The winter solstice marks the longest night of the year. This year and the past few years, if we are being honest, have been rough for everyone in one way or another. It can be hard to see the potential for light when the world is upside down, much less get into the festive spirit, but let’s see if we can’t give you a few reasons to try.
Though the solstice may be the longest night of the year, it’s also a tradition of rebirth, renewal, and new beginnings. We welcome back the rising sun the next morning and, with it, a fresh perspective. It’s a season of introspection and an excellent time to look at your year and see how you feel about it. Start with the good things. Our brains are wired to pick out the negative, in part to protect us, but it’s all too easy to let that get carried away, so let’s focus on finding three good things this year. Find something you’re proud of or a special moment that makes you smile. Find a memory that you wouldn’t give up for all the money in the world. Grab a notebook, a piece of scrap paper, or even a sticky note, or use the app on your phone and write those three things down, and put them where you can see them for the last few days of 2023. Reminders of what makes us happy can help us through the holidays and into the new year.
What Exactly is the Winter Solstice?
The Winter Solstice, Yule, or if you want to go back even further, Jól, as the Norse feast was called, has been around longer than you’d likely realize.
Humans have celebrated or honored this time for as far back as 10,200 B.C. From ancient Chinese celebrations to native traditions, the winter solstice crosses nearly every divide. 7
This year, the solstice falls on December 21st at 7:27 PM Pacific time.
Different cultures, religions, and societies have influenced the holiday season as we know it today. The Christmas tree, or something like it, has been traced back to ancient Egypt, where they brought palms inside to celebrate the rebirth of the sun and the sun god Ra. The evergreen as a symbol may have come from the Romans, who used evergreens during their version of the solstice celebration known as Saturnalia, where they would decorate their homes and temples with the branches of evergreen trees.
In Europe, the druids would use evergreen boughs in the temples to symbolize eternal life.
Ever kiss someone under the mistletoe?
The mistletoe tradition goes back to Celtic, Norse, Greek, and Roman traditions.
The mistletoe plant was sacred to Druids because of its ability to bloom even in winter temperatures. The Greeks and Romans both celebrated the plant for its fertility. The Romans used it during Saturnalia, and the Greek Goddess Artemis wore a crown made from mistletoe.
The Norse story of Baldur depicts his demise by an arrow poisoned by mistletoe, and his mother, the Goddess Frigga’s grief and tears forever changed the plant from having red berries to white, and the plant took on the meaning of bringing love and peace into the world.
Most of our current traditions are a variation of one or more of these ancient festivals and cultures. So, how do we bring those sacred ceremonies into our modern homes?
Simple Ways to Celebrate the Winter Solstice
Get a Little Nostalgic
Nostalgia is a potent emotion and can be good for us. Hence, one way to celebrate the winter solstice is to take one of your favorite traditions from family or friends or even one you found on Pinterest and incorporate it into your current celebration. A favorite ornament? Hanging mistletoe? Or baking a top-secret cookie recipe you only get out once a year? Whatever makes you feel nostalgic can boost your mood.
Nostalgia is also an easy way to celebrate the themes of the winter solstice, renewal, and rebirth. What better time to look back at our past and see how far we’ve come and how much we’ve grown? Life is an ever-changing journey, and sometimes, it helps to look at the path we’ve taken when setting our intentions for the road ahead.
Cut the Cord for a Night
Unplug. This is the darkest night of the year, and as you await the rising sun, perhaps it’s time to reflect on your social media and device use? One of the great things about this time of year is it gives us time to contemplate and set new intentions, so take a moment and decide if you’re using your device time wisely or just using them out of habit?
Create Something Natural
No matter your beliefs, connecting to nature comes naturally (pun intended). One way you can do that for the solstice is to create a festive wreath or arrangement for your home. Evergreen is, of course, a great choice, but remember your intentions and thoughts matter more than what type of plant you choose, so do what feels right for you.
The tradition of a yule log dates back to medieval times and continues today. In the past, the yule log was often a community-wide bonfire with one log decorated and burned to celebrate and welcome back the light. The fire would usually be kept burning until the sixth of January. To replicate this tradition on a smaller scale, you can decorate a log and have a fire in a firepit or fireplace. Just be sure the decorations you use are natural and safe to burn. If you can’t burn a log, you can bake one. There are some scrumptious-looking yule log cake recipes out there, or try some palo santo; it smells incredible and gives that fireside feel.
However you decide to celebrate the season, we hope you can find the light within yourself on the darkest night of the year. Try to be a little kinder to those around you and yourself; what we put out into the universe finds its way back to us and makes the world. Smile at the stranger, compliment someone, pay it forward if you can, and remember the sun always returns.