Winter is, for many of us, a time of reflection.
Perhaps it’s the cold and the darkness, or perhaps it’s how the snow often muffles the world’s noise, creating a soft cushion in our normally hectic lives.
Of course, I live in Georgia, where snow is a rarity but to me, winter still means sweaters, hot soups, thick blankets, soft pajamas, early bedtimes, and soft lighting.
My children and I will forego an evening of television viewing and instead put on a record, turn on the holiday lights and salt lamps, and enjoy the music playing softly. While I don’t have a fireplace right now, we’ll sometimes turn on the yule log channel on TV or on YouTube and enjoy the sounds of a crackling fire, sometimes accompanied by homemade hot cocoa and soft cookies. Candles might be lit, or I might put on a homemade potpourri made from simmering apples, orange rinds, and cinnamon sticks in water.
We relax into the season and into this particular time of change. I consider it a sort of hibernation, meant for rest and healing.
The winter solstice approaches on December 21st. While celebrating the solstice is often seen as a pagan tradition, anyone can celebrate the change of seasons and honor that time in our lives. We can all stand to lean into the season and to enjoy what it has to offer. Here are a few ways we can celebrate:
We can have a bonfire and share it with loved ones.
Perhaps, we host it as a potluck or simply roast marshmallows. We can each take the time to say something that we were grateful for during the year and some hope we have for the next year or the next season.
We can have a candlelit meditation.
Because some candles can harm the environment, we can also opt to use salt lamps or another lighting source to set the mood. Aromatherapy can also be used to enhance our meditation.
We can smudge our homes with sage.
Sage can clear our homes of negative energy (the scientific reason is due to removing negative ions), or we can burn bay leaves (which can improve mood and immunity) to similar effect. As we perform this ritual, we can offer up a prayer of gratitude and peace.
A yoga studio near me is offering a winter solstice tradition of 108 salutations, candlelight, and Christmas music.
Doesn’t that sound divine? If we can’t make it to this type of event, we can have an evening at home with candlelight, Christmas carols played softly in the background, and restorative yoga poses. We might follow this up with tea and journaling or hot cocoa and reading a book of beautiful poetry. (I recommend Depression and Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim.)
We can host a winter feast and ask each guest to bring a dish.
We can focus on comfort foods like homemade breads, hearty stews, soups, and chili. We can even serve a yule log dessert and accompany our meal with spiced apple wine, hot apple cider, or hot chocolate.
We can go a step further and make this a moveable feast, in a nod to literature and Hemingway, and we can make it a progressive dinner where we have each course in a different home. Between homes, we can route ourselves to see holiday lights. We can even choose to make some traditional holiday foods like plum pudding, spiced sugar cakes, fruitcakes, or figgy pudding.
We can sing in the solstice with holiday caroling.
While caroling isn’t exactly traditional anymore, it’s not illegal either. We can always bring back this tradition. Or we can host a holiday sing-along in our homes to celebrate the change of season. If we don’t celebrate Christmas, there are plenty of secular holiday songs available to sing.
Other ideas include drum circles, an evening of dance, or even group chanting or meditation. While this may be outside of the comfort zone for those new to celebrating, they are certainly valid and entertaining ways to celebrate this time of year.
The winter solstice is a beautiful time of year.
While it often gets skipped right over with the rush of the other holidays, it’s a time of transition that we can honor in small ways. Even if all we do is express gratitude for what we have and look back over the lessons we’ve learned in the past season or year, it’s enough.
But if we can, we should take the time to make a little extra effort—to honor the dark, the cold, and the quiet with our own softness. Not just with soft clothes, soft lighting, or soft music, but with a softness of spirit, a leaning in, if you will:
Leaning in to how we feel. Leaning in to our breath. Leaning in to the changes happening in our bodies as we age, the changes happening in our lives that we have little control over, the changes happening in the world around us.
We can breathe in to this period of time and honor a time of rest and renewal. We can honor transitions. We can find ways to let go. We can also decide what changes we’d like to make in the coming season and to honor the lives we’ve lived already. The winter solstice is a wonderful time to practice forgiveness for ourselves and others. And, most importantly, it’s a time to listen to and to heed our intuition.
However we celebrate, I wish you bright blessings!
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Samuel Edwards/Unsplash
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Lindsey Block