a time to take a break from the usual farming cycles, and give thanks to the earth. The current Aloha Week festivals continue the Makahiki traditions. There will be plenty of time to give thanks to the earth and appreciate Kauai’s uniquely lush environment on our Goddess Retreat this coming April. As Dr. Alexina Mehta says,

“Kauai is considered to be the most sacred or spiritual of the Hawaiian islands according to many different sources. They consider it to be the third eye of the Hawaiian Islands and the lush environment is really conducive to a nourishing, goddess vibe. …The focus [of the retreat] is on connecting with the highest expression of the divine goddess that’s in every woman, connecting with the beauty, the wisdom, the different energies of various mythic goddesses and exploring how those energies live within each of us; how to find balance with those different energies, and at the same time how to have fun, relaxation and enjoy all the beauty of the island.”

Olympia, Greece


The Greek Orthodox Church is celebrating Christmas on December 25, the same date as the Catholic and Protestant churches. Greek traditions and customs at this time of year are rooted in the differences between light and darkness so apparent in December, and the date was chosen because it also marks the day many in the Mediterranean use to honour the Persian god, Mithras, the god of the Sun. Did you know that the word “carol” comes from a Greek dance called a choraulein, which was particularly popular in France! Of course, the Greeks are also famous for another festival we still celebrate today: the Olympics. As the writer and scholar Phil Cousineau, leader of our Greece journey, tells us:

“But there is another quality – a force – that deepens the mystery of these statues [of Olympians] especially in their connection to the Greek passion for athletic festivals, including the one the Greeks revered most of all, the Olympic Games. It is in fact the miraculous force that animates all great art as well as great athletes. Call it spirit, the divine spark, the breath of life – it is the transcendent element that lifts us up when you’re down and out, the source of courage, and the soul of inspiration. Strangely, we’re not quite sure where it comes from, where it goes when it’s crushed, or how to revive it. We just know we need to be in touch with it, which is one reason we turn to art, drama, poetry, and sports, especially the Olympic Games, the most watched television event on earth.” (from The Olympic Odyssey: Rekindling the True Spirit of the Great Games)

As humans our need to tend our inner flames of inspiration, passion, faith, art and love is powerful. However you are celebrating this Holiday Season I hope you have an opportunity to connect with your own personal inspiration, tend your own wicks and find your own sacred place to be at peace with yourself and the earth. And I wish you joyous inner and outer travels!

~ Kim Bridgett


Makahiki description taken from the Hawaiian Dictionaries.

Quote from Jeffrey Armstrong taken from his Facebook page:

Quote from Dr. Alexina Mehta taken from interview with Kim Bridgett.