Women's Christmas: The Shimmering Hours

Image: Wise Women Also Came © Jan 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.

It's become something of 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 "The Shimmering Hours," and our theme for this one is time. Inspired in part by my own questions about time (How will I enter time? What do I do with my time? In the press of each day, how will I make choices that allow me to feel some freedom about time—that it is spacious, that I will have enough?), the retreat offers an invitation for you to engage your own questions about how you move through your days.

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.

I've also written a new Women's Christmas blessing for you. As we celebrate the day and enter into the year ahead, may you have time enough, and may Christ our Light meet you in every moment. Merry Women's Christmas!

The Shimmering Hours
A Blessing for Women’s Christmas

There is so much
I want to say,
as if the saying
could prepare you
for this path,
as if there were anything
I could offer
that would make your way
less circuitous,
more smooth.

Once you step out
you will see for yourself
how nothing could have
made you ready for this road
that will take you
from what you know now
to what you cannot perceive
except, perhaps,
in your dreaming
or as it gives a glimpse
in prayer.

But I can tell you
this journey is not
about miles.
It is not about how far
you can walk
or how fast.

It is about what you will do
with this moment, this star
that blazes in your sky
though no one else
might see.

So open your heart
to these shimmering hours
by which your path
is made.

Open your eyes
to the light that shines
on what you will need
to see.

Open your hands
to those who go with you,
those seen
and those known only
by their blessing, their benediction
of the road that is
your own.

[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.]

35 Responses to "Women's Christmas: The Shimmering Hours"

  1. Lynne says:

    With an open heart, open eyes and open hands, I send a blessing of peace to you.

  2. Josephine says:

    Thank you for your heart gift, you bless me.

  3. Brigid says:

    Thank you for your generosity and kindness. What a wonderful gift!

    Hope you are healing and working your way through grief aided by the prayers of your friends.

  4. claire says:

    Such an extraordinarily beautiful blessing, so true, so right on…
    Thank you so very much, Jan ♡

  5. Lovely Blessing,Jan. And feels like a call: to open one's heart that has gone flat and become numb . . .

  6. Bless you and thank you for this challenge\call.

  7. Belita says:

    Thank you for sharing the gift that is you. Thank you for the blessing of meaningful art and words.

  8. Merry Watters says:

    In the midst of your grieving, you've looked into our hearts and spoken to each one of us, as if there were only one of us.
    As I enter a year of many, many changes, you've given me a talisman (talis woman ?) to carry with me. Thank you, Jan.

  9. Jan, when I went to run this retreat off I was expecting a couple pages at most, but had no idea you were sharing so much from the depth of all you are and so many poems, pages and powerful artpieces. THANK YOU. What a gift you are to all of us.
    Keeping you in mind, heart and prayer as you continue to walk the journey of grief and growth on this new path and presence with JESUS. May his compassionate love fill up the empty spaces and void you feel so much at this time… as much as is to be needed at this time in this space today, tomorrow and forever.
    Hugs and many blessings and much continued creativity to, with and for you and all who grace your life and theirs and ours.
    Your sister servant,
    Donna Marie, OSM

  10. Terri says:

    thank you for this, Jan. Beautiful gift.

  11. Donna says:

    Your thoughts bring me to the presence of a wise God and wise women who have touched my life. You are one of them.

    My heart-felt prayers at your loss and heavens gain.

  12. SarahLee Morris says:

    With a deeply grateful heart, I offer thanks, and prayers for you that Christ's light shines in your darkness when you most need the rays of his love.

  13. Karen says:

    Jan, your blessings that you have shared this season have been so wonderful. As I read them, something tight and binding seems to fall away and I am made fresh. So grateful.

    My thoughts and prayers have been with you throughout.

  14. Karen O'Brien says:

    What a gift. We celebrate Nollaig na nBan (hubby's from Ireland) by giving me some treats, down time and "extra attention" from my husband, as well as by assisting women who are less fortunate in some significant manner. Thanks for this wonderful resource!

  15. Elaine Evans says:

    Thank you for this gift.

    You are in the circle of my thoughts.

  16. Greta MacRae says:

    Dear Jan, Your ministry of art and word has been such a part of my prayer life and ministry to others. Please know that I carry you in prayer as you have carried me. May the peace of Christ be with you, Greta

  17. Sue says:

    Oh Jan how reassuring to read your email and also that you think of the changing seasons for others even at this special time for yourself.
    May God continue to surround you with love.

  18. Janice says:

    Your site was a shared gift from a friend. I thank you and I thank her. I was allowed the gift of time after an injury. Time is my gift to my husband, our children, our grand children and our entire family and family of friends. There is peace and joy in time….

  19. Dot Malone, SSND says:

    Jan, what a happy fault to come upon you accidentally. I was searching googly images looking for 'feminine magi' when I came upon your imagine of women. I bought three of your books – Night Vision, Through the Advent Door, and In the Sanctuary of Women. The first two graced my Advent prayer and the third I will continue to read and use throughout the year. How great to have new materials and insights for Advent. In you, I was blessed with many graces. Thank you so much. Continue to be open to the Spirit of God and to sharing you insights. Thank you so much. A very Blessed New Year.

  20. Judy Martel Peloquin says:

    Jan, What an incredible gift! I am so eager to pour over every sacred word. I already know what a delicious blessing this retreat will be from knowing you all these years and devouring your previous writings. You fill such a need for those of us hungering and thirsting for that unique inspiration that will bless us like no other. Thinking of you and holding you close in heart and prayer as you navigate the start of this New Year.

  21. Ruth says:

    Thank you so much for this lovely liturgy, I am going to use for my morning prayers on Monday.

    Jan I continue to keep you in my prayers.

  22. Anne Mills says:

    Thank you for this lovely gift. May God bless you and continue to bring you comfort, peace and courage to face the days ahead.

  23. Brigid says:


    I began to read through the first few pages this morning while at prayer. The Shimmering Hours Blessing really spoke to me. I'm leading our monthly moonlight labyrinth walk at church on Jan 15 and will use this blessing to begin our walk. Your introductory words are beautiful and I hope to quote you at the labyrinth gathering, introducing even more spiritual seekers to your works and words. A friend who found you through my FB post ordered A Retreat for Women's Christmas. We're having lunch to share our thoughts on Jan 6. Thank you for facilitating this and for sharing and introducing this new holiday to me. I've shared it with many others and hope we can all gather next year to have a small retreat and celebration with next year's words and prayers.

  24. Mary Raver says:

    Dear Jan,

    During this evening's Epiphany service, these lines from the Litany of Thanksgiving caught my attention: "…God, you have created us to live within a span of time. Each of our lives is like a bright thread in the tapestry of life …." Prior to attending the service, I had read your Blessing for Epiphany and your inspiration for this year's Women's Retreat. I have only known both you and Gary through the "bright thread(s)" of life that you've brought to my life through your images, words, and song. May you be comforted with the love and prayers of family, friends, and those of us whose lives you've touched through time.

  25. Peg Conway says:

    Thank you very much for this retreat! The Sticks and Stars meditation speaks to me so deeply and greatly empowers me. I also appreciate your honest sharing regarding your husband's death. Your authenticity in all things is a gift I receive as a follower of your blogs.

  26. Thank you for sharing this, Jan, in spite of the acute grief you are experiencing. Life the loss and know Love will eventually transform it to Presence.

    I share your relationship with Time, knowing it is the richest gift given us and what we can most offer to the Holy One.

  27. Carol Green says:

    Thank you for the gift of this extra retreat. I just read the section on heartbeats and breathing. Wearing oxygen 24/7 right now I am particularly aware of my breathing I get very frustrated at times with the heavy tanks and easily twisted tubing. I do not stop often enough to give thanks for the equipment that allows me to breathe. When I am using the tanks that have the cart with wheels I can hear the ping of the tank every time I breath. May the rhythm of my breathing be a long prayer of thanksgiving.

  28. Kathy says:

    Jan, thank you for sharing this beautiful gift with each of us and all of us. Such wonderful work and words that reconnect and restore. Thank you for continuing to reach out during this time. In extending and offering your treasured work of heART, please continue to know that our prayers and hearts travel with you.

    Love to you,

  29. Dear Jan,
    I have been inside Epiphany since I was a child, having been reared in the 50's and early 60's on Amahl and the Night Visitors. I was married on Epiphany, a Thursday in 1977. When my marriage was over years later, Epiphany for me became a day to celebrate long term commitments on the journey. Thank you for opening up a Women's Christmas on Epiphany for me and others. And the shining light illumines in yet another direction.
    When I have gone through great seasons of loss, I have been touched when others have mentioned the gifts received from me even in those seasons. Know without question how richly and beautifully you are gifting us in these days as you make your way through loss' shattering into new wholeness. Deep peace, Martha

  30. Mary Grace says:

    Thank you for blessing me and all the women this will touch by your giving of permission to share with others. May Sophia continue to bless you.

  31. Luise says:

    Thank you, Jan, for this generous, beautiful and life-affirming gift. Your words and images are inspiring and deeply nourishing. They – and you – are such a gift.

    May you feel love's presence with you through each moment, and the love, gratitude and prayers of all of us surrounding you. With gratitude, and wishing you every blessing,


  32. Mary Gail Nagai-Jacobson says:

    I was introduced to you by a woman who has been a joy and a blessing since she came into our lives.
    You and she continue to bless me as you share your journeys and the gifts you receive along the way.
    You and your life and work remind me of these connections empowered by the Spirit which holds us
    all. My prayers for you–of thanksgiving and for this season in your life–join many others. MaryGail

  33. MaryEllen says:

    Your site is still being visited and gleaned from. I pray with immigrant women who speak Spanish. Sigh! How I wish I could find something this beautiful and shimmery yet solid in Spanish.

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