Women's Christmas: The Map You Make Yourself

Wise Women Also Came © Jan L. Richardson

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 comes to a close, 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.

As a contribution to your contemplation and celebration, I've created a retreat for you to use for Women's Christmas—or anytime you're in need of a space of reflection. Titled "The Map You Make Yourself," the retreat is designed as a mini-pilgrimage into your own life. With readings, blessings, and art, the retreat offers an invitation to ponder where your path has taken you, what you're noticing in your life right now, and what you're dreaming for the path ahead.

The retreat is very flexible, easily adaptable to your own purposes. You can do the retreat with friends near or far, or perhaps simply select a single reflection or two as a starting point for conversation. The retreat includes an introduction with some thoughts about how you might engage these reflections.

You can download the retreat as a PDF by clicking the link below. There's no cost; think of it as my Women's Christmas gift to you! You are welcome to make copies of the retreat to share with friends. And 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.

Download the Women's Christmas Retreat

I've also written a Women's Christmas blessing for you. As we celebrate the day and enter into the year ahead, may you journey well and walk with wisdom.

The Map You Make Yourself
A Blessing for Women’s Christmas

You have looked
at so many doors
with longing,
wondering if your life
lay on the other side.

For today,
choose the door
that opens
to the inside.

Travel the most ancient way
of all:
the path that leads you
to the center
of your life.

No map
but the one
you make yourself.

No provision
but what you already carry
and the grace that comes
to those who walk
the pilgrim’s way.

Speak this blessing
as you set out
and watch how
your rhythm slows,
the cadence of the road
drawing you into the pace
that is your own.

Eat when hungry.
Rest when tired.
Listen to your dreaming.
Welcome detours
as doors deeper in.

Pray for protection.
Ask for the guidance you need.
Offer gladness
for the gifts that come
and then
let them go.

Do not expect
to return
by the same road.
Home is always
by another way
and you will know it
not by the light
that waits for you

but by the star
that blazes inside you
telling you
where you are
is holy
and you are welcome

P.S. For another reflection on Epiphany, visit this post at my blog The Painted Prayerbook:

Epiphany: Blessing of the Magi

DECEMBER 2013 UPDATE: New Women's Christmas Retreat coming soon!

We'll soon have a brand-new retreat ready for Women's Christmas 2014! It will be available shortly at the Women's Christmas page here at the Sanctuary of Women site.

[The Wise Women Also Came image is © Jan L. Richardson from the book Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas. To use this image, please visit this page at Jan Richardson Images.]

46 Responses to "Women's Christmas: The Map You Make Yourself"

  1. Your words evoke prayer, Jan. Thank you for sharing your gift.

  2. Pastor Kathy Kirkpatrick says:

    You are a blessing! Thank you for this gift!

  3. Jerri Rodewald says:

    Jan, I cannot thank you enough for this posting. I will download the Women's Christmas Retreat, but for Advent and now Christmas, I am once again using Night Visions. It has spoken to my spirit in an incredible way, and I thank you for all of your writings which touch my soul.

  4. Stephanie says:

    Thank you so very much! Your poem brought tears to my eyes.

  5. Jackie Mazurowski says:

    Thank you so much for your insightful words of reflection. I will cherish this gift as I begin 2013.

  6. Lori Carey says:

    Thanks so much for this gift of beauty and wisdom. The Illuminated Prayerbook retreat continues to feed my spirit through these continuing winter months. You are a blessing!

  7. Sharon Manning-Lew says:

    Thank you Jan for sharing this. I will be passing this one so that this could be a blessing for others.

  8. Lynda Myres says:

    What an incredibly generous thing you've done for women everywhere.And of course,what is good for women is good for the whole world…thank you Jan!

  9. What a blessing. I will be sharing your words with the women whom I companion. What a gift to invite women into the deeper, ancient rhythms we hold in our hearts.
    In peace,
    Michelle Conklin, Spiritual Director

    • Susan Dantzler says:

      I agree. A true blessing! Yes…one that resonates with the ancient rhythms deep within the heart of all women. Thank you, Jan, for providing yet another dot on the feminine life map, leading me, and all women even further on the path to better know the history of what is the sacred femininity; women who have loved God, longed for God, and walked with God. The words you share are like treasured artifacts recovered from the hard earth as a result of your diligent excavating, each a valuable piece to the puzzle revealing the lives of our ancestors, the women who have lived, longed, and loved before us. Thank you, Jan. Thank you for being an archeologist of the holy and sacred. Blessings, strength and peace to you in this new year!
      Peace & Joy,

      Susan Dantzler

  10. Ailsa Flynne says:

    A beautiful gift. My profound thanks for the moments of beauty you create.

    I've given a donation in honour of my Mum's birthday – and sent her a link as a birthday present 🙂


  11. Laura Hamrick says:

    Wow, Jan! The Map You Make Yourself is incredible. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'll look forward to downloading the Women's Christmas Retreat. Thank you for sharing your gifts. May God bless you in this New Year.

  12. Friends, thank you so much for visiting Sanctuary of Women and for your beautiful comments! I am grateful. Many blessings to you on this Women's Christmas and the days to come!

  13. Katie Deaderick says:

    Timely, precise, eloquent in it's simplicity. You have helped me at least two seasons in a row now.

  14. Linda Rufi says:

    This is exquisite. This is my year of exploring the open and closed doors in my life. I have been slowly collecting photos and drawings of doors and stairs to make a collage to go with some writing I am working on to sort out the connections between the doors that are locked and some are just ajar. From my heart of hearts I think you for sharing this generous love of yours with those looking for crumbs and morsels to feed our desires to go deeper into the unknown and unexplored. And in safety in embracing our journey in Christ as His daughters and as your sisters.

    • Yolanda Villa says:

      Linda, I love this idea of collecting doors & staircases to get at your map. I love that Jan has given the gift. I am on my way to have lunch with my dear girlfriends. Even though it will be well past Epiphany I will see if I can't interest them in a retreat with me. Over the years I have devoured Jan's book; In the Sanctuary of Women—The Map You Make Yourself continues that work.

      Bless you & Praise God for Jan

      Yolanda Villa,
      UM Pastor, Kansas City

  15. Pam says:

    Thanks Jan for unexpectedly entering my life, bearing gifts.

  16. Anne Linington says:

    Many thanks for the blessing of the Magi Jan- so appreciated as my Mother is coming to the end of her earthly journey and the furture will be by a way unknown. So reassuring that the light continues with us in a different way and we can spread it to others. Love your work in art and word- it is so inspiring and arrives just at the right time. Anne.

  17. Aneya Elbert says:

    Thank you for this journey. This is such a beautiful gift for women.

  18. Jerie says:

    Jan, thank you for this unexpected but very welcome gift!!!! I've shared it with three other pastors. Blessings to you in the new year.

  19. Diana says:

    This has been my best Christmas gift! Thank you so much for sharing your heart with us.

  20. Bonnie Klatt says:

    Thank you, Jan, for this stirring blessing. It resonates deeply within my heart center.

  21. Penny Barcus says:

    Dear Jan, my heartfelt thanks for appearing in my life just when I was feeling rather bleak, un-anchored and becoming anxious about my journey. Your idea of a map must be just what I need. I was feeling antsy reading posts of friends who have already packed & put away their Christmas decorations while I am still relishing having mine very visible. Now I have reaffirmation that my way can also be best especially for my life…..a Woman's Christmas too. All my love,

  22. Tomorrow, Epiphany, will be our first Women's Christmas. My friend, Sondra Grandfield and I had the pleasure of being amazed at PW Churchwide in Orlando in July by Jan! Her words were right to the heart and resonated with all 3,000 women there. Some of us will gather at 2:30 tomorrow and celebrate with other sisters. Parts of The Journey of a Treasuring Heart will be used since our 3 hour time doesn't come close to a full retreat session. Included this first time is a cooking demo by a local Chef, Dedra Blount. We have been gifted with a friend's home for our time together.
    Many, many thanks, Jan. We are working to have you and your husband come to the VA Beach area.
    May our journey this year be one of comfort and challenge…(Jan's words)
    Ginny Grace Covenant Presby Church of Princess Anne
    http://www.gcpcpa.org gracepw.com

  23. Ann Sherer says:

    Some friends and I are gathering in about 4 days and we are eager for Women's Christmas to be part of our time together.

  24. Jan, I discovered your book "In the Sanctuary of Women" in a difficult time of life. It was breath and nourishment to my soul. Thank you! Since then I am in training to become a Spiritual Director and Oblate of the Benedictine path. Thank you for your gift of the Women's Christmas and for all the ways you encourage us by the way you choose to be. May your 2013 be filled with beauty, mystery and awe of the riches in Christ Jesus.


    • Donna, thank you so much for the gift of your words and the blessing they hold. Sending you many blessings on your journey to become a spiritual director and a Benedictine oblate. Peace to you on this Epiphany/Women's Christmas and throughout this year!

  25. Cheryl Smith says:

    Got your email on Friday . . . sent an invitation to some of my women friends that appear in my email contacts and invited them to spend the next 2 weeks reading and commenting on the Epiphany retreat. . . .they told their friends and they told their friends . . . and now we have 58 women who will be sharing your on-line retreat together. How fun! Thank you very much!


    • How cool! Thanks so much, Cheryl, for sending the invitation to your friends and for letting me know–I loved hearing this and am delighted to know that all of you will sharing the Women's Christmas retreat together. Know that I'm sending blessings to you and the group on your journey! And much gratitude as well.

  26. Renee Jackson says:

    Thank you for your generosity. I look forward to sharing it with friends. God bless you.

  27. catherine ann says:

    Some friends and are are exploring your retreat and I have to say I am looking forward to this journey. Thank you in advance and many many blessings to you for your outrageous generosity. We will keep you posted along the way.

  28. Thank you so much for this! Means so much.

  29. Jodi says:

    For years, before my time here and continuing, the women have had an annual "Epiphany Party" on a Sunday in early January. (This year we were able to have it on Epiphany!) We bring food and do a candle gift exchange. As I understand it, it started as a Christmas party but December got too busy. They made their own "Women's Christmas." It was so nice to find this for this year and share a few poems. And now it's in my file for future years! Thank you.

  30. Piper says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you, thank you.

  31. Stephanie Warfield says:

    Thank you Jan for all of your creative inspiration! I have just downloaded the retreat and made a donation. In the coming days, I hope to share photos of the Advent study group I facilitated using your book "Night Visions". Our gathering ends this Friday and the women have created some stunning books/journals in reflection on your daily/weekly offerings from the book. We may just do it all over again next year because it has been such a wonderful resource for the entire group. Thank you so much from our circle of 10!

  32. Kate says:

    Both your blessings for Epiphany rang straight into my heart. I made a huge move this past fall, right around Halloween, which was also my birthday. I had a milestone year and moved into my own apartment, after spending ten years with someone. This was a scary venture, but a much needed one, and now I am free. I can finally be myself, once again. The blessings in your beautiful poems speak to me, and I will follow them into this new year.

    Thank you, you are always such a joy.


  33. Melissa says:

    Jan, thanks so much for sharing your wonderful gifts so generously. A small group of Candler women alumni will thoroughly drink from this well very soon! Peace and joy, Melissa

  34. Nancy says:

    Earlier this month my women's spirituality group called Wise Women met at my home for an all day retreat. I was so thrilled to get your retreat material and used it as inspiration for the planning of our day together. It was a wonderful start to the journey of this new year and I know that the discoveries of that day will continue to feed us throughout the year. An account of the day is in the January 14 post of my blog, clearingthespace.blogspot.com. Thank you for sharing your gifts. You are a lovely presence on my spiritual journey.

  35. Crissie says:

    Finally got to this retreat this morning – many thanks for this gift. It brought awareness from my mind space to my heart space.

  36. Pat says:

    Dear Jan,

    Thank you for this lovely site and beautiful Retreat .

    I am planning on sharing some of your reflections with some of my women friends tonight.

    The other day I saw a page with "practices " and another page about "thinks you should look at before you sleep"..I thought this was on the "Women's Christmas" page and yesterday I could not find it.
    Is there any way you can dirrect me to this info. They were lovely .

    Happy New Year ! Blessings and Peace,

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