We spend all year anticipating the holiday season - and yet, when it finally arrives, sometimes there’s a feeling that it’s all going by too quickly. In the whirlwind of shopping, gift-giving, and social engagements, you may be left asking yourself, Where’s the meaning?
Planning intentional time to reflect quietly on the real meaning of the season can help you truly enjoy it as well as provide a needed respite from the rush of activity.
Below are suggestions for spiritual reflection exercises you can try throughout the holidays to slow down, focus on a deeper meaning, and feel grateful for what the season brings.
Spiritual Reflections for the Holidays
At the Beginning of Advent
It’s officially the start of the liturgical year for the Catholic Church - and also a time of preparation for Christmas. Advent is only four weeks long, so take some time at the beginning to think about what this season means for you.
- Write down a list of your goals for the season. They can be anything - that you want to spend more time with your family; that you will spend an afternoon volunteering; that you will take time for yourself.
Keep the list someplace safe so you can refer back to it throughout the coming weeks.
- Spend time reflecting on the Christmas readings for this year as you prepare for the big day. This can help you set the tone for how you spend the rest of Advent.
You could even create a sort of Advent calendar for yourself as you count down to Christmas and choose to read a different Scripture passage each day.
- See if your church has copies of a Little Blue Book, or order one for yourself online. These small pocket books, produced by the Diocese of Saginaw, are full of short Scripture passages, each paired with a reflection you can do each day.
Follow along with the booklet and spend some quiet time in prayer and reflection.
The weeks are moving by and Christmas isn’t far away. Try some of the following reflections to help you quiet down and think about what the season really means.
- Check in on your list of goals from the beginning of the season. What have you done? What do you still have to do? What’s fallen by the wayside? Make adjustments as needed.
- Plan a way to give back. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, and this time of year, you’ll probably find an opportunity easily. Donate canned goods or old winter clothes; bake a casserole for a local soup kitchen; take an ornament off a giving tree and buy a gift for someone in need.
Whatever you choose to do, spend some time afterward thinking about why it’s important to serve others and enjoy the positive feelings that come with being charitable. Don’t forget to pray for the recipients of your good deeds.
- Think about loved ones who have passed away. The holidays are full of reminders of times past, and that includes family and friends who are no longer here. That’s why now is a perfect time to think about their legacy and reflect on the special memories you made with that person.
Perhaps you’ll light a prayer candle in their honor or simply look through old photos. No matter what you do, remember the positive feelings you associate with them and carry them with you this season.
On Christmas Eve:
The big day is nearly here. Are you ready? Spend a few moments preparing yourself for the joy of Christmas with these quick reflections.
- Whether you’ll attend Mass today or tomorrow, look through the readings that will be shared and reflect on them.
What stands out to you? What’s familiar - and what have you never noticed before? What happens if you put yourself in the shoes of someone in the story? Jot down any notes or ideas that come to mind.
- Gather with friends and family and spend time together - no movies, no TV, no phone, just togetherness.
If they don’t live nearby, arrange a phone call to check in and see how everyone is doing. And don’t forget about someone who may be lonely this time of year. They might appreciate a quick call more than you know.
- Enjoy the sights of the season - your antique crèche, the carefully-decorated tree, or just the twinkle of lights in your neighborhood. Each of these things has a symbolic meaning; do you know it? Learn more about the origins of some holiday traditions.
On Christmas Day:
It’s finally here - Merry Christmas! Although today may be busy, squeeze in a few minutes for personal reflection or make one of these ideas a group activity.
- Write down a list of five (or more) people or things that you’re most grateful for. Spend time thinking about all that you have - you may find it’s hard to stop at just five.
Keep the list handy and refer back to it when you’re feeling stressed or need a break - research shows gratitude can improve your health in a variety of ways.
- Spend some time outdoors, like taking a walk in the morning or after the big meal. Even if it’s chilly, don’t be afraid to bundle up and take a quick stroll - it’s good for you.
During the walk, you might reflect on the beauty of nature, your gratitude for your family, or the true meaning of Christmas. Or you can simply enjoy the feeling of the wind and fresh air and let that be your reflection.
- Celebrate Jesus’ birthday today - after all, it’s what the day is all about.
Grandchildren will especially enjoy this activity, and it will bring you to a deeper understanding of the day. You might read the Scriptural Christmas story, sing or listen to a Christmas song, or even bake a small cake and discuss what it means that Jesus was born.
On New Year’s Eve
It’s the last hurrah of the holidays - and the year. End it all on a high note by taking some time to think about what’s past and what’s ahead.
- Similarly to how you began Advent, think about what you want to accomplish in the coming year. Don’t worry about what you think you should be doing; instead, focus on what you truly want to do.
Maybe that’s picking up your old hobby of playing the piano or reading the Bible daily. Maybe you want to join a faith-sharing group or start taking a short walk each morning. Whatever you choose, make it concrete and think of ways you’ll help yourself toward your goal next year.
- Plan when you want to go to Mass for the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. It’s a holy day of obligation, and you’ll find times both today and tomorrow.
Before you attend, spend a few minutes thinking about the meaning of this occasion and how it has an impact on your own life.
- Think about the good memories you made in the past year and write them down to keep. While it might seem like time moves faster and faster these days, stopping to think about what you’ve done and accomplished can help slow it down.
You could use a simple notebook to write down your thoughts. Other people may enjoy writing memories on slips of paper and keeping them in a jar to look at throughout the coming year. Choose an idea that you like, and get started!
Enhance Your Spiritual Wellness Any Time of Year
The holidays are an important time of year, and with a little planning, these reflections can help you enjoy their true meaning.
Spiritual wellness isn’t just for the holidays: It can enhance your life and overall well-being all year long.
Interested in trying something new? Download our free guide, “Nurture Your Soul: Spiritual Wellness Tips From The Esquiline” to learn more about:
- The difference between spirituality and religion.
- The five ways spiritually strong people improve the world.
- The best methods for a strong prayer life.
Download the guide today and get started on a path to better spiritual wellness.