Article and photo from: www.bustle.com
For many of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice means one thing: a few long, cold, dark months are ahead of us, with seemingly no end in site. While the winter solstice might not be something worth celebrating to you, to others, it's an extremely spiritual day full of sacred rituals. In fact, to some, all of that extra darkness isn't a bad thing at all — it actually adds to the spiritual significance of the day. The winter solstice has so many spiritual meanings that make it so much more than just the shortest day of the year.
For many cultures around the world, the winter solstice (which falls on Dec. 21 this year) marks an important milestone. It's the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year, and signals a powerful transition point between seasons that is impossible to ignore. Because of this, it has been celebrated and revered in ancient civilizations, indigenous cultures, and various religions, all of which have their own rituals for taking advantage of the unique energy.
According to Forever Conscious, "The winter solstice celebrates the longest hours of darkness or the rebirth of the sun and is believed to hold a powerful energy for regeneration, renewal and self-reflection. In Pagan times the winter solstice was referred to as Yule and was a celebration of the Goddess (Moon) energy. It was believed that on this day, the moon would give birth to the sun." That certainly puts a slightly more magical spin on things!
Each year, the winter solstice falls a few days before Christmas and New Year's Eve. This isn't just a fun coincidence; in fact, there's a much deeper meaning there. According to Alokananda.com, "The spiritual and energetic significance of the winter solstice is multi-layered, but the most direct relevance is that it symbolizes the birth of the sun." The birth of the sign is representative of the birth of Jesus. Alokananda.com says, "The birth of these higher beings at this time of the solstice was symbolic of the birth of the spiritual sun within, that we are not separate from the creator, as we have been conditioned to believe to feel that we are less than divine beings." That's where the religious aspect comes in.
If you aren't particularly religious or spiritual, you might feel like this has nothing to do with you. Actually, it does! The winter solstice is a time of quiet energy, where you get the opportunity to look within yourself and focus on what you want and need. It's a time to set goals and intentions for the coming year, to examine and let go of our past, and to make changes within ourselves. The solstice is essentially tied to a personal awakening.
Feeling inspired to embrace a more spiritual take on the solstice this year? One way to celebrate is to take part in Christmas traditions, if you celebrate the holiday. The holiday is actually strongly based on Pagan beliefs, which are also strongly tied to the winter solstice. If you aren't a religious person at all, though, you can still take part in the spirituality of the day. There are so many rituals that are linked with the solstice, and honestly, they might bring a whole new meaning to new year's resolutions. It might feel overwhelming to pick just one, but there are a few options out there anyone can take part in.
Here are a few suggestions....
1. Decorate your house
Are all the many Christmas traditions really Pagan? As Jason Mankey explained in 2013, some are, some aren’t, and some are complicated. The way I see it, the customs that don’t directly reference the birth of Jesus are organic responses to Winter and the Winter Solstice, even if they were started by Christians.
So put up a tree and decorate it with ornaments. Hang greenery – make your house a colorful contrast to the dreary outdoors. Set up candles – just use electric ones if you’re going to leave them lit when you’re not home and awake.
Even those of us who are happy for cold weather recognize that there’s something not so nice about Winter’s gloom. Make your home joyous and bright.
2. Light a Yule log
The Yule log is one of those customs whose ultimate origins are uncertain. But any ritual centered on a tree and a fire is Pagan enough for me.
There are numerous ways to do a Yule log. Some call for a specific wood. Some burn a whole tree trunk a foot or two at a time – that’s virtually impossible for those of us with contemporary fireplaces. Others don’t burn the log at all – they drill holes for candles and decorate it with greenery.
If you do burn your Yule log, save some of the ashes and use them in charms, especially charms of protection.
3. Watch the sun setThe Winter Solstice is the death of the sun – it’s the shortest day of the year. It’s a solemn occasion, one filled with mystery and magic. Particularly if you have clear skies, go outside and watch the sun slowly sink below the horizon.
What dies with the last sunset of the solar year? What do you mourn? What are you glad to be rid of?
4. Sing up the sunSing to a Sun God. Sing to a newly born Sun Child. Sing that the light has returned, and now the days will begin to lengthen. Knowing the science of the Solstice only increases the joy of knowing that the sun lives, and so life on Earth will continue.
5. Mark the sunriseThe Winter Solstice is the farthest south the sun will rise and set on the horizon (in the Northern Hemisphere). As you watch it die and be reborn, stand in an appropriate place (your front door, the middle of your back yard, whatever seems right to you) and make note of where the sun crosses the horizon. Do it again at the Equinox and at the Summer Solstice.
You’ll likely never build a stone circle or a passage tomb in your back yard, but knowing the extent of the sun’s movements helps connect you to the land where you are.
6. Gather mistletoeGathering mistletoe is one of the few customs we know were practiced by the ancient Druids, though for them it was tied to the phases of the moon and not the stations of the sun.
Forget the kissing customs. Even if you’re not alone, they’re not exactly consensual (unless they’re a way for couples to kiss in public when they otherwise wouldn’t be allowed). For the Druids, mistletoe was known as “allheal” – use it in your healing magic.
It’s also poisonous (though the American variety is much less toxic than the European) so best to use it externally and not consume it.
7. Give a giftChristmas extravagance is the creation of modern capitalism, but gift giving at the Solstice dates back at least to the Roman republic. Any tradition of kindness and generosity is worth continuing.
Gifts need not be expensive, nor must they be hand-crafted. They simply require the desire to share what we have with others, be it great or small. Give something to a family member, a friend, a coworker, or someone on the street.
Give with no expectations, not even the expectation of gratitude. Just give for the joy of giving.
8. Make wassailWassailing is the practice of going outside singing songs of Winter’s joy. Wassail is the hot beverage that makes it more enjoyable.
There are a million recipes for wassail on the internet. Basically it’s hot spiced cider. Start with non-alcoholic, non-carbonated cider. Add spices, especially cinnamon. Heat to a comfortable drinking temperature. If you want an extra kick, add brandy, rum, or whiskey (but save the good single malts for sipping).
However you celebrate and whoever you do or don’t celebrate with, may your Solstice be merry and bright.