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Natural Awakenings Richmond

RVA Wintertime Traditions Offer Magic for Many

Oct 31, 2014 11:52AM ● By Clair Norman

There is no shortage of fun for Richmonders this holiday season—there’s the 30th annual Grand Illumination of the James Center on December 5, numerous performances of The Nutcracker, the GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter and ice skating at 6th and Broad. Options for observing and creating traditions that conjure notions of joy, rebirth and reflection truly abound. Among the host of inviting holiday events, there is a special winter solstice observation for yogis, a day of silent creative reflection in nature organized by Chrysalis Institute and, of course, the tree-gazing and lunchtime holiday music at the world-famous Jefferson Hotel.

Yogis around the world recognize the shortest day of the year, Winter Solstice, in a special way. Many studios offer space to reflect in order to create and execute new, peaceful resolutions as the sun cycles back to its full splendor. Ashtanga Yoga Richmond (AYR), celebrates the solstice with drum circles, chanting and 108 Sun Salutations practiced in a candlelit room. The number 108 is significant to a number of traditions—there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary, the Tao philosophy holds that there are 108 sacred stars and in Islam, the number 108 is used to refer to God. This year, the Winter Solstice celebration at AYR is at 5:30 p.m. on December 21 at the Carytown studio. It is not necessary to perform all 108 sun salutations to attend the event. 

Chrysalis Institute offers several special programs this holiday season. Its annual winter Silent Ember Day Retreat at The Clearing in Amelia County will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on December 17. Before moving into silence, the day begins with a brief opening circle—a time for introductions and sharing of expectations. Forest paths are open and tables and chairs are available for rest, reading, artwork and writing projects. The retreat ends with a closing circle where participants share the day’s gifts and insights.

There is also the traditional winter walk through the labyrinth on the campus of Union Presbyterian Seminary in the Northside, a walking meditation that symbolizes and honors one’s spiritual journey. Concentric circles weave and twist, ending in the center—the place of “illumination”. Sacred circle dances for a season of gratitude and blessings and a workshop on the lost art of the greeting card is being offered.

The Jefferson Hotel is the site of one of the city’s most well-known, and perhaps largest, indoor Christmas trees and gingerbread houses. There isn’t a much cozier or more elegant experience than delicious hot cocoa enjoyed in the grand lobby of this famous hotel. These giant symbols of Christmastime in Richmond are open from December 1 through January 6; all are welcome to enjoy the holiday splendor. There is also a free daily lunchtime concert series in which school groups and aspiring musicians and singers showcase their musical talents.

Whether it’s the excitement from a mere moment of illumination as the sculpted reindeer at the James Center seem to come alive, the twinkling lights setting off the gorgeous blooms at Lewis Ginter, the festive sound of beautiful holiday music or the calming afterglow from a contemplative yoga sequence or walking Chrysalis Institute’s labyrinth, RVA offers a little bit of holiday magic for everyone. 

Locations: Ashtanga Yoga Richmond, 2902 West Cary St.; Chrysalis Institute, 3527 Ellwood Ave.; The Jefferson Hotel, 101 West Franklin St. For more information, visit, and

Clair Norman is assistant editor and a staff writer for Natural Awakenings Richmond.