Instead of hibernating this December and hoping for an early spring, you might consider celebrating the shortest day of the year.
The winter solstice on December 21st in the Northern Hemisphere marks the day when the Earth’s tilt is furthest from the sun. Many cultures and religions around the world don’t see it as the end of something. Instead, they honor the day as the beginning of our transition from dark to light, a rebirth that moves us toward new beginnings and the reawakening of nature.
Traditionally, we have seen the winter solstice as the start of winter. This dates back to ancient times, when people literally lived by the sun, relying on it for food, light, warmth and timekeeping. For them, the reversal of the sun’s waning meant a lengthening of the days that deserved special recognition and even festivities!
Learning to honor and embrace winter
As a season, winter gives us full permission to embrace the darkness because the solstice provides hope and faith that the warmth and light will return.
A lot of us get down-in-the-dumps on these short days but darkness is not necessarily a bad thing. So much good is born from it:
- The dark new moon turns the corner and waxes to full.
- From the darkness of the womb, a baby is born into a world of light.
- During the dark, long nights of autumn and winter, the Earth shifts and gives us the steady return of sunlit days and warm seasons.
Darkness presents the opportunity to explore deeply within our bodies, hearts and minds. In our winter hibernation, we can sit quietly, turning our awareness inward, learning and revealing what we might shed to make space for new beginnings in the light of the new year ahead.
This is a wonderful time to honor renewal and rebirth by embracing the darkness so that you can experience and enjoy the light!
A simple solstice ceremony
A meditation ceremony can help you welcome the wisdom of the winter season. You can do it on your own, or invite others to join in your celebration of the solstice.
1. Gather supplies
- Candles, fireplace or small cooking pot, a glass of water
- A meditation cushion or pillow
- A pen and 3 small pieces of paper
- Festive foods like fruit, baked sweets, tea, hot cocoa or mulled wine
2. Set the scene
Set a sacred scene for your meditation by creating a cozy mood. Turn down the lights or decorate the space with twinkle lights to make the room warm and inviting. Burn sage or incense if you like.
If you have a fireplace, light a fire or light candles, setting one aside for later.
3. Sit and reflect
Sit comfortably on your cushion or pillow in front of the fire or candle light. If you have a group of family or friends, gather them together in a circle.
Close your eyes or gaze into the fire. Sit quietly for a few moments, taking several breaths that are slow, sweet and deep. Notice how your body feels, the quality of your mind, the feeling in your heart.
As you look back on this past year, contemplate someone or something for which you feel grateful. Let that feeling of gratitude bubble up and spread throughout your body and being.
Next, consider what you would like to let go of — regrets, bad habits, negative thoughts —as you make the shift from darkness to light, from one year to the next.
Last, allow your heart to reveal what you’d like to metaphorically give birth to, renew or awaken within yourself during the brighter days ahead.
In this clear awareness, take another gentle round of breath.
4. Make a list
Now, on the pieces of paper write down 3 separate lists, one on each piece of paper:
- something for which you are grateful
- something you are ready to release
- something you’d like to manifest in your life
5. Honor your list items and surrender them
Honor the lists by offering them to the fire, either tossing them into the fireplace or carefully using the candle to set them aflame in the saucepan. For solstice safety, keep the glass of water nearby in case you need to extinguish the flame, or do this over the sink.
Now, pause with the feeling of surrender. Surrender your gratitude, your compost and your wishes to both the depths of winter and to the coming light of our powerful life-giving sun waiting around the corner.
Now, light another candle and set it in front of you. This candle will guide you through this longest night and light the way toward your new beginning. It symbolizes the solar return, the rebirth of our seasons.
Join your hands together in front of your heart and bow your head, honoring your meditation.
After you honor this auspicious and astronomical event, it’s time to celebrate. Partake in the goodies and treats you’ve laid out. Sing, laugh, exchange solstice gifts, make music and paper snowflakes, and be merry!
Happy winter solstice to you all.
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