Today is the Winter Solstice – one of my favourite times of year as it marks a gradual return to light. The dark days are over – or at least, backing off a bit.
I love celebrating historic holidays (though my Saturnalia focuses more on feasting than debauchery). It helps break up the festive season into many tiny celebrations, rather than putting too much pressure on Christmas alone, and helps me avoid the bleak midwinter feelings that often surface as my pain intensifies.
The Winter Solstice is a great time to reflect. Rather than brooding, I created a memory book, filling an album with photos, ticket stubs and memories of the year gone by, and update it every year (usually at new year rather than solstice). It helps keep happy memories alive and acts as a good reminder to appreciate the moment.
Winter Solstice celebrates the death and rebirth of the sun. Fill your home with fairy lights and candles to welcome the return of the sunlight.
It’s the ‘year as reborn’, so start the year as you mean to go on: with loved ones, feasting, singing, dancing and fires. You can share poetry if youre feeling inspired. Light a candle as a ‘flame of hope’. Toasted marshmallows and cocoa, plus potatoes wrapped in foil and roasted in the fire’s embers, are an added bonus (almond milk hot chocolate is a delicious dairy free option).
Mark the Winter Solstice with a winter feast full of nuts, berries, seasonal vegetables, spices and game if you eat meat. Make wassail-spiced beer, wine or juice. This is a lovely non-alcoholic option. The Bootstrap Cook also has an amazing sounding non-alcoholic mulled drink. I add vanilla pods, cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, lemon juice and honey to cloudy apple juice and slowly warm. (I’ve also wassailed a tree or two in my time).
Light a candle or stick of incense and watch it burn down as you remember your year, and filter your memories ready for mental composting. What have you learned? What are your dreams? What will you do to make them happen? Which moments made you happiest. Which do you want to cast into the flame to be forgotten? Who do you miss? Which memories of them do you want to preserve?
Light a fire and throw slips of paper with your fears and worries written on them if you can, and feel so inspired. Channel Frozen: let it go. Or light a Yule log – and keep it burning, as you write a journal of your favourite memories from the year.
Tidying up, clearing things you don’t want (and ideally giving them to someone who needs them more than you), cleaning the windows and scenting your home with rosemary, sage, pine, orange and spice aromatherapy oils and natural incenses can be a lovely Winter Solstice ritual (and fun way to make cleaning pre-christmas more enjoyable.)
Winter Solstice is a celebration of the moon so take time to admire the moonlight. It’s apparently the day the moon gives birth to the sun.
Have a warm, candle-lit bath, filled with aromatic festive oils – try sage, cinnamon, frankincense, sandalwood, pine or rosemary, or blend any three – and let your stresses from the past year drain away with the water.
By celebrating Winter Solstice, however you choose to do it, you’re consolidating the past and welcoming back the light. I find it cheering: it makes me feel more connected to nature, and ready to enjoy the coming celebrations. Happy Winter Solstice.