December 21st marks the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere; the Winter Solstice. It’s marked astrologically by being the shortest day and longest night of the year; the day when the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the Sun.
The signs of the winter solstice in nature are everywhere. For all of Earth’s creatures, nothing is so fundamental as the length of daylight. After all, the sun is the ultimate source of all light and warmth on Earth. The day after the Winter Solstice the day’s gradually get longer until the sun is at its warmest, brightest, and longest stretch at the Summer Solstice.
Traditionally, cultures around the world have marked the Winter Solstice with gatherings in celebration of the return of the sun. Some of the oldest monuments built to mark the solstice are still visited by thousands of tourists every year; Stonehenge in England, Newgrange in Ireland, Machu Picchu in Peru.
Throughout history, celebrating the solstice has been a way to renew our connection with each other and with nature through acts of goodwill, sacred rituals, and heightened awareness. In the hustle and bustle of the holidays the significance of the winter solstice can often be overlooked. I encourage you to take a moment today to reflect on the importance of the solstice. In this way, we remember that our lives are part of a larger order, always changing, always renewing.
Attuning our senses to the subtle changes and cycles of the seasons might help us attune more lovingly to the subtle changes and cycles in ourselves as well. The natural rhythm of the season is to turn inward during these darker months, to have more quiet time and be introspective, to stay home more, and sleep longer. Why not take a moment to mark the longest night of the year with your own ritual in honor and celebration of this time of year.
- Find a quiet place in nature where you can watch the sunrise or sunset
- Gather with friends and family for a special winter meal
- Make a list of loving wishes for family, friends, co-workers, etc
- Make a list of everything you wish to let go of and then ceremonially burn the list
- Reflect on your aspirations for the coming months
- Light a candle in honor of the sun’s return or even consider spending the evening by candle light
- Say a prayer
- Sit in silence
Whatever you choose to do, take a moment to mark the first day of winter. Allow yourself the space and time to appreciate the dark and the silence, as well as celebrate the return of the light. When we honor both the dark and the light we allow our physical and mental health to be more balanced and grounded in the natural rhythms of life. Happy Winter everyone!!
(this article was first published on 12/21/16)