My 8 easy no nonsense Christmastide Traditions for the busy and not overly spiritual

My 8 easy no nonsense Christmastide Traditions for the busy and not overly spiritual

This year, celebrating the “Rauhnaechte” spiritual practice appears to be massive all over the net and social media. Call me a bit cynical, but who actually has time for all this?  So, here are some  no nonsense Christmastide traditions you can follow even if you have little time or are not that spiritual.

no nonsense Christmastide traditions opening image
Pilgrims lighting candles in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, 2017

What is Christmastide?

Christmastide is the liturgical period in most Western Christian Churches that begins on 24 December   and ends on 5th December at sunset in most Western Christian Churches. Another explanation is the “extra days” you get after a full lunar year (3665 days) which dates back way longer than Christianity. It is said in these “extra nights” the heavenly portals are incredibly porous in and out, so that wishes made will reach the universe more easily but the other way round, all sorts of no-good spirits might haunt the earth. These no nonsense Christmastide Traditions will help you .

no nonsense Christmastide traditions - this is actually an Easter picture
Nothing to do with Christmas, this one – it is of an Easter Service in Echmiadzin Cathedal in 2018

I looked for something similar in English, but found very little except for the Christian liturgical season of Christmastide minus the demons and heavenly portals. My no nonsense Christmastide Traditions are mostly, secular, but a bit of religion is playing along as well.

And this year, I have slept through most of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day already, watching “My Neighbour Totoro” being my only quasi-spiritual practice. But that’s okay. I literally worked my butt off the last weeks. We kinda cleaned the house last weekend already. So when I stumbled home yesterday afternoon with some last-minute shopping and a cake that will keep until April, all I wanted was finally to sink into the sofa, drink a bottle of Eastern Germany’s finest sparkling wine and eat what I’d brought form the Turkish Deli.

no nonsense Christmastide traditions
This picture is pretty symbolic of my year – masked, worried, somewhat restless

No Mass celebrations. Just did not want to risk it. I had plenty contact with Covid-19.  I’m also going to administer vaccinations, starting tomorrow, so we have been self-isolating for some days. We are grateful our families are well, so we decided not to see anyone this year. I am positive we can see them again next Christmas!

So here comes a little late, my sensible Christmastide practice, not too late for you to join in.

Some interesting Christmastide practices in Europe

Basically, some no-good demons are hanging around trying to cause havoc in many parts of Europe. In Greece, its the bad “Kalikanzari” spirits sawing the tree of the world, trying to topple it.

In many parts of Germany, the “Wild Hunt” is touring around, looking for young women and white laundry. Therefore, no white laundry is to be hung outside or it may be taken and serve as your shroud this coming year. Too bad I just had to wash my work uniforms – its either gonna be contaminated with god -knows-what and dragged through a couple nursing homes or I risk that I die next year. Well –  I washed it but  took great care to hang it indoors and out of sight, even though it will take ages. Might run a bit of sage smoke through it afterwards.

no nonsense Christmastide traditions
I love the lights in these otherwise pretty dark times

Also, you could gain a lot of precious info about the upcoming year during Christmastide. Animals are thought to be able to speak and tell you about the coming year. The bad thing is if you hear them, you’ re likely to die.  For unmarried woman, they might see their future husband at midnight if waiting in a “magical place” but by no means talk to them, otherwise they would die. Last not least,t he tradition of lead pouring stems from the Christmastide open portal theory, allowing you to make forecasts for the coming year

The now popular New Years Eve fireworks stems from the practice to make as much noise as possible to chase away evil spirits, and houses and barns would be smoked out for the same purpose

My Christmastide Practice

Even when growing up in super secular Eastern Germany, my mother used to have a few simple rules that we would obey, especially the laundry on a line and trying to remember and interpret one’s own dreams. Since then, I’ve always tried to remember my dreams at Christmastide but done little else other than trying to let go of unneeded things and habits, paying all my dues by New Years Eve and starting the NEw Year on as clean a slate as possible but no particular spiritual practice beyond attending Mass at Christmas and sometimes New Year.

This year, I think I’ll do a few more things in a more or less planned way. My practice will still be quite brief, and mostly secular in character.

Reflection is key to my no nonsense Christmastide traditions

Most of all, I’m taking account for the year past, and think about if and what I wish to do differently in the future. Personally, I’ve created circumstances I am really happy with while internally, the struggle continues on several issues. As someone who’s always defined her worth on praise from others and income, this year wasn’t much different. Time to work on that. And other things have popped up over the past few years since we’ve created a safe and stable home and acquired some much-loved family members aka rescue cats. Most of it revolves arpund academic work, either working towards a higher degree or studying something completely unrelated to medicine. With universities mostly doing distance learning right now, I will have to think about this.

Since we are both middle-aged, we are thinking about securing our future. In the past three years, I have moved away from the “classic” savings of my early professional years to investing any spare income, which takes continuous education. One of our goals for the next year is to reduce our mortgage  significantly so that in a few years time our home will be paid off.

Japanese tea and a traditional Japanese sweet
I may not get the full Japanese tea time, but a Japanese or herbal tea at home is one of my relaxing practices


Holy Smoke, there’ll be a bit of it

I do like a bit of incense, and I have amassed a nice little collection of Japanese incense sticks, incense from my trips in the Middle East, and sage and hyssop from my own garden. And I have been known to wave a homemade smudge stick around after a cleaning session every now and then and burn incense.

So I will definitely do this on New Years Eve, maybe a bit more often if I find the time.

If you do not have incense at home,worry not, and by no means panic buy last minute supplies on Amazon. BBQ coals can be used to substitute for the special incense charcoal. Or use an aroma burner (not a  Have orange or mandarin peel, lavender, dried rosebuds, sage, pine needles, cinnamon sticks or rosemary in the house? Use them.

incense and spice seller in Aqaba, Jordan
Travelling around the Middle East means a healthy supply of incense, like from this stall in a market in Aqaba
incense for sale in the Old Town of Jerusalem
Or in Jerusalem, somewhere near the Western Wall on Al-Wad Street. Colourful and very friendly

I use a fireproof dish with sand or salt in the bottom on a fireproof ground. I made mine in pottery class some years ago but any ceramic or metal dish is fine as long as its fireproof. I use either incense and herbs on charcoal, my Japanese incense sticks or for a quick fresh blast, Armenian paper. If you are looking for a one-stop shop to  buy these things along with beautifully minimalistic house goods, look at the aesthetically pleasing website of The Future Kept (UK and Europe, with Shipping worldwide possible). I don’t have much experience with any US incense shops – if you know a good one, please let me know.

Tidying, Sorting and Filing

A longstanding tradition, actually. During Christmastide, you bring order in your life, starting small – returning books to the library, paying outstanding bills, paying debts. I usually file all my bills and receipts and shrew those I no longer need. As the German tax years ends on 31 December, I start going through that portion in my desk tidy where I’ve thrown all sorts of “done” paperwork and start preparing invoices and receipts for my tax return. I also make notes what to enter into my tax return for the past year.

Then, it’s all ready when I can physically do the tax return, around February to March, when tax returns are officially invited.

During the hot desk tidy action, I also check and file everything related to work, healthcare, pensions… I read all our meters and report usage. I tidy my desk. I try to tidy other corners of the house that are untidy. Therer is enough to keep me going for a few years, actually.

Koya-san pilgrim resthouse
This tidy sparse room in a pilgrims rest house in Koya-san is a model in tidiness, a tidiness I’ll never achieve

Carving my motto for 2021 and other good intentions and wishes

I’ve dabbled in lino cutting for a couple years without making much progress, but it actually is fun. So this year, I try cutting a bit of script. I also like starting the year with a good intention or motto.

I was briefly thinking about “this too shall pass” in its original Farsi. Since I cannot read Farsi, I couls easily end up making something completely different, causing all sort of ridicule, and in plain English or German it just sounds a bit… plain. Maybe “This too shall pass” can stand for 2020 instead?

I think “Conquer Yourself and the world lies at your feet” a quote from St Augustine of Hippo might be a good one. “Vincit qui se vincit” is like a concise version of it and probably easier to carve. It’s the Motto of the Beast of “The Beauty and the Beast” or, if you want to come across more intellectual, an adaptation of the Roman writer Publius Syrus.

painting a shirt ca. 2012
Old picture, but I’ve never been one to shy away from a good motto

A common more contemporary practice for the Christmastide is to reflect on the year past and make lots of notes. Somewhere at the beginning, write everything down you want  leave on a separate piece of paper, then burn these papers. Also write down your wishes for the New Year. Some say keep these in a safe place, others say burn one every night of Christmastide without looking at the actual piece of paper, some say write 12 wishes, some say write 14 wishes – there are no strict rules. I’m not really into the burning thing, unless it’s scented paper, but I do quite like the Japanese tradition of tying the unwanted “fortunes” to trees in shrines.

Anja tying an omikuji to a tree in Kyoto
Oldie but goodie: leaving those bad fortunes behind in Kyoto, 2005

Making Soap

I see this going first, actually, but I find it a rally nice tradition in theory. I first made soap during the first lockdown, and have lots of bars of homemade soap. I  still need to work on its appearance a little, but basically my all natural vegan bars are great to use – really mild yet cleansing. I want to make a green  and orange soap veined with gold and scented with frankinscense and maybe something fresh and citrussy.

my first ever batch of homemade cold process soap
My first ever batch of soap, olive oil/cocoa butter/coconut oil and charcoal soap

Tidying my  blog

Should be filed under “get everything nice and tidy to end the old year” but that section would get a bit chunky otherwise.  For a travel blog in a time with hardly any leisure travel at all, I somewhat smugly viewed my visitor numbers climb as we were increasingly locked up in our houses. I had had time to write a few posts as I sat indoors for most  of my summer holiday, so there were bits of content being published quite regularly even when I worked all the hours god sent me.

Senso ji with big red lantern in Tokyo
About two hours in Japan, in shock and loving it! One of my first pics from my first Japan trip in 2004

What I didn’t do was work on old posts and general technical stuff which is never fun for me. And surely, at some point when some update of something happened, my views tanked and Yoast SEO disappeared in the bowels of my file directory. After messing around with the FTP client didn’t work, I gave up and installed RankMath. At least the blog did not break completely. So I’ll have to really find Yoast somewhere under the proverbial floorboards, get rid of it and update pretty much every blog post I ever published – or at least that’s the dummy version. I hope to find a little time to work on it in the coming two weeks, tidying old posts, but it’s a project for the long haul.


Towards the end of this post, the “interpreting one’s dreams” section falls a bit short. Unfortunately, I rarely dream, and when I do, the dreams are either horrible or completely ludicrous. They occur more often when I am stressed and sleeping badly. Short of putting a notebook by my bed, I try and remember dreams during Christmastide as they more than at any other time of the year have the potential of becoming a reality in the coming year.

Already my first one was about trying and failing to pack up the cats to move somewhere/travel, which I hope will never happen. I mean, the bit where I am forced to pack up the cats. However…. I neither dreamed about COVID or my best ever ex boyfriend dying last Christmastide, so I firmly believe we have little control over most external circumstances and won’t get too worked up about it. I firmly believe dreams are an extension of your subconscious, so I do try and pay attention to them. And with that, I’ll go straight for the jugular and refer to “Man and his Symbols” by C.G.Jung and his associates  for any further reference on interpreting dreams. It is one of the most approachable of Jung’s works and

And…. Relax!

One of the most important things of my no nonsense Christmastide traditions, or at least during the days I do not need to work. Just find some peace and quiet, do things to like, don’t be under pressure from anything or anybody. A chunk of days off att he end of the year for most of us – the perfect time to relax and recharge. As I am doing the final edits of this post, I sit here with a cup of sage tea, about to make Hasselback potatoes and kale like this then settle in front of the telly to binge-watch on our newly acquired streaming subscription.

What about religious practice in these no nonsense Christmastide Traditions?

As a somewhat “critical Catholic” I have no doubt in the existence of god and the content of the bible, but I am pretty non-dogmatic and retain an interest in other religions or spiritual practices. Most of my religious practice is quiet reflection and prayer aside from trying to live a virtuous life. For the past year, that meant no Mass celebrations, but I observed Lent and celebrate most Christian holidays.

church door in Armenia
Some of my favourite churches stand in Armenia – this is in Haghpat or Sanahin

I try to read books on religion regularly but have failed miserably this year. Right now, I’m struggling through Robert Barron’s “Catholicism” which I bought on the grounds of its good reviews. I have tried and given up on St Augustine’s “Confessions” multiple times. I fared better with Joseph Ratzingers Magnum Opus “Jesus of Nazareth”.

Bethlehem Church of the Nativity, the Nativity Grotto
Descending into the Nativity Grotto ( and a bit of regigiou frenzy) in Bethlehem, Palestine
Ognissanti Church in Florence
Quiet contemplation with tons of superb art at the Ognissanti Church, Florence

In the hope of continuing my reading with something relatively easy to read, I have gotten “Orthodoxy” by G.K. Chesterton and “The Ragamuffin Gospel ” by Brendan Manning. I also got a German book by Wolfram Eilenberger (“Feuer der Freiheit”, no English translation yet)  on female philosophers during the Nazi regime which juxtaposes the life and work of Hannah Arendt,  Simone de Beauvoir, Ayn Rand and Simone Weil. I am very excited to read that!

The Small Print

Just a few small things for this no nonsense Christmastide Traditions post. Be careful with open fire. Watch animals talk and hang white laundry at your own risk. Freely click on any links, none of them are affiliate links and I have not been paid to insert any of these links.  Enjoy this no nonsense Christmastide traditions post! And last thing, if I  get bogged down with work for the rest of the year and nothing new is published, enjoy the holidays and  have a wonderful start to the New Year!


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