By Brianne Dela Cruz; Gather & Grow
It is that time of year again - when we revel in those precious slow days nestled between the hums of Christmas and our New Year’s celebrations. This especially magical time of year presents the perfect opportunity to slow down and gather ‘round the fire for a wintry intentional dinner.
Each year my husband and I host an intimate bon-fire gathering to celebrate the Winter Solstice and New Year holiday. In our back-yard, set at the foothills of the Wasatch mountains, we communally dine on open-fire fixings, then engage in a curated conversation centered around Winter Solstice themes. Along with our tight-knit community of friends, we often gather around the fire at the solar markers throughout the year. We find that observing mother nature’s cycles and identifying our own seasons of blossoming, growth, shedding, and dormancy present an opportunity to foster a deeper connection to ourselves, others, and our surrounding natural world.
In nature during the Winter Solstice season, we experience the darkest days of the year then witness the rebirth of the sun as a new solar cycle begins. Mirroring themes of our modern New Year’s celebration, this extraordinary shift in nature represents a time of renewal and regeneration. In contrast, the climax of the dark winter days represent a time of introspection and reflection. Much like the seasonal patterns that occur in nature, in our own lives we often experience a shadowed darkness before an illuminating new beginning. Identifying the correlations between our life and nature reminds us of the interconnectedness of all beings. What better time is there to acknowledge this than during the auspicious Solstice season?
During this year’s gathering our hearty dutch oven dinner cooked under blazing coals while I guided my dinner guests through a three-step process to help everyone set New Year’s intentions. We began by reflecting on the year gone by and identifying synchronicities and patterns in our life. We remembered the lessons life taught us during each season of the last year about our capacity for courage, growth, vulnerability, acceptance, and love. We considered the moments of darkness we moved through as well as the breakthroughs we experienced.
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Then, we wrote down what we did not want to carry with us into the new year. Notes and words representing burdens, weights, and unserving attachments were burnt into a blaze of nothing over our ceremonial bon-fire. Lastly, we identified what we wanted to make space for and open ourselves up to receiving in anticipation of our next season of growth. With this last step, we dreamt up a single goal for each season in the new year that supports our seasonal needs and dreams.
I always find that intentionally minded and communal conversations of the heart, shared over open-fired dinners, creates the most transformational experiences and soul-deep connections. This type of authentic engagement runs deep into the bones of all humans because of our shared primal need for food, fire, and community. And this year’s gathering with our dear community of kindred spirits was no exception.
Brianne Dela Cruz is a master gardener, wild forager, campfire foodie, and acclaimed writer and photographer. From her home in Salt Lake City, she teaches online gardening and foraging courses for modern folks and budding naturalists as well as hosts seasonal community gatherings. Brianne's blog and online school, Gather & Grow, is a community of folks exploring the intersection between nature and personal growth by discovering ways to slow down and nourish themselves with nature.