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Today is the Winter Solstice – or the shortest day of the year if you live in the northern hemisphere.

One of the things I notice living on the lake is that the sun now sets directly out from our back window and the sunsets are amazing. I snapped this picture last year at this time from my deck. I rarely see anything like this in the summer.

Although I absolutely love the long hot days of summer – I welcome this time of year. It’s a time to really slow down, connect with friends, make time for myself, and to simply savor the simplicity of life. Here are some great rituals that we enjoy as a family.

1: Enjoy great movies

This is a great time to invite friends and family over to watch new movies on great topics and have discussions. Consider subscribing to Spiritual Cinema or getting great movie ideas from Brent Marchant’s book, “Get the Picture: Conscious Creation Goes to the Movies.

2: Light up the candles

These dark evenings are the perfect time to light your home up with gorgeous candles. This can create a sacred space in all areas of your home. I have them in my office, our bedroom, on coffee tables and fire places and especially on the dinner table! Be creative!

3: Bring out the games

The last few weekends we opted to turn off the TV with our children and their friends and have instead dusted off the game boards…literally! The other night we had seven young people playing charades around the Christmas tree while listening to Christmas music. It was magical!

4: Start a family Gratitude Journal

Pick up a beautiful journal and leave it on the coffee table where all members of the family and even friends can write down what they are grateful for. My husband and I start and end almost every day together – usually in our hot tub looking out at the lake or stars – expressing everything that we are grateful for.

5: Feed you birds!

I love looking outside and watching the birds. Not only do we have lots of berry bushes that attract birds all year long, but we try to keep our bird feeders stocked. This creates festive and joyous entertainment as we name all the species coming to visit. In fact, we keep a full color book handy to look up different species. Once I saw a female Red Breasted Groesbeck which looked like a very large sparrow!

6: Get out in nature

We live near lots of nature trails and parks, so one of my favorite activities is to call my friend and take meet in the park with our dogs for long hikes. It’s especially gorgeous when it’s just freshly snowed. Another fun activity is ice skating on the lake once we get a good solid freeze. This is a perfect time for hot toddies, mulled wine and hot cider and a bonfire!

7: Morning yoga or workout

One of the best remedies for sore and ache muscles is a good workout or I like heading to my yoga class. They keep the room nice and dark and it’s extremely warm. I feel fabulous when I come out and the added benefit is the positive mental state that stays all day long from those nice endorphins released from the workout! It also assists in being present.

8: Engage your creativity

This is the perfect time to brush up on your Spanish or other language you have always wanted to learn. Consider something like Rosetta Stone that is interactive and fun. Or think back to what you loved doing as a child and play! My husband is tuning my piano for as my Christmas gift so I can bring out my old sheet music. Winter is a great time to paint, knit or create something beautiful!

9: Work on the family tree

Open an account with ancestory.com and invite relatives to join you in putting together the puzzle pieces. I have now engaged a relative in Scotland who has sent photos, ship manifests, birth certificates and more about my grandmother’s ancestors. It’s amazing to see where you came from!

Share your winter rituals in the space below and enjoy this holiday season with those you love!

By Katana Abbott, CFP, CSA