Women's Christmas 2015: Illuminating the Threshold

Wise Women Also Came
Image: Wise Women Also Came © Jan Richardson

Did you know that in some parts of the world, Epiphany (January 6, which brings the Christmas season to a close) is celebrated as Women's Christmas? Originating in Ireland, where it is known as Nollaig na mBan, Women's Christmas began as a day when the women, who often carried the domestic responsibilities all year, took Epiphany as an occasion to enjoy a break and celebrate together at the end of the holidays.

Whether your domestic duties are many or few, Women’s Christmas is a good time to pause and take a break from whatever has kept you busy and hurried in the past weeks or months. As the Christmas season ends, this is an occasion both to celebrate with friends and also to spend time in reflection before diving into the responsibilities of this new year.

It's become a tradition for me to create a retreat that you can use for Women's Christmas—or anytime you're in need of a space of reflection. This year's retreat is titled "Illuminating the Threshold." I have a lingering fascination with thresholds, those betwixt and between places that emerge when we have left what is familiar but have not arrived at what lies ahead. This retreat offers an invitation for you to engage your own thresholds and do some reflecting and dreaming there.

The retreat is very flexible, easily adaptable to your own purposes. You can do the retreat anytime you wish, by yourself or with friends near or far. It includes an introduction with some thoughts about how you might use these reflections.

Clicking the link below will take you to a page on this Sanctuary of Women site where you can download the retreat as a PDF file. There's no cost; think of it as my Women's Christmas gift to you! You're also welcome to make a donation in support of the retreat; donations will be shared with the A21 Campaign (thea21campaign.org), which is devoted to ending human trafficking and providing sanctuary and healing for those rescued from slavery.

Download the Women's Christmas Retreat

You are welcome to make copies of the retreat to share with friends. I'd be delighted for you to spread the word about the retreat by sharing this blog post; you can use any of the social media icons at the bottom of this post or simply forward the link to others.

The retreat opens with a threshold blessing I've included for you below. As we celebrate the day and enter into the year ahead, may Christ our Light meet you at every door. Merry Women's Christmas!

Blessing the Threshold

This blessing
has been waiting for you
for a long time.

While you have been
making your way here
this blessing has been
gathering itself
making ready
biding its time

This blessing has been
polishing the door
oiling the hinges
sweeping the steps
lighting candles
in the windows.

This blessing has been
setting the table
as it hums a tune
from an old song
it knows,
something about
a spiraling road
and bread
and grace.

All this time
it has kept an eye
on the horizon,
keeping vigil,
hardly aware of how
it was leaning itself
in your direction.

And now that
you are here
this blessing
can hardly believe
its good fortune
that you have finally arrived,
that it can drop everything
at last
to fling its arms wide
to you, crying

– Jan Richardson

[The Wise Women Also Came image is © Jan Richardson from the book Night Visions. To use this image, please visit this page at Jan Richardson Images.]

27 Responses to "Women's Christmas 2015: Illuminating the Threshold"

  1. Heather McVoy says:

    And many blessings to you, Jan. Sent with love.

  2. Shelby J Anderson says:

    I really like the sound of this retreat and the material mentioned. I do not have a computer nor a copier anymore so I would either have to just do it while online or if you could mail me the lessons…that would be great. I have just an IPAD. I imagine I will be doing it by myself…but that's ok. I will spend Jan. 15 thru Mar.15 in Orange Beach, Ala. Would be good for me to do this there. Thanks. Shelby Anderson

    • Shelby, thank you! If you haven't seen Mochel's comment below, be sure to take a look. The retreat is self-contained in a PDF document that you can download (from the link above; just click on where it says "Download the Women's Christmas Retreat"), so if you can download it to your iPad, then you'll have everything you need in order to do the retreat. Blessings on your time in Orange Beach! Thanks again.

  3. Mochel Morris says:

    Shelby, you can download onto your iPad, and then open in iBooks. That's what I do. Mochel

  4. Judy Grieve says:

    Thank you Jan, I am still reading and re-reading the Illuminated Advent posts. I took time this year to limit time on the computer and so am slowly catching up. I do appreciate your leaving it up to January 6. I shared this link on my face book, another media I limited during Advent.

    Blessings in this new year. Judy Grieve

    • Judy, thanks so much for your words and for joining in the Illuminated 2014 Advent Retreat! It was a gift to journey through the season with you. Thanks also for sharing the link for the Women's Christmas Retreat. Many blessings to you.

  5. Kitty Madden says:

    Feeling so abundantly blessed by you and by our Mother-Father God as I enter into this new year continuing to walk with the staff and mothers of the Casa Materna here in the northern highlands of Nicaragua.
    with gratitude beyond words, Kitty

  6. Jan,
    Thank you for opening your soul to us as you follow your star & go home by another way. I pray that this year will take you deeper and deeper still. I pray that your grief will only carve a wider place for you to discover the treasures of darkness. Thank you for walking with me on my wayfaring paths as I look for wisdom and seek a softer heart. May your own healing journey and generous sharing bring you all the gifts of a stargazer.

    Bless you.

  7. Marian says:

    Jan, I'm so glad to have found this site. I've been looking for some reflections just for women, to start the new year. I look forward to using these thoughts for meditation, to find my way through 2015.

    Thank you,

  8. Marian says:

    Oh, and I LOVE this blessing!!

  9. Marybeth says:

    In the gray of this winter day a candle is lit. A Women's Christmas Retreat is the uplifting treat I need to meet the stillness in winter. All is dormant, resting and developing. Thank you, Jan for providing this special "re-treat" for us.
    Love and peace,

  10. Judith Plotner says:

    Thank you for sharing your insight and wisdom in the wonderful gifts of your writing and art. What I find on your site always speaks to me, wherever I am in my journey. I am grateful.

  11. Linda walker says:

    Thank you so much Jan for the resources you have shared with us all. I particularly like the blessing and will certainly be sharing that with others. I hope that 2015 will be a year when you experience God's love and care for you in a very special way.

  12. Joy says:

    So grateful for this gift. I am leading a retreat for staff women this week and this is just what we needed. Thank you, Jan!

  13. Mary Fleming says:

    Than you Jan. I wish you many blessing for 2015. I was missing your messages so I am very happy that you are generously continuing with the Women's Christmas messages. This is very generous of you and I am grateful.

  14. Katherine Maynard says:

    Dear Jan,
    I have a small circle of friends who meet every few months to share our spiritual journeys – we call ourselves Anam Cara (Soul Friends). 🙂 I gave them each a copy of your 2014 Womens' Christmas retreat for the holidays. For me especially, your words about grief were so timely, as I just lost my father on Dec. 11.
    I also used a portion of your Advent 3 Testify to the Light mediation in my eulogy of my father on Dec. 14 at his Memorial service – I opened that mediation the morning after he passed and it gave me much comfort. Through that mediation you gave me the words to say about my dad which at that moment I couldn't find for myself. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us. I look forward to settling in today with this 2015 retreat.

  15. Trish Anderson says:

    Hi Jan,

    A very dear friend and counselor referred me to your site. I am on the verge of tears just reading the Blessing Threshold. I've been uncertain coming into this year and not quite ready. Having read this poem, I can at least stop holding my breath. smile…

    Thank you,

  16. Joanie Mills says:

    Thank you so very much for your "retreat". It touches me at a transitional time of my life and has moved me in spiritual ways that other readings have not. This seems to be a Threshold year for me, and your words have filled so many spaces . I found Centering Prayer several years ago, and this retreat so joins with my prayers .
    You are a blessing to us all, in your sharing, your faith and your journey!


  17. Christine Roe says:

    Hello Jan. Thank you for sharing this beautiful resource. It has already blessed me in ways unknown. I had a rough day. It was one of those days where some needed tears commenced, and I have no explanation for it, but they were necessary. I am a seminarian and I am about to enter into the final academic semester. My final year in school will be spent as a vicar. I do not know where that will be yet. Many unknowns around the corner for me and my family, especially my brother. He is awaiting a trial date and is currently under house arrest. All of us are anxiously waiting with him. He may have to wait for up to two years before he knows anything. Thanks for listening and sharing this resource. Take care.

  18. Annie Kelley says:

    I love this !! Esp. since it is my birthday !!

  19. Barb Davis says:

    Dear Jan,
    Thank you so much for this amazing gift. I have been in a "sabbatical year" following the experience of ovarian cancer over the past year and a half. I have been deemed cancer-free (alleluia) and now am at a threshold of discerning where I will be called for this next leg of my journey. Your exploration of thresholds- your provocative and invitational questions and your own honest sharing are such beautiful encouragement.
    I have shared this with other women friends who have been amazing companions for me and I know we will deepen our own sharing as we journey together with your incredible gift.

  20. vsweetdreams says:

    Dear Jan,
    I just want to say thank you for sharing this incredible journey Catholic women of the faith can walk together on. I shared your invite with women members of my parish and they appear to like the retreat concept as well. Perhaps later my sisters and I will be sending and sharing our journey with you. My favorite spiritual insight is "Share the Lord's blessings so you can be a blessing to others!." Thanks again Jan!

  21. Anne Kern says:

    Thank you Jan for this precious retreat. Advent this year was derailed by the suicide attempt of my niece. Then the year began by Jackie taking her own life on January first. Your retreat fed and sustained me as I journeyed through my own grief and holding my family as they walked the hard path. Our family clung together, then, we had to journey on with our day to day… So I wrote:
    Emerging from within our circle of love
    I peer out
    The world is different
    And oh so the same
    Moments of laughter and tears mingle
    With times when I need to speak of our pain
    And times of tender solitary holding
    This change
    Begs for recognition
    This passage demands
    Leaning on Love
    We stand on the threshold
    Glimpsing through the veil
    A new barrenness where
    Beauty and poverty of spirit are one
    Bind our brokenness
    Wrap us in healing bands woven by faith in our merciful Saviour

    Many blessings be upon you!

    • Anne, thank you. I have thought of you and your family so often over the past weeks, sending blessings and prayers for each of you, including Jackie. Thank you for these exquisite words you have offered in your grief and love. "A new barrenness where / Beauty and poverty of spirit are one" — these were among the words that especially tugged at my attention and my heart.

      I send gratitude and blessings as you and your family move across this threshold. May Christ bind your brokenness indeed. Deep peace to you.

  22. Joseph Cirou says:

    I am French Canadian and, naturally, if you understand French Canadians, genealogy is a passionate hobby.

    We have the tradition, as do many other ethnic groups of the "sage femme" The wise woman who was/is a healer. It is common among the Native Americans and there is great affinity between the Native American and the French American/Canadian culture.

    Our deacon is Native American and has been received by the Cree Nation as a shaman

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