I'm writing this on the eve of the Winter Solstice time, and so I will portray the problem via this particular moment.
(1854 vintage celestial map)
Common images associated with the winter solstice and Christmas are both filled with a very particular winter landscape: that of northern and middle Europe. This roughly correlates with the Northeast, some aspects of the midwest of cold mountainous regions in the United States: long winters, pine forests, Douglas Firs, deer (especially reindeer), cold, ice, fur hats and cozy fires. Winter was a time of metaphorical death and spring was a time of rebirth.
Growing up in the California bay area (where I am now), these images always struck me as odd. "winter" did not make sense. The shortest day of the year was in the midst of our annual wet season: a time when we were grateful for the rains. Everything is just turning green. The hills are shimmering with green life. Its colder, yes. We have fires at home - for sure. Christmas was all about candles and fires and hot coco ... and rain. And green moss on the trees and mud all over my hiking boots after long walks amid bright green hills.
Indeed, the four seasons didn't make a lot of sense to me. We have two seasons - wet and dry - and two small middle seasons. In a cynical mood, I could also say that we have the season of wildfires and the season of mudslides and the occasional earthquake, just to shake things up a bit, so to speak.
Back to the topic at hand.
Ceremonies, at their most powerful, connect people to place, people and spirit through liminal time. Through this connection we increase our capacity live in and during 'regular time.' But this can best happen when we are connecting time and place - in our daily lives, our planning, our songs, our ceremonies.
Our experience of time is always influenced by a particular place. My experience of solstice - a very particular time marking a particular physical relationship between Earth and Sun - is inevitably influenced by where I am when the sun rises and sets, the local weather (rainy in Seattle, snowy in Maine) and the local foods that are available at that time of year. This is true regardless of where Earth is during her rotation around Sun.
What can we do to make whatever holiday/ceremony we are celebrating come more in line with a particular place? What images, symbols, and cultural dynamics are you evoking that can more thoroughly connect you to the place where you are?
This is a