As I sit down to write this little essay on the Yule season, I am filled with memories from the past. I grew up celebrating the Christmas tradition, and so my recollections are filled with those things. The scent of evergreen, the melodious sound of caroling, family gathered in my grandparents’ old farmhouse with the aroma of roasting turkey filling the air, and presents resting temptingly under the sparkling lights of the Christmas tree.

Perhaps we all idealize our memories of holidays past, and like many things in our lives, we’d love to recapture those feelings and experiences. Yet, the world has changed and many seasons have passed. Our traditions and beliefs may have grown and evolved, yet still the strength of those memories linger. Perhaps we’ve given up on things ever being quite so wonderful again.

A recently conversation with my friend, Susan, prompted me to question that assumption.

Those memories, and the feelings that accompany them, are still in our minds and our hearts. Perhaps we cannot recreate and relive them as they once were, but we can open to the possibility that they can return to us in new forms.

One of the great truths I have learned is that nearly all changes must take place inside of us before it can manifest in our lives. The people we have loved and lost are still with us. Engaging the love we still feel for them brings them into our holiday rituals and opens us to new love we may yet find. It’s so easy to miss our loved ones who are no longer with us, and feel the pain of loss. But by refocusing our thoughts and feelings on how very much we still care for them, we may find our whole experience changes.

To do this we need to slow down and not rush through the internal processes of grief. It helps to stop wishing for “this just to be over with,” and instead remember that life continues on in all ways – both the challenges and the blessings. If we want to experience new cherished memories, our hearts must be open both to the joy and the pain, hiding from neither. Love, in all of its forms, wants to find you, and it can only enter through an open, active heart.

This holiday season, as the long nights wane and the time of rebirth comes around once again, consider the timeliness of all things. Consider that it is by bringing those feelings into our present moment, with no attachment to the form they may now take, that the magical spirit of the holiday season can return to us all.

Smile in your heart and be joyful, and remember that no one is truly ever lost; they simply wear a different face.