Winter Solstice – also known as Yule – is one of my favourite times of the year…. okay, my absolute favourite time of year. But maybe I say that for all holidays!
And while I love the major celebrations of Samhain (the start of the Dark Half of the year in the Celtic Wheel of the Year) and Beltaine (the beginning of the Light Half of the year), there is something about Winter Solstice that touches so many. Virtually all cultures and faiths celebrate Father Sun and the return of the light at Solstice.
So what is Solstice? The word solstice comes to us from two Latin words, sol (the Sun) and sistere (to stand), referring to the standing sun that we experience twice a year. During the days around the solstice, the Sun appears to stop in its travels (particularly dramatic in polar regions!).
On Solstice, our ancestors celebrated the return of the Sun with feasts, music and art, rituals, greenery, camaraderie and – most importantly – symbols of the Sun such as bonfires and candles. And many carried on the tradition for a full 13 nights / 12 days (in the Celtic world, the day began and ended at sunset), a tradition some of us may recognize as the root of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
For me, Solstice is always about The North – the place of our Ancestors, of Mother Earth, that place of stillness and quiet and deep contemplation. So although I also celebrate Solstice with seasonal crafts and food, it is important for me to spend some time at Solstice honouring my past and my ancestors, celebrating my connection with friends and family and in contemplating what is coming in the year ahead. This year I did a very powerful Journey with Inanna, releasing illusions about my self, and will spend Solstice doing the return journey – choosing what beliefs still serve me and what I want to keep. . . and how I will manifest those in the next year.
For many, Solstice is pure celebration. . . a time to connect, rejoice, share gifts with each other and kick of the holiday season of Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah and more. And I definitely love this aspect too!
Solstice falls on the 21st of December, arriving here in Vancouver at 2:44 am, and my celebrations will begin at sunset this evening. So, here are 21 ways you can celebrate the Solstice with friends and family . . . and I’d love to hear how you celebrate!
21 Ways to Celebrate Winter Solstice
- Watch the sunrise or sunset from a favourite spot
- If you can’t be outdoors, light a candle for Solstice in your home
- Connect with Mama Earth by walking in Nature with friends and family. Take some wild bird seed to feed our feathered friends. Honour your Nature Family with words or ritual.
- Declare your intentions for the next year in the form of a poem or just a few heart-felt words (I stand in vigil for. . . I am holding space for. . . I honour . . . )
- Create an Solstice Altar. Place objects on your altar that symbol and honour those for you.
- Make a crystal grid using your favourite crystals and some pine cones to represent the directions and celebration days of the Wheel of the Year
- Craft a loose incense or an essential oil blend for using in your diffuser or for adding to a carrier oil such as grape seed, olive or almond oil for anointing your sacred objects, candles and altar
- Create a Solstice centrepiece for your table or altar: place one large white candle in
the middle to represent the solstice and surround with seasonal elements such as pine boughs, cones, holly berries, mistletoe, oak moss and more. Carve one or more of the alchemy symbols for Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Spirit onto small pillar candles or votives, an anointing with a Yule Oil. Go wild and add a little glitter to the carving afterwards! Or for a more natural expression, finely chop pine needles, rosemary or other herbs and rub into the carving.
- Thinly slice orange slices then dry in a dehydrator, or in the oven on a low temperature (no more than 250F). temperature. Hang on your tree or in a window with ribbons or twine…. or use to decorate a candle!
- Handcraft a wreath for your door or home, using foraged materials (if possible) or natural elements from a garden centre or florist shop – every green boughs, cones, holly, ivy, mistletoe
- Hang up some mistletoe and be ready to give or receive a kiss! ❤️
- Ring a bell at Sunrise or Sunset to greet the Solstice
- Light a bonfire and toast marshmallows, drink hot chocolate and thank Mother Earth and Father Sun for everything they have brought you this year.
- Handcraft a pentacle with twigs and twine, and add a jingle bell. Hang in a window or on a door.
- Spend time with an elder and do something meaningful for them – a small gift, taking them on an excursion, bake some cookies
- Food… .always food! Create your own special Yule / Solstice / Christmas treats – cakes, biscuits, puddings, yule logs, spiced nuts, egg nog, hot chocolate, candy canes and more.
- Handcraft a Prayer Stick (a First Nations tradition and plant it in the soil. These are typically crafted from fallen cedar – or any tree you feel a connection to – and add natural elements such as a feather, moss, a little bundle of one or more smudging herbs (tobacco, sweetgrass, sage, cedar)
- Handcraft a smudging bundle or wand with cedar
- Make a Prosperity Globe (or jar!) using a clear glass Christmas ornament and materials such as herbs, moss, cinnamon sticks, essential oils, ribbon, pine, shells, crystals and your personal intention scroll for the year. Personalize it even more by adding small items – or photos – that are significant to you.
- If you didn’t have time for the five-day Solstice Advent Candle Circle Meditation, do it all in one day.
- Another lovely ritual tradition is the Candle Circle, a wonderful tradition for family and friends. I like to use white candles but some folks prefer red to represent the fire of Father Sun. Each person can customize their own candle, or leave it unadorned. At Solstice sunset, dim the lights and gather together (these days you could even do it by Skype if you can’t all be together physically). A volunteer – or the “head” of the family – can lead with a moment of meditation or a blessing for Solstice and for all gathered. Take turns lighting your candles and sharing your favourite stories and memories from the year, or what you are grateful for. When all are complete, extinguish the candles in the order they were lit, with each participant making a wish or affirmation for the following year. The volunteer (or “head” of the family) can then say a final blessing for all and turn the lights back on.
🌿🎄🌞 Solstice Blessings to you all ! 🌝🎄🌿