The Winter Solstice, commonly known as the longest night of the year, will occur sometime between Dec 20-22nd in the Northern Hemisphere each year and has historically been celebrated by many cultures as a feast day. Many winter holiday celebrations begin on this day, often with a focus on celebrating light in all forms. Personally I have always celebrated Winter Solstice as a day in which to honour the darkness of the winter season, and all that it offers us, while quietly honouring the return of light, the turning tide that will begin the waxing phase of the year.
We can look at the Winter Solstice as the very end of the astrological cycle of the year, and the final day of the dark season that we entered on the feast day of Samhain (Halloween, All Soul’s etc). I have always found the dark season to be a particularly potent time for empowering personal reflection, subtle practices, and a connection to the unseen realm, the realm of ancestral memory and shared history. It is also a time in which to draw our attention inwards, and focus on restoring our vital energy and nourishing what matters most in our lives. In other words it is not an extroverted season. And so on the Winter Solstice I like to honour this extra long night by consciously cultivating practices that allow me to pause, to reflect, and to re-connect to what is most sacred in my life. I have often spent this day in the company of my spiritual community, joining together to share in practice, and this has always fed me deeply. At the same time I like to make space for personal practices that help me to align with the energy current of this midwinter day. For though the light will begin to wax once again after the Winter Solstice, we still have the coldest days of winter ahead of us, and the growing light will not be obvious for another month or so to come. So though the Solstice is a celebration of light as much as it is an honouring of darkness, the light exists below the surface, a gentle flame within that must be built slowly before it becomes the creative fire of the Spring season.
The Winter Solstice also comes just before the often busy winter holiday season, a time when our energy and attention will often be pulled in many directions. I adore the winter holiday season with it’s emphasis on spending time with family and friends in a relaxed manner and sharing good food together, but I am also very discriminating as to what I say yes to during this time as there are often so very many social engagements and parties happening that if I am not careful I can easily over extend myself during what should be a quiet time of year. For this reason I often look at Winter Solstice as a special time in which to gather my energy inwards, and fill my own cup before the more extroverted activity of the holiday season.
So what are my favourite practices to honour the Winter Solstice exactly? Here are a few that I enjoy.
- Gathering together in good company, with a focus on intimacy and authentic connection and an aim towards celebrating the sacred (in whatever form that takes for each person)
- Engaging in subtle practices such as meditation, mantra, pranayama, and prayer or personal ritual
- Practicing seasonally appropriate yoga asana
- Making time for personal reflection, whether this is done by simply taking some quiet time alone or writing in a journal, or creating some type of art that represents the year that has passed
- Honouring all that the last cycle of the year has brought forth, both the challenges and the joys
- Lighting candles as night falls and cultivating a peaceful environment in my home
Tell me, how do you celebrate the Winter Solstice