“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
-- Albert Camus
We have finally made it to the threshold, the breaking point, the still point, the deep pause, the soon to be return of the light.
December 21st marks the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, where many cultures celebrate the first day of winter or “midwinter.” On this day the sun is at its lowest daily maximum elevation in the sky, which means it is the shortest day and longest night of the year.
Since prehistory, winter solstice is considered a significant time of year in numerous cultures (just like summer solstice and the equinoxes) and has been marked by many different festivals and rituals. This celestial event marks the symbolic death and rebirth of the Sun. The Christian holiday of Christmas a few days later represents the birth of the Holy Son, and also symbolically - the Holy Sun. For the sun appears to pause on solstice for three days and then proceeds to rise again, with our daylight slowly increasing again all the way until the summer solstice. The themes of rebirth, regeneration, hope, faith, optimism, joy, abundance, and gratitude are present in the many celebrations of this potent turning of the wheel.
Honoring and celebrating the seasonal shifts is a way to reattune ourselves with the natural world from whence we came. As the earth shifts, changes, dies, and rebirths so do we. Our moods, identities, bodies, and material worlds are also constantly in flux. Connecting with the rhythm of our environment helps us stay grounded, balanced and connected to a higher source outside of ourselves, tethering us to purpose and presence.
This time of year is especially rife with over exertion, over stimulation, exhaustion, commercialism, and it can be easy to lose sight of the deeper meaning of the holidays. But if we take the time to learn why we celebrate certain things and how we can be in better relation to the natural cycles around us, we often find ourselves regenerated by a deeper, ancient alignment.
Ways to connect more with this time could be having friends and/or family over for dinner and drinks, cooking traditional foods from your own ancestry or faith.
Dancing, singing, playing, crafting of all kinds.
Researching your ancestry and the ways they traditionally celebrated this time.
Hand making small gifts, or buying from local artisans/shops, for your loved ones as an expression of gratitude.
Watching the sunrise or sunset and giving thanks.
Adding more light to your space, with candles, a Yule log, a Christmas tree, or hanging lights.
Having a fire ritual of some sort; a bonfire or in the fireplace if you have one, or even with a single white, gold or red candle. Lighting at sundown on solstice, giving thanks for the year’s blessings and for the return of longer days. You may even want to write down all the things you’re letting go of and then burn the list. the culmination pf what you’ve written.
Journaling reflections and new intentions, and solo time spent in nature or at home are also wonderful ways to celebrate solstice.
For just as important as the joyous celebrations with community are, so is the dedicated space to be still. This celestial occurrence calls for a deep pause to match the suns, a reconnection with self, soul, and spirit, and a balancing of inner and outer.
We are being asked by the cosmos to reconnect with the heart of it all.
Albeit this can be a difficult time of year to take space with so much activity going on, the necessity to rest, reflect and recharge now is uncompromisable. We are in the dark of the year, akin to the dark of the moon phase just before new, and we must allow ourselves to gestate if we are to give new life and shine in the spring.
So in the spirit of Winter Solstice,
may you find faith in incoming light,
may you find trust in the incoming unknown,
may you find the time and space to honor yourself, the earth, and the seasons of being,
may you find even the smallest pockets of solace right where you are,
may you find joy amongst the kin of your hearts choosing,
may you find grounding like that of slow cooked roots,
may you find the warmth of sipping heated spices by a blazing fire,
may you find nurturance that feels like a welcomed long hug,
may you find peace in whatever it was you had to let go of this year,
may you find rest, even and especially when you think you don’t need it,
may you find gratitude, and may you share it with someone else,
may you find reverence for the old ways,
may you find a reason, big or small to celebrate life,
and may you find within yourself an invincible summer on a dark winter's day.
Written by Alexa Rae
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