The start of winter is a sacred time of year all over the world for many cultures.
Winter solstice falls on the first official day of winter and celebrates the return of the sun...the day of the year when day is shortest and night is longest and then each day afterward is just a little brighter for a little longer until they reach equal status on the spring equinox.
Celebrated since ancient days as Yule, a holiday that celebrated the return of the sun as a symbolic battle between the gods of night and day.
Christmas celebrates the metaphorical return of the son , or "son of God" or savior.
Hanukah and Kwanzaa are other notable holidays celebrated at this same time of year, both with light being symbolic of hope, warmth and rebirth as central themes.
2020 winter solstice holds special astrological meaning as Saturn and Jupiter will be in conjunction... the closest they have been in close to 300 years.
Ways to celebrate winter solstice:
Light: candles and fire
Symbolizing warmth, the return of the sun and the sacredness of light.
Yule log: a Nordic tradition where an entire tree was brought to the hearth to burn. Many people decorate a lot for the fireplace, adding spices, herbs and color before lighting it ablaze.
Evergreen: symbolizing eternal life and rebirth, the only trees that do not die or lose their leaves in winter. Decorating a holiday tree or using wreaths or other ways to incorporate evergreen into the home. Even a diffuser with natural fir or evergreen oils can add this dynamic.
Cleansing and Decluttering : this time of year is seen as a perfect time to get rid of that which no longer serves you: physically emotionally and mentally. A great way to start is by clearing out your space and considering donating to those in need. On a metaphysical level take some time to cleanse your home with smudging ...consider using locally sourced smudge materials that are unique to your heritage or location. You can also create a Yule potion ...mixing scents of citrus and spice to simmer on the stove. I use fresh apples and lemons, dried cinnamon and cloves and a few of my favorite essential oil blends.
Movement: sun salutations. In yoga, sun salutations or suryanamaskar, celebrate the sun and literally build warmth and strength in our bodies. Many yoga practitioners choose to do 108 sun salutations at the solstice to honor the sun. If 108 at once is too daunting you can do 18 a day for 6 days this week. There are also modified versions of sun salutations that you can do in a chair so even if movement is limited by pain or illness you can still engage in this practice.
Setting intentions for the new year:
Gentler than a new year resolution...set an intention for how you want to feel or what you want to attract In the coming year. The great thing about living seasonally and celebrating seasonal holidays is you have four set points in the year to reflect on your goals and progress and to shift your intentions or aspirations with each season...the solstices and equinoxes. You can also go a step further and add in each moon cycle to focus on goals in each month.
One way to set intentions for the new year is to write them on a bay leaf and burn it outside releasing the energy of the intention to the universe.
Herbs: St. John’s wort is a wonderful herb to work with energetically in the winter. In traditional western herbalism St. John’s wort can be used medicinally to treat depression including seasonal affective disorder. But on an energetic and symbolic level, St. John’s wort can be used in many ways during the winter. In her book Herbiary, Maia Toll says that St. John’s wort “knows how to steal the heat from summers solstice sun , hold it in her flowers, and make it last all winter long. This is her greatest trick: bringing light and warmth to your darkness by helping to recreate the electric leap of synapses firing and energy moving along. “ (117, Toll).
Crystals: red jasper for heat, grounding, and awakening your root chakra; citrine to harness the energy of the sun and lift your mood; quartz for clarity and focusing on new intentions, amplifying the energies you are harnessing this season.
Take time to reflect, open your heart to simple gratitude for the earth, sun, moon, solar system and their part in giving us seasons. Appreciate the darkness as well as the return of the light. The solstice is about acknowledging that we have been in a period of darkness, accepting what has happened, but maintaining hope that the light always returns.