The winter solstice marks the longest night of the year. The winter solstice falls around December 21st in the Northern Hemisphere and June 21st in the Southern Hemisphere.
The winter solstice is a turning point when the days start to grow longer. After the solstice, the darkness wanes as more light emerges. The sun brings light, energy, and warmth into our lives. As the sun’s energy increases, there is a promise of spring and renewal of life which brings hope for a bright and warm future. When we celebrate the light, we are inspired to continue on our path.
The winter solstice symbolizes the return of the light after a period of darkness. It is a time to acknowledge our fears and remember that new life emerges from the darkness; it is from our challenges that we grow and evolve. The winter solstice is a time to acknowledge transformation and to be open to the possibilities that life presents.
Acknowledging the winter solstice reminds us of our connection with each other and all of life, giving us the opportunity to become more intimate nature and her cycles. Partaking in ritual or celebration during the winter solstice is a way to honour the end of one cycle and the beginning of another and to help us recognize that life is ever-changing.
How to Honour the Winter Solstice
Reflection and Contemplation
During winter the energy is slower and quieter than at other times of the year. We can honour the winter solstice by slowing our rhythm, going inward, listening, and contemplating what arises.
It is a time to reflect on what is no longer serving us and to let those things go. Acknowledge the past, both the pleasant and the challenging times.
The winter solstice is also a time to focus on what we wish for the year ahead, envisioning our dreams and goals to set intentions and make new plans for how we want to move forward in life. Think of the areas in your life you would like to improve or expand upon. You may want to make changes in your occupation, relationships, health, or lifestyle. Or, perhaps you want to find new opportunities or change your way of thinking. Whatever changes you want to make, the winter solstice is the time to plant the seeds of intent so they can blossom in the coming spring.
Ways to help you reflect and set new intentions include meditation, journaling, writing poetry, or saying a prayer.
Gratitude and Celebration
The winter solstice is also time to feel gratitude for all that has been received and accomplished throughout the past year. Hold in your mind what you are grateful for and take a moment to feel that appreciation in your being.
If nature holds a special place in your heart, you may want to express gratitude by making offerings to the earth. Offerings can include food, cider, flowers, gemstones, a lock of your hair, or anything else you feel suitable. Whatever you offer, it should be natural and able to integrate into the earth without causing harm to nature.
You may also want to think of ways that you can celebrate the pleasures that make life worth living. This could include gathering with loved ones to share food or stories or doing something that has special meaning to you.
A Ritual to Celebrate the Winter Solstice
Even if you do not typically perform rituals, there are simple elements you can include in a small ceremony to honour the coming of the new solar year and the beginning of a new cycle.
Elements you may want to include in your ritual are:
Cleanse yourself by taking a bath with purifying herbs or essential oils such as lavender, sage, basil, frankincense, or sandalwood. Alternatively, you can anoint yourself or another using any of these essential oils. Another way to clear your energy is by smudging with sage, palo santo, or natural incense.
2. Define the Ritual Space
Your ritual space can be an indoor space or outdoor space. Since you will be tuning into the rhythm of nature, outdoor is best, if possible.
An effective way to define and open the ritual space is by acknowledging the directions; this helps you further connect with nature and tap into the power of each direction. The directions include the four cardinal directions (north, east, south, west), and well as three more: down (the earth), up (the sky), and inward (within ourselves).
Face the directions one at a time. As you are facing each direction, blow the smoke from your smudge in that direction or ring a bell.
You can also verbally acknowledge each direction. Certain traditions, such as paganism and shamanism, have their own meanings of each direction. You can use the meanings from a particular tradition or honour the directions in a way that speaks to you. I have written an acknowledgement which was inspired by tradition and adapted to have more personal meaning to me.
“To the winds of the east, the power of the rising sun. Thank you for the gift of a new day, fresh opportunities, energy, and inspiration. We ask you to place light in our hearts and on our path.
To the winds of the south, the power of warmth and the spark of life. Thank you for igniting creativity and passion. We ask that you melt our fears and kindle our desire to engage in the world through our deeper purpose.
To the winds of the west, the power of the setting sun. Thank you for reminding us to rest and go within. We ask that you help us transform and heal, to release old patterns and gain a deeper understanding of ourselves.
To the winds of the north, the power of wisdom and stability. Thank you for a firm foundation to build upon. We ask for courage and strength to face the uncertainties of life and protection from the harshness of life.
Father Sky, thank you for the spirit of creation. We ask that your sun, moon, and stars shine their light upon the world and help us see clearly in dark times.
Mother Earth, thank you for all your nourishment and blessings. We ask that you help us become better able to reciprocate your unconditional love and heighten our awareness of how all life is interconnected.
The light within, thank you for your divine inspiration. We ask that you help us connect more deeply with ourselves, to trust our hearts wisdom, and honour our spirit.”
3. Create an Altar
Using object which you have gathered prior to the start of the ritual, construct a simple altar in the centre of the ritual space. You may want to include objects from nature, candles or items which represent the sun or your connection with the divine.
4. Meditate on the Light
Lighting a fire is a great way to welcome the winter solstice and the return of the light. If you are unable to light a proper fire, candles will suffice.
When you light the fire or candles, hold the intention of bringing more light into the world and take a moment to connect with your inner light. A simple way to do this is through a short meditation. Start by gently gazing into the light of the fire and relax. Then, close your eyes and visualize the light within you glowing brighter and brighter. Imagine that light glowing so bright it fills your ritual space, your city, country, and eventually the entire planet.
5. Sharing of Intentions
You can now use your fire to help bring your desires for the coming year into manifestation. Write down the things you want to let go of on slips of paper. They may include resentments, regrets, worries, fears, toxic relationships, ways of thinking, or any aspects of your life that are not working for you. One by one, place each slip into the fire and say out loud what you are releasing.
Once every slip of paper has been consumed by the fire, take a moment to think of what you want more of in your life. These are the things you want to experience and achieve. It may be better health, more travel, connection with others, increased abundance, a new job, or anything you feel will benefit you in the coming year. Share out loud your wishes for the future.
Give thanks for the opportunity to perform the ritual. If you want to make offerings to the earth, as mentioned above, this is a good time in the ritual to do so.
7. Closing the Ritual
To close the ritual acknowledge the directions again. You can do it differently than how you opened them, but do be sure to hold the intention of closing the directions while offering thanks for their support.
To complete the ritual. Simply state “The ritual is now over” along with one strong clap of the hands.
- Richard Heinberg – Celebrate the Solstice: Honoring the Earth’s Seasonal Rhythms through Festival and Ceremony
- Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart – Creating Circles and Ceremonies
- Llewellyn, Susan Pesznecker – Yule: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for the Winter Solstice