light shining through the pine trees covered in snow

“The winter solstice celebrates the return of hope to our land as our planet experiences the first slow turn toward greater daylight. Soon we will welcome the return of the sun and the coming of springtime. As we do so, let us remember and embrace the positive, enriching aspects of winter’s darkness. Pause now to sit in silence in the darkness of this space. Let this space be a safe enclosure of creative gestation for you.” Excerpt from ‘The Circle of Life’ by Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr

The winter solstice, the darkest night of the year, is a time of reflection, looking inward and gathering courage and hope to sustain us through the remaining long nights of winter. It is natural to want to hibernate and draw inward at this time, a reflection of the natural world which is also at rest, storing energy for the great burst of life and light that comes in the spring. Unfortunately for us in modern times, this period of the year can feel quite chaotic with tons of celebrations, community events and gatherings that pull us in opposition to our natural tendency to withdraw in the winter months. The joyful community felt during this busy time can be restorative for some and quite exhausting for others. Regardless of where you fall in your enthusiasm for the holiday hustle, it can be helpful for all to take some time to reconnect with the natural cycle of our planet through a simple celebration of the Winter Solstice.

The Winter Solstice, the first day of winter, falls on Wednesday December 21st, 2022. Take some time that day or week to reflect on the year, celebrate the darkness outside and within yourself, and contemplate the return of the light through one or several activities you can do yourself, with your family and friends.

Create a winter spiral
A winter spiral is an ancient tradition and its shape reflects the inward turning of the season. Gather greens, trimmings and sticks from your yard and form a loose spiral with space to walk through. At night you can gather and light one candle in the center of the spiral and then allow each person to walk the spiral with a candle placing it in the spiral as they leave slowly lighting up the spiral.

Decorate a Night Tree
Get inspired by reading the book Night Tree by Eve Bunting and prepare a feast for your animal friends outdoors by decorating a tree with edible ornaments such as peanut butter pine cones with bird seed, homemade suet balls, chunks of fruits like apple and pear, or strings of cranberries or raisins.

Make a solstice lantern
Bring light to the darkness by creating your own solstice lantern either to carry on a walk or to place outdoors for others to see. In cold areas lanterns made of ice are lovely and quite easy to make with 2 different sized containers, water and a cold winter night! Mason jars, tissue paper and glue make a fun lantern with children and can be easily carried on a solstice walk. Balloons dipped in beeswax make a lovely decoration that can be brought indoors and enjoyed all season.

Light a Solstice Bonfire
Many cultures have gathered during solstice for celebration around a bonfire. Gather friends and family and really light up the night with a large fire while sharing some other traditions from this list.

Bake a star or sun bread
There are many recipes for lovely solstice celebration treats. Consider baking a simple loaf of bread or shortbread in the shape of the sun or for the more adventurous bakers search for a yule log or star bread recipe.

Read a poem that celebrates the solstice
A favorite is The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us—listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome, Yule!