Celebrate Winter Solstice – a short day with a very long history
Long before people began celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or any other popular winter holidays, the Winter Solstice was a time of celebration and merriment.
The day when the night is the longest and the day light is the shortest has captured the attention of people for millennia. The sun as the primary (or sometimes only) source of light and warmth was honored for its power over life and death through ceremonies, feasts, dance, song and ritual.
Many people have rediscovered the Solstice in recent years, recognizing the value of marking the transition from darkness to light, but they’re unsure how to celebrate the Winter Solstice. And some are concerned that observing the event might conflict with their religious practices.
Fortunately, there are many ways to bring an awareness of the shortest day into your year, whether you choose to mark it as a spiritual occasion or simply as a symbol of changes in nature or our lives. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Turn off the lights
The winter solstice is all about recognizing the natural cycle of the seasons. But electric lights have numbed our awareness of the length of days or the change of seasons. Spending the holiday using only natural light sources like sunlight (open those blinds and curtains!) and beautiful candles is a good way to remind ourselves that the darkness can’t always be chased away with the flick of a switch.
Throw a party
The winter and summer solstices have always been times for celebration, so why not throw a party of your own. Dress up in traditional Celtic-themed clothing, play Irish music and serve hearty winter food.
Light a Yule log
That Christmas log burning in the fire was orginally a Yule log, and was part of how people would celebrate the Winter Solstice. According to some sources, the Yule Log dates back at least to 6th or 7th century CE. Over the years, the burning of a special log as a part of the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon solstice traditions. Any large log will do, but to make it more authentic, decorate it with sprigs of holly (for banishing bad luck from the previous year) or rosemary (for protection and well-being) before burning it.
Bells have been believed to have the power to banish negative energy and bring in good. Gather friends to bring bells and ring with you and make it a party. Or keep it in the family and ring bells while you share hopes and dreams for the new season. If you’d prefer to do your bell-ringing alone, walk through all the rooms in your home, ringing your bell to chase out stale energy and make room for new.
Create or adopt a ritual
There are many existing rituals available for observing the solstice, so consider doing some reading before the holiday to see if any of them resonate with you. Some are appropriate for people of all faiths, while others are intended for Wiccan, Neo-pagen or Neo-Druid practices. Rituals can be as simple as thanking the Creator for the changes of the season, or as complex as an evening-long event. The choice is yours.