Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Forecast for Dec. 19-25, 2011

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And we’re off! Well, almost. By the end of the weekend we’ll be off. In the meantime, there’s plenty to do, prepare and learn before the skies blast us forward. Not to mention all these holidays to celebrate.

Although … “celebrate” feels like a stretch, doesn’t it? “Honor” or “acknowledge” are more fitting for what most of us are doing. This week’s holidays aren’t so much festive as they are focused.

The sky is encouraging a back-to-basics, stripped-down experience. A significant lack of money, health or other resources is pushing some people into this approach. Others are simply responding to a vibe in the air. (How many people have you heard mention that they’re having trouble getting into the holiday spirit?)

Whatever we may consciously think is the reason, there’s little room for nostalgia, extravagance or excess (except in holiday light displays, which are more widespread and lavish than usual in my state — which I’ve historically observed to be a pushback against bleakness). With Venus and Saturn in each other’s signs, the atmosphere is calculated and emotionally restrained, even cold, with abundant awareness of cost and a desire to invest time or money only in lasting value or meaning.

That’s why you’re cutting back your gift list. Spending less on the people who remain, or passing up trinkets (who needs more clutter, anyway?) for items that are practical or personally meaningful. Going to fewer parties. Not watching holiday movies you’ve seen dozens of times to the end. And being naturally, unapologetically selective about who you choose to spend time with, especially on the actual day of whichever holiday(s) you observe.

Notice the makeup and playing out of holiday gatherings this week. The plans we’ve been making already show an astrological streamlining influence, and that’s only going to strengthen as the week progresses. We’re no longer inclined to go along with something just because we always have or someone expects it. With rebellious Uranus direct at the impulsive, combustive first degree of the zodiac, we’re drawing lines, punching out walls and breaking free.

Guest and gift lists are feeling this imperative, too. They’re in for down-to-the-wire changes because of the massive rearranging going on in connections, as we assimilate and implement the revelations and realizations that have been popping since the lunar eclipse of the 10th. We’ve recently revised or replaced some core beliefs about life and especially about our selves. This change-out is triggering abrupt breaks in relationships that can not see or can not live with our new guidelines. When we encounter a person or situation that invalidates us or treats us consistently with an old way of thinking, the reaction is instantaneous and permanent — as if a switch has flipped and broken off in such a way that it can’t be repaired.

So odds are high you haven’t been (and will continue not to be) arguing with yourself, as you might have in the past, when you’re come up against an invitation or suggestion or expectation that doesn’t match your desires. Odds are you’ve been neatly and cleanly following your wishes. If, however, you do happen to feel pressure or obligation to do something you really don’t want to, know that the skies are inviting and encouraging you to say no. You don’t have to give an explanation, either. Really. You don’t owe that to anyone, and besides, no one really has time to spare to listen to one, anyway.

All this lays the groundwork for the lovely, rewarding and meaningful experiences the week promises. When you’re consciously choosing actions, gatherings and companions based on what you want or value, unpleasant undercurrents tend not to come along (resentment, frustration, baggage). You have every possibility of actually enjoying what you’ve chosen. I saw a tableaux in a play last week that encapsulates this: the Cratchit family sitting at table, holding hands and delighting in each other’s presence. That scene is so often maudlin. This one was not. It conveyed honest and blazing love, the only source of warmth, solace and nourishment in the stripped-downed, minimalist staging of The New Jersey Shakespeare Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol. Look for your personal version of this on Sunday and beyond. The outside world may be cold and dark, but inside, you have raw and heart-felt warmth in your corner.

Before then, a welcome emotional detachment comes into the picture when Venus moves into Aquarius on Tuesday (yes! you can unhook from family dramas!) and gives us all a dose of the friendship-as-religion that sign perpetuates. Reach out to your chosen family, and don’t be surprised if you find time in your schedule for them as the year rolls out.

Thursday is the winter solstice, when the Sun moves into Capricorn and we experience the shortest day of the year. We may be feeling the absence of the light more and longer than usual, since the Sun is gliding into a New Moon that’ll be watched over by Pluto. The New Moon falls on Christmas Eve, which is likely to be streamlined and scaled back like never before. Personal, long-term security is at the forefront of everyone’s thinking. We’re getting another dose of clarity about our personal bottom line and stripping our priorities to the bone once again — making our list and trimming it twice, as it were. (Read more in my moon forecast, which will be posted by Friday.)

On Sunday, Christmas Day, the light begins to build noticeably, within and without. Jupiter goes direct, at the first degree of the first earth sign. That simple shift lifts the sensation of futility and kindles hope, optimism and joy. We can feel the progress that will build incrementally into the spring equinox. For now, the holding pattern is over. The rocket ship is taking off. For the next four weeks, not a single planet will be retrograde. Everything is direct. It’s all systems go.

Read my day by day forecasts in the extended version of this week’s forecast.

For another take on this week’s events, listen to my six-minute podcast. If you like it, please give it five stars on iTunes! (Don’t want to use iTunes? Visit the Podcast/Video page at my site,

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