Rituals for Winter Solstice
The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year and the official start of winter.
There are a few things that are certain in this life. The sun will rise and fall and the seasons will come and go. On December 21st, the rise and fall of the sun will create the shortest day and the longest night. This marks the winter solstice and official start to of the Northern Hemisphere winter.
The religious and cultural history of this time of year is strong and deeply rooted in both science and mythology. From there, creating a fascinating blend of practices and rituals. In fact, a lot of the ancient solstice rituals are instantly recognisable as what western religions and cultures now use to celebrate Christmas.
Rituals to Celebrate Winter Solstice
Create a Wreath
The history of the wreath is a truly fascinating muddle of European cultures and rituals around winter solstice. Before becoming associated with Christmas, the wreath was an emblem of victory and power within Rome and Ancient Greece. Later they became Christian symbols of ‘divine perfection’, the circle making the every lasting loop of eternity. Furthermore, the evergreen ferns used in winter solstice wreaths represent resilience and abundance – something we all like to embody!
So, head out on a wonderful walk to the woods with a friend and gather a selection of pine, fir or cedar along with anything else you wish to decorate your wreath with. Personally, we love also picking some Holly, small pine cones and curly willow sticks!
Build a Yule Altar
Now, you need somewhere wonderful to place your lovely new wreath. When it is dark and gloomy outside, we love having something wonderfully positive and a yule altar is just that! A yule altars purpose is to celebrate the returning of the sun. Instead of focusing on the dark let’s focus on the light! After all, from here on in each day starts to get lighter and longer.
Understandably, the key component to a winter solstice altar is, the light! A burning candle surrounded by your chosen winter symbols and items stands as a reminder that the sun is returning. You can use your later as a place to meditate, place your affirmations and intentions on or simply enjoy visually.
Decorate a Tree
Your beloved Christmas tree has a history deeper than where Santa leaves presents. This one will be an easy one seeing as chance are, by December 21st your Christmas tree is already up and decorated, twinkling beautifully in your home. The traditional Pagan ritual meant your tree would have been outside and decorated with hanging candles (hence the twinkly fairy lights we have toady), symbols of the sun, stars and moon. It was also a place to hang things in remembrance of the people we love or who are no longer with us.
To infuse your tree with Winter Solstice magic, why not create some beautiful stars and moons to hang. It could even turn into a fun, crafty morning activity. If you have an evergreen tree in your garden or somewhere close by, why not decorate that too! Just make sure you are able to go and collect the pieces later on. A beautiful way to honor those we love and those who have passed is to simply write their name across one of your stars. That way, your tree will be filled with the love and presence of those you cherish the most. The darkest day will be filled with love.
Winter Solstice marks the solar New Year. Outside of the modern system of time and date, the shortest day creates a wonderful frame to let go of the year that has been and look forward to what is to come. We love using journalling exercises to be able to empty our heads of all the thoughts, ideas, plans and worries that we are holding on to. At the start, just imagine the contents of your mind pouring out onto the page, it doesn’t have to make any sense at all. See this as an activity of clearing out the old to make space for the new. If you prefer to have a bit more structure to your wring then try answering the following questions.
- What moments brought me joy this year?
- What lessons have I learnt?
- Are there experiences I need and want to let go of?
- Who are the people that I cherish the most?
- What do I want to achieve in the next year?
Spend Time Outside
Embracing the natural rhythms and cycles of nature means getting out into it. Set your alarm to try and be outside for sunrise and sunset, allowing your self time to be still and observant. You may with to use this time to meditate, begin your journalling or simply just watch.
Then, it’s time to wrap up and head off on a walk or even a fun mini adventure! Winter Solstice could be a great day to explore somewhere new and appreciate the natural world around you. A lovely thing to do is go with a friend that you can openly talk, celebrate and plan with. There is something very powerful about sharing in this way.
While on your walk, make sure you take some time to stop and listen to the world around you. Appreciate where you are and your place within it and allow for a feeling gratitude wash over you.
Out With the Old, Make Way for the New
In the week leading up to Winter Solstice start to think about what you can let go of from your day to life that would help create time and space for news things to come in! Over a year, we pick up all sorts of bad habits, routines and clutter. To start, think physical things. Go through your drawers and wardrobe and clear out all the things you no longer use, want or need – your local charity shop will be grateful too! That drawer where you have stuffed all your paperwork into, do that one too. You may even want to go through your inbox and finally unsubscribe from all of this annoying emails you get.
Creating physical space has an instant impact. It makes us feel refreshed and free and able to focus on other things. We all know about the magic effects of a spring clean so why not see it as a way to end the year too? Out with the old to make space for all of the wonderful new things, feelings and experiences we want to invite into our lives! Furthermore, in many cultures the act of cleaning and clearing is seen as a way to sweep away any negative feelings and emotions too.
A Time to Give
The giving of gifts at this time of the year is symbolic and has been for thousands of years. However, in modern times it has evolved dramatically into what we now see. Traditionally, Winter Solstice was a time to give to those that have less than ourselves and that may struggle to endure the winter without support. The origins of Santa flying through the sky on his sleigh delivering gifts began as spirits in the form of shooting stars delivering hope to all.
Find time to give back at this time of year. Donate to your local food bank or ask you local homeless shelter what provisions they need. Dog rescue homes are always grateful for towels and blankets and extra food in the winter months. Support an elderly neighbor who may be on their own by doing their food shop or trips to the post office. There are an infinite number of ways that we can help those around us with our actions, not just our words and thoughts of hope.
Whatever you decide to do this Winter Solstice, we hope that it provides you with the time and space to embrace the dark and step out into your light.
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