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The Inner Life of Holidays

Symbols and Rituals of Renewal

A six-hour course with Jonathan Young and Anne Bach

Course Description

This is an archived course that is not offered at this time. The description will be updated if presented in the future.

As nights grow longer, festivities stimulate the senses and stir poignant memories. Popular stories, customs, music and images are rich with nostalgia, awakening hopes for fulfillment. Archetypal aspects of such traditions can be guides to personal integration and psychological maturity.

This course investigates seasonal issues as opportunities for growth. Instruction includes coming to terms with emotional vulnerability, and self-care for practitioners. The main focus is on autumn and winter events, but other special days are considered as well, in this exploration of the psychological dimensions of gatherings and celebrations.

Learning Objectives

  • Discuss psychological elements of festive gatherings.

  • Explain how archetypal patterns appear in seasonal customs.

  • Assess underlying issues in holiday stress.

This seminar is taught at the introductory level and requires no advance preparation. However, participants are provided with a recommended reading list as part of their class materials.

CE Credit information

The material is presented at an introductory level, requiring no background in mythic studies, narrative theory, or Jungian psychology.

The following CE credits are available:

  • Psychology, MFT, LCSW, NBCC : 6 CE hours

  • Nursing : 7 hours

Most teachers must get credits approved by their school administration. Center courses meet the requirements in most states. Contact us if you need more information about receiving credit in your state.

How to Register

  1. Select a seminar location from the Current Seminar Dates and Locations

  2. Register online or call the Center


Jonathan Young, PhD is a psychologist (PSY10231) who consults with organizational leaders and creative artists, especially filmmakers. As a professor, he created and chaired the doctoral level department of mythological studies at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara. His books and articles focus on personal mythology. His background includes assisting mythologist Joseph Campbell at seminars and serving as founding curator of the Joseph Campbell Archives and Library.

Anne Bach, M.S., MFT 38891 is a specialist in uses of writing in psychotherapy. She gives presentations on creativity as inner work at major conferences, and lectures widely on psychological dimensions of expressive writing. Her clinical background includes poetry therapy with seriously mentally ill patients.

Other presentations on Mythic Stories

Dr. Young also gives frequent media interviews, public talks, workshops, and in-service trainings throughout the U.S. and internationally.

A Vision of Fiammetta, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Tres Riches Heures of the Duc de Berry, Labors of the Month, January

Day Schedule

Checking-in begins at 9:30 a.m. - Seminar 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

9:30 Check-in begins.

10:00 - Underlying emotions in family gatherings

- Expectations and realizations

- Psychological dimensions of gift giving

11:15 - Break (approximate time)

11:30 - Seasonal activities as yearning for illumination

- Popular films as representations of nostalgia and longing

- Effects of music, television, and public events

12:30 - Lunch Break

- On your own, please return on time

1:30 - Winter rituals, religious observances, and symbolism

- Traditions and their psychological dimensions

- Archetypal readings of ancient images

2:30 - Break (approximate time)

2:40 - Ancient stories and modern enactments

- Familiar tales and personal renewal

- How holidays influence personal mythology

3:50 - Break (approximate time)

4:00 - Unconscious elements of the season

- Hopes, losses and excesses

- Cautions and limitations to treatment

5:00 - Course concludes - Be sure to sign out

Selections from the Reading List

Caplan, Mariana (1997) When Holidays are Hell! - A Guide to Surviving Family Gatherings. Prescott, AZ: Hohm Press

Dickens, Charles (1843) A Christmas Carol. Lindenhurst, NY: Tribeca Books (2010 edition)

Lester, Meera (2007) Why Does Santa Wear Red? - and 100 Other Christmas Curiousities Unwrapped. Avon MA: Adams Media / F&W Publications

Litt, Matthew (2010) Christmas 1945 - The Greatest Celebration in American History. Palisades, NY: History Publishing Co

Matthews, John (1998) The Winter Solstice - The Sacred Traditions of Christmas. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books

Rappaport, Herbert (2000) Holiday Blues - Rediscovering the Art of Celebration. Philadelphia: Running Press

Restad, Penne L. (1996) Christmas in America - A History. New York: Oxford University Press

Schmidt, Leigh Eric (1995) Consumer rites - The buying & selling of American holidays. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press