December News Brief

The holiday season is upon us! Did you know that there are twenty (plus) holidays worldwide in the month of December? A quick internet search provides details on all sorts of cultural and religious holidays celebrating the Buddha’s Enlightenment, Jewish celebration, Hanukkah, secular festival celebrating African cultural values, Kwanzaa,  Yule or Winter Solstice, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and more! December is sometimes referred to as the most festive month with celebrations that seek to remind us of peace on earth and goodwill toward all.

Given the state of the world in 2023, it seems more urgent than ever to lean into being the change we want to see in the world. It can be uplifting to practice generosity, kindness, and compassion during this season of light fading and returning. In the midst of all the celebration and merriment, it is also helpful to pause in reflection and gratitude for what is good in our lives and in the world. If there’s a roof over our heads, warmth, and daily food to eat, we are wealthier than many. If we look, there are abundant opportunities to share our good fortune with those who are less fortunate. Think about volunteering at a soup kitchen, reaching out to someone who may be lonely, fostering a companion animal, or donating blankets to a homeless shelter. I’m wishing you joy, good health, and peace in the season and in the new year. ❤

Now for the News:

  • This Month’s Special Day:  is Christmas Day, December 25th! It is also National Pumpkin Pie Day – a day to enjoy that holiday favorite, the humble pumpkin pie. Pumpkins in general and pumpkin pie especially is symbolic of the late fall harvest and the kickoff to celebrations beginning with Halloween and extending through to New Year’s Day celebrations. If you didn’t enjoy a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, think about adding to the menu for whatever you are celebrating in December. There is a wonderful recipe for a vegan version in Recipes from the Food Doctor and Friends. Here are some fun pumpkin pie facts. Dig in!
    • Pumpkin Pie Origins – It all began in 1621 when Pilgrims made pumpkin custard with honey, milk, and spices. In 1675 recipes for the treat began to appear in English cookbooks. In 1765 the American Cookery cookbook included pumpkin pudding baked in a pie shell; this is largely the version we enjoy today. Starbucks introduced the beloved pumpkin spice latte in 2003 and the rest is history as they say.
    • Nutritional Values – If you are wondering if pumpkin pie is healthy, the answer is “sort of”. It is made with sweeteners like sugar or honey, so will need to be consumed with that in mind. That said, a single reasonable serving contains the daily recommended intake of vitamin A and is also abundant in vitamin C, potassium, and iron.
    • For the Spice of it – The spices involved in this holiday favorite are ginger, nutmeg, allspice, clove, and cinnamon. These all have medicinal properties including being anti-nausea, soothing to the stomach and healing for other gastrointestinal issues (ginger);  anti-rheumatic, antioxidant (nutmeg); antibacterial and anti-cancer (clove); antidiabetic, lipid lowering (cinnamon). All these are anti-inflammatory!
    • Pumpkin Spice Everything – the spice combo has gained in popularity over the years. You can now find pumpkin spiced coffee, ice cream, pudding, candles, incense, cookies, muffins, breads, oatmeal, smoothies, soups, stews, and more. If you love to cook and want to add this kind of pizzaz to your culinary creations, make your own jar using a tried-and-true recipe.
  • Winter Solstice – occurs on Thursday, December 21, 2023 at 10:27 p.m. (EST). The word solstice comes from the Latin root words “sol” meaning sun, and “sistere” meaning to stand still. In the northern hemisphere, solstice marks the beginning of three days where the sun appears to standstill and daylight hours are very short indeed. Solstice marks the end to the solar year and much like New Year’s Eve, a time to reflect on the past and look to the future. Some ways to celebrate solstice include journaling or in some way reflecting on what is concluding and what lies ahead in the coming year; engaging in a renewal meditation (solo or with loved ones); lighting an intention candle; creating and enjoying a special meal; singing or listening to inspirational music.
  • New Format – Beginning in 2024, our News Brief will follow the natural cadence of seasonal changes that guide my activities and give shape to my creative energy. It will be sent eight times a year just before the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, summer and winter solstices, and the cross quarter days that mark the midpoints between seasons. These days represent a time to wrap up activities and set new intentions. For example, February 2nd is the midpoint between the winter solstice and vernal (spring) equinox. As winter’s midpoint, many in the north are still looking at weeks of snow and ice; a great time to consider what is left to accomplish in winter’s deep and perhaps begin to dream about what seeds to plant in the spring season. “Seeds”, of course, can be literal (food, trees, flowers, herbs), or figurative (ideas, plans, intentions, goals). You can watch for the first newsletter using this format in late January.
  • Mail ChimpThis News Brief and all those in future will be sent to readers via Mailchimp, a great mail platform we have used in past years. It simplifies our work and makes it super easy for readers to opt in or out and update email addresses. Using Mailchimp does not compromise data confidentiality. Further Shore will never sell, trade, publish, or otherwise share your name or email address. Opting In or Out is easy too. Stay tuned for the subscribe link (coming in January).
  • Hospice at Holiday Time:  It is wonderful to think about hot toddies, pumpkin pie, ugly sweaters, and sparkling decorations at holiday time. But some families will be caring for loved ones in hospice during this season of light. Here are a few tips for that circumstance:
    • Let Go – If holiday traditions and activities are many, things may need to be different this year. Plan for activities that feel doable given grief considerations, caregiving duties, and personal energy.
    • Give Grace – Anticipatory grief is different for everyone and can be very much part of the hospice experience for family and friend caregivers. Extend compassion and grace to others and to yourself if there is a need to skip certain activities or traditions.
    • Reach Out – Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for assistance from friends, family, neighbors, and your hospice team if respite is needed.
    • Self-Care – Taking a bit of time for a wintery walk, a hot bath, or some time to meditate or exercise will be restorative for body and soul.
    • Find Peace – To find inner peace, turn to faith practices, try a silent meditation, guided breathwork, listening to soothing music or an inspirational book on tape in between caregiving duties or when the patient is asleep.  
    • Make a New Memory – If the patient is comfortable and alert, it is possible to make special memories together. Watching a holiday movie, singing or listening to  carols together, reading greeting cards or letters to your loved one can bring comfort and smiles all around. Use care not to overwhelm the patient with visitors or activities.
  • On the Blog:  check out “V” is for Volunteering the latest addition to the Wellness Alphabet! You may also view the current, and all past newsletters here.
  • Quote of the Month:  “The Winter Solstice is the time of ending and beginning, a powerful time — a time to contemplate your immortality.”  ~ Dr. Frederick Lenz

May all beings be safe, well, happy, and content.

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