"Ritual and ceremony can bridge our past and our present elegantly, making it possible for folks like you and me to travel through life, honoring the good and bad times we’ve been through. They can help us become human “well-beings,” ready to take on more life and liberty and ready to pursue our happiness.- Carl Jung

December brings the beginning of winter with the winter solstice marking the shortest day and longest night of the year. To the ancient agrarian societies this day symbolized light's victory over darkness with the rebirth of the Sun God infusing the world with hope. This was a time of celebration, a time to gather together and feast, to renew relationships, to strengthen the bonds of friendship and family ties.

December still is highlighted with family get-togethers and celebration feasts. Not only does participation in these traditional gatherings anchor relationships, partaking in holiday celebrations helps us feel connected to our place in society and gives one a stronger sense of self. A major portion of an individual's memories are based around their holiday experiences. Who isn't transported back to dinners with their loved ones by the smell of pumpkin pie or baking gingerbread?

The power of ritual comes from heritage, tradition and most of all something being emblazoned in your brain over time. Taking part in family rituals protect the individual against a sense of loneliness and uncertainty in daily living as it transmits shared beliefs of the family group across generations. Through ritual we connect to generations, past and future.

To the ancients, grain was the staff of life and history is laden with stories of harvest deities, mystical feasts and fertility rites all centered on the growing of grain and the baking of celebration dishes. There is something very rewarding in baking up a special dish for family and friends and every time an art is learned and practiced it is inherited and infused with new life for a new generation. Through the art of baking one can reconnect to history and tune into the changing seasons. Acknowledging the seasons is a simple way to harmonize with the world and to recognize that we are a part of it. So this month give thanks for the abundance in your life by baking a special treat for a neighbor or a friend. Give it to them along with the recipe and pass along a linage that weaves back to the beginning of time. Only you can make your life richer and fill it with meaning. It's the little things that add to your life: that enrich it with memories.

Seasonal observances not only help keep our relationships connected, they help to reconnect us to the natural world. It's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and let days, weeks and even months slip by. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. So make time for seasonal celebrations, set aside a morning to try out that new recipe. Take a moment to meditate on your blessings. Take in the beauty around you. Rejoice. Let your heart be glad as you gather your family to you and celebrate knowing life is good.

A delightful combination of chocolate, molasses and ginger sure to spicy up any celebration

12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
3/4 cup butter
1 egg
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar

stir together flour, baking soda, spices and cocoa. Set aside.

In mixing bowl cream butter and brown sugar; beat until combined.
Add egg and molasses; beat until combined.

Slowly beat flour mixture into butter mixture.
Mix in chocolate pieces
Chill for 2 hours or more.

Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls;
Roll in granulated sugar.
Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes.

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