How you can create some new traditions to celebrate the winter solstice.
The winter solstice is the longest night of the year. It is a time of death and quiet, when, in the Northern hemisphere, the plants are frozen and the animals burrow and sleep. We feel the urge to rest, cuddle up by the fire, and reflect on the last year of our lives—but what we feel pressure to do is go to a million Christmas parties and go shopping at a fluorescent-lit mall.
Holiday traditions can be fun, but they can also feel very consumeristic and empty since they tend to so consistently revolve around giving gifts and being merry no matter how you might be feeling. In the last few years I’ve made a point to celebrate the winter solstice as a more meaningful holiday (in addition to my usual family traditions) that can include practices both for celebrating the light and also grieving whatever has been lost in the last year. The winter and summer solstices both represent the cycling of life, the constant change and flow of time, the seasons, and our short lives. It’s a time of intentional reflection, letting go, and setting intentions for the coming year. Here are some ideas for how you can create some new traditions to celebrate the winter solstice for yourself:
In general as a culture we don’t give ourselves a lot of space for grieving. We take time off, sometimes, if a family member dies, but we rarely acknowledge the smaller griefs, like a lost dream, a lost relationship, or even a change in phase, such as when our children go to school or when we move to a new city and miss our lives the way they were before. Grieving sometimes exists alongside joy and celebration as a natural adjustment to change.
Grieving can be done alone, through meditation, journaling, or perhaps visiting a location representing the past such as a gravestone, the old city, the old school. It can also be done collectively, and it is quite powerful to allow your grief to be shared and witnessed with others. A simple grief circle with a few friends can be a lovely way to honor what’s past. You can simply take turns sharing both what we are grieving from the past and also what we are looking forward to in the future.
2. Invite the light
A simple candle ritual can symbolize letting go of the last year and welcoming the new life of the sun as it begins to grow again toward the summer solstice. Light a candle and stare into its flames, thinking about the last year, what happened, what it meant to you, and what is no longer. The blow out the candle and take some time to mourn that time that has passed. Then re-light the candle and as you stare into it, consider your hopes and dreams for the coming year. Do this with my guided meditation here.
3. Set intentions
The day after the winter solstice, the days slowly begin to get longer and brighter as the sun is metaphorically reborn and comes back to us. The winter solstice is similar to a new moon, and is a good time to think about what you want to draw to you in the coming year. What are your hopes, dreams, and intentions? How will you put action behind the things you want to grow, cultivate, or start in the coming year?
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and winter solstice, and best wishes for the coming of the light!