As much as our consumer culture wants us to believe the “season to be jolly” means shopping, indulging, and even pushing ourselves to show up for others, the origins of the winter solstice celebrations are all about slowing down, resting, cultivating inner light and peace, and reflecting on one’s life. In fact the Latin roots of the word “solstice” mean “Sun” and “to stand still.”
The winter solstice, on which Christmas and other seasonal celebrations were superimposed, is a natural time for a pause, a time to get comfortable settling into the darkness and a state of deep rest that allows space and provides fertile ground for a new cycle of creation and growth. Just as literal earth needs to rest and regenerate itself before a new season of planting, our minds, bodies and spirits need to sink into the softness of stillness to listen and receive inner light and soul guidance. It’s like a deep, relaxing exhale before we turn our attention to festivities and renewed action in the New Year.
Are you feeling caught up in busy-ness and external concerns despite your best intentions to stay balanced, especially during the holiday season? Even if you "deck the halls" and wish for Santa to "hurry down the chimney," you can give yourself the gift of small moments of rest, or set aside an evening around December 21st, to commemorate the original earth-based tradition of a quiet and reflective ritual or restful celebration of the solstice.
Here are some simple ideas for creating your own Winter Solstice "retreat" moments of rest in the midst of the holidays:
Observe the time of the sunset each day and spend a moment giving gratitude for all the gifts of the day. Appreciate the hopeful message of the solstice: the return of the light as the days will gradually grow longer until the summer solstice.
At bedtime or in the evening, light a candle and reflect on your day, this past season of your life, or the past year. To encourage lucid dreaming, recall your day backwards before going to sleep. Acknowledge that your heart and mind receive much-needed nourishment and healing through deep rest.
Spend 5 or more minutes each day in a restorative yoga pose such as legs-up-the-wall, supported child's pose, supported bridge pose.
Slowly and mindfully sip a cup of tea or heart-warming cacao, giving the moment your full attention. Make a pot of vegetable stew, savoring the colors and textures of Earth's bountiful gifts.
Create, rather than consume: make beeswax candles or another thoughtful, handmade and natural gift.
Host a poetry reading, music-making, or similar gathering emphasizing quality time.
Make paper snowflakes and decorate your windows.
Turn off the screens and play music, cards, or cozy up with a good book!
Make a fire on the darkest night of the year. Write down all that you're ready to release from the past year and burn it in the fire, or use a candle and a fireproof bowl for a simple burning bowl ritual.
Serve your loved ones a candlelight dinner--tapered candles give the most light.
Create a winter solstice altar: a pretty cloth, candle(s), pine cones and greenery.
Instead of chestnuts, roast marshmallows over an open fire and sip hot chocolate together.
I encourage you to create your own solstice celebration or research your ancestral heritage and find a tradition that resonates with you and your culture of origin.
When I was a teen, my mother started a new family tradition of a candlelight dinner every solstice. She laid out a white tablecloth and placed candles on top of small mirrors (to reflect the light) down the center of the table. My sisters and I would set the table with my parents' wedding china, and my dad would cook a special meal for our family of nine, plus other guests. We always included those we knew who did not have family celebrations during that time. My mom asked everyone to wear white or gold and we sat down together in a room illuminated only by white Christmas lights and candles. After dinner I'd play Christmas carols on the piano (a sly way to get out of washing dishes!) This became one of our most treasured family traditions, partly because we created the tradition ourselves.
This year, I'm hosting a special Winter Solstice & New Moon Women's Circle with a colleague in Southern California. I'm in Central Mexico far from my family, and I'm looking forward to an evening of slowing down and self-nurturing as we take a moment to cultivate connection to our inner world and inner light.
Along with Heidi Borsch, we will be gathering online and in person at OmSide Yoga (Oceanside, CA) for an evening of quiet contemplation and connection with other women, creating space for us all to settle in to the heart space, connect to soul and spirit, through an evening of restorative yoga, breathwork, guided meditation, journaling and heart-felt sharing, and simple and meaningful ritual.
You are welcome to join us! Register here: https://www.schedulicity.com/scheduling/OYUHJR/classes