It’s cold outside, the energy is calling you inwards & nature feels as if it’s going dormant. It’s the beginning of Winter, the Solstice. The date varies from December 20 to December 23 depending on the year in the Gregorian calendar. Or June 20 to June 22nd if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere.
Known as Solstice Night (or Yule if you’re pagan or Wiccan) the longest night of the year, the sun’s “rebirth”, has been celebrated for thousands of years across all kinds of cultures around the world.
Ancient peoples whose survival depended on a precise knowledge of seasonal cycles marked this first day of winter with elaborate ceremonies and celebrations. Spiritually, these celebrations symbolize the opportunity for renewal, a casting off of old habits and negative feelings and an embracing of hope amid darkness as the days once again begin to grow longer.
In Latin, solstice means “sun set still” and Winter Solstice is the great stillness before the Sun’s strength builds, and days grow longer. It’s a good time to rest and reflect.
Many of the ancient symbols and ceremonies of the solstice have been passed down culturally for generations and still live on today.
Here are 22 ways in which you can celebrate the Winter Solstice and enjoy the magical energy of winter’s longest night:
1. Set an Intention
The Winter Solstice is, in many traditions, the real end of the year. The end of the old and the start of new beginnings. For this reason, the longest night of the year is a very fruitful time for setting intentions. What you conceive now can grow with the Sun, and gain momentum in Spring. You might start a tradition of setting Winter Solstice intentions, and in one year, see how many you have manifested. Put them in a special tin or box that has meaning for you. The dark before the dawn, just like with New Moons, is a powerful time for magic, drawing in what you’d like to see happen in the new year.
2. Review the Past Year
This is the perfect time to take a look at everything that has gone on in your life in the past year, take stock, celebrate accomplishments, take a look at what worked and what didn’t and set new goals for the upcoming year. Clear some time in your calendar so you can spend some quality time alone with yourself. Get your favorite pen and notebook and do some digging. What can you learn from your experiences this year? What do you want to take away with you and what would you rather let go of? Also it’s a perfect time to start planning & plotting the new year ahead.
3. Do a Wishing Candle Ritual
There is an ancient pagan tradition of making a wish at the Winter Solstice with the aid of a white candle. It’s all about infusing the candle with your desires or intent and release them as you watch the candle burn. The most effective and traditional way to do this is by making the candle yourself as you focus on what you’re aiming to manifest. Here’s some great instructions to do so: http://www.llewellyn.com/journal/article/1017
If you don’t dare do such things, you can always get one of those candles that comes in a jar, warm the wax by double-boiling it on your stove and follow the same procedure as if you were making it from scratch.
To make this ritual even more powerful, mix essential oils, herbs or symbolical tokens that support your intent into the melted wax for your candle.
4. Cook with Seasonal Root Vegetables
Parsnips, rutabaga, jicamas, turnips, yams… all delicious, hearty vegetables that are only available this time of year. Their flavors range from sweet and mellow to peppery and sharp to nutty and earthy. And their dense, dry flesh is the best for cooking up soulful, satisfying wintery dishes like soups, stews & casseroles. These knobby, gnarly, bulbous root vegetables may not be the prettiest of the produce aisle, but they will fill and warm you up as well as nourish you during the cold winter months.
5. Make a Reading List for the upcoming year
When is cold outside, one of life’s greatest pleasures is to curl up under a cozy blanket and let your mind wonder into a different world by reading a good book. A reading list is the wish list of the avid reader. Get down to business and make a list that reflects your general goals for the year. If you’re looking to expand your business for example, your reading list should have at least a few non-fiction books from experts that will help you with that. If on the other hand, you’ve been really stressed and feel that this coming year you need more R&R, make sure to fill your list with light, fun or entertaining novels that will transport you to a different world and help you disconnect and recharge every time you make time to read them.
If you have books you’ve been meaning to read forever and never got around to, instead of just putting them down on the list, do some thinking. Why haven’t you read these books? Do you still even really want to? Let go of the ones you honestly will never read but which may have been weighing down on you or preventing you from finding new books. And if you still want to read the books in your current pile and aren’t sure why you haven’t yet, maybe your new reading list needs a broader mix of genres to keep you interested and engaged.
And if you’re not sure of what you want to read, you can always hit your friends up for some recommendations. After all, they know you and share common interests.
6. Make a Winter Wreath
Nothing says winter holidays like hanging a Winter Wreath at your door! And they’re much better if you make them yourself. The making of winter wreaths with evergreens & other forest findings is an ancient art that dates back thousands of years. In ancient Rome, people used decorative wreaths as a sign of victory and celebration and in the middle ages in Europe, people would put wreaths on their doors to identify their home the same way that house numbers are used today.
Spend a laid back winter evening getting crafty and making a wreath to hang at your door to welcome visitors & get them in the spirit of the season.
7. Make Gift Baskets
All across the world, midwinter is known as the season of gift giving. And people have been giving gift baskets for as long as there have been baskets. Early hunter-gatherers used baskets to collect fruits, vegetables and other comestibles. These baskets were then taken back to the family or tribe to be enjoyed by all.
The modern cellophane-wrapped basket became all the rage during the 1940s and 50s. At the time, florists were looking to expand their businesses and they needed a product that could be delivered just like flowers.
Ever since then, gift baskets are something you usually buy already put together, but it’s easy to put them together yourself and a lot more personal.
It’s an easy enough concept, pick a theme, something the recipient really loves. Pick the basket and everything that goes in it to go around or be related to the theme. You will delight & make a special mark with a special and well thought out gift basket.
8. Donate stuff you no longer Use, Want or Need
Winter is the perfect season to go through all your stuff, re-evaluate & de-clutter your living space. Getting rid of stuff you don’t use, want or need can be revolutionary & liberating. Often times, we give too much meaning to stuff, and it ends up holding back in life. Sometimes it’s hard to realize until you get the ball rolling and start going through your stuff. When you realize how much of your stuff you don’t actually use, you may star seeing how these things are clogging the energy rather than help it move along.
Donate your stuff to a worthy cause and you will have the satisfaction of knowing your unwanted or unneeded stuff is genuinely benefiting another. Remember the old saying: “one man’s trash is another one’s treasure”. By giving away what no longer serves you, you’re not just sharing with others who may need it more, you’re also doing something good for yourself and your life. It’s always a win-win.
9. Make a Vision Board
Making a vision board is a powerful way to visually represent your goals & intentions and keep you motivated & focused the rest of the year. Making it helps you clarify and focus your energies on your life goals or dreams. And is a wonderful manifesting tool, as it helps you match the vibration of the things you’re after by making them part of your reality.
The energies of this time of the year make it the perfect time to create a new vision board. It’s a fun, magical & artsy process. Take your time getting clippings from magazines, printing out pics or making drawings of the things you want to achieve this coming year. When you’re ready to sit down to make it, make sure to set the mood. Light some candles, play some music that really gets you pumped and pour yourself a glass of wine, or a hot cup of tea that you can enjoy while you’re making it. You will love it! And when you’re done, make sure to hang it some where you’ll see it everyday.
10. Burn a Yule Log (or make one to eat!)
In the Wiccan tradition, the highlight of the Winter Solstice celebration was the burning of the Yule Log. It was originally an entire tree, and choosing and bringing into the home was a celebration of its own. The largest end of the log would be burned in the fire while the rest of the tree stayed in the room as decoration. The log would be lit from the remains of the previous year’s log which had been carefully stored away and slowly fed into the fire through the Twelve Days of Christmas. The custom of the Yule Log spread all over Europe and different kids of wood are used in different countries.
A Chocolate Yule Log is now a popular winter time dessert all over Europe. They are usually made of a chocolate sponge cake roll layered with cream. The outside is covered with chocolate icing and decorated to look like a bark-covered log.
11. Throw a Costume Party / Masquerade
Midwinter Masquerade balls are a tradition that also dates back to the Roman times of Saturnalia, and are still one of the funnest things to do this time of year. Basically a fancy costume party, masquerade balls are known for being decadent, elegant and glamorous events. They usually imply gourmet foods, bubbly, getting dressed up and wearing masks to disguise your identity. They’re still more popular than you may realize, tons of clubs, hotels & schools throw masquerade balls every winter, be it in Christmas time, New Year’s Eve or just because. A quick google search should help you find one close by. And if you can’t find one to attend near you, why not organize one? It’s a great excuse to dress up and get fancy with your friends for an evening. You don’t need to go all out, as they do in one of these fancy but expensive events. After all, the real fun of Masquerades is in dressing up, eating yummy food and dancing with your friends!
12. Make Fruit Arrangements to share & give away to loved ones
In many different cultures across the world, the Winter Solstice is celebrated with small parties and gatherings. Feasting is part of the celebrations and traditionally it’s a time to eat the last remaining fresh fruits from summer. A cool way to share and bring some cheer to the season is to get creative with fruits & flowers and put together a fun and healthy edible arrangement.
13. Ritual Bath
Pamper yourself & renew your spirit with a Ritual Bath this Winter. Or a few! As I said earlier, this is a great time of the year for purification, cleansing and letting go. There’s few rituals as effective for these purposes as Ritual Baths. They go beyond cleaning the body and also cleanse the mind and soul. It’s about meditating and reflecting on the things you want to let go of & wash away. As you bathe yourself, you are literally rinsing all that away.
If you’ve got a nice bath tub, you don’t need much to have yourself a ritual bath. Make sure you have a long stretch of time to yourself so you can truly disconnect for a while. Set the mood with some incense, soothing music and white tea candles. Mix a handful of drops of essential oils like rosemary, sage or peppermint, a cup of baking soda & you’ll be good to go.
14. Go Ice Skating
If you’re into rollerblading there’s few funner things to do in the winter than going Ice Skating. A sure way to have a fun afternoon with friends, family or maybe your lover. Get done up in a cute wintery outfit, don’t skimp on accessories like hats, scarves and ear-warmers and bring along a thermos with hot cocoa to make the experience even lovelier.
15. Go out Dancing in the Night
There’s nothing more witchy than celebrating the changing of the seasons by Dancing around the fire in the night. Even if you’re not the foresty type, make a point to go out dancing on a cold winter night to get your body feeling warm & excited again like in the summer. It’s a fun way to bring life & energy back into your life & have a super fun time with your friends.
16. Start a Detox Program
This is the perfect season to start a detox plan. Many experts believe that excessive toxicity of the body creates a whole range of serious illnesses. Detoxing is the process by which your body naturally eliminates harmful chemicals, pollutants, metals and toxins. It’s one of the best preventative measures you could take for your health. There are many plans and programs designed to detoxify the body but it’s very important to do your homework to make sure you’re doing it safely and pick the right one for you. Make sure the cleanse you choose is a good fit for your lifestyle, something you can actually stick with from beginning to end and avoid fad plans or extreme programs that suggest you drink only water & lemon all day. Remember that while you detox your body, you need to ensure a normal intake of vitamins and minerals to keep it going!
17. Make a Winter Solstice Lantern
This time of year is associated with light — string lights, lanterns, candles… Hanukkah in the Jewish tradition is the Festival of Lights, with 8 days of ritual illumination of the menorah. There’s the advent wreath of the Christian faith and the all-night bonfire for the burning of the Yule log, a tradition with roots in Northern European pre-Christian times.
The lights are reminders of the inner light, and hope for the return of sunny days.
Even though the Winter Solstice means days will start getting longer, they do so slowly. Making a few special lanterns in honor of this time is a tradition practiced by cultures all around the world for thousands of years. It’s a fun and crafty activity to do with the whole family and symbolically bring light back into the darkness of winter.
There’s tons of easy ways to make some. Here’s a few really neat tutorials…
18. Redecorate + Reorganize + Rearrange
We touched earlier on what a great time the Winter Solstice is for decluttering and letting go of old & no longer needed stuff. It’s also a great time for redecorating, rearranging space and furniture. Take some time to breath fresh air into a room by changing its purpose, painting the walls or moving around the furniture.
19. Make a Winter Punch
A fun, easy way to get festive this winter is to throw together a yummy punch. Always a hit at parties and get-togethers, punches are very versatile. Its original rum, citrus & spices recipe dates back to the 17th century when it was brought to England from India by men working the ships for the British East India Company. Punches later became super popular during Victorian times as they were easy drinks to make without alcohol, which Queen Victoria frowned upon. They maintained their popularity as a girly drink up until the 1950s because of their lower alcohol than regular cocktails.
“The Fireplace” by Delphin Enjolras (1857-1945)
20. Release all in a Ritual Fire
Fire magic is one of the oldest ways to make magic. Connected to the South, Fire is a purifying, masculine energy. It’s associated to will and energy. Fire both creates and destroys it can heal or harm, and can bring about new life or destroy the old.
All you need is to get a nice fire going, preferably in a fire place, as it is safer. Create a nice, relaxed atmosphere and take your time getting things ready. Focus on centering and grounding yourself before getting down to business. Maybe meditate or dance for a bit to some music that hold special meaning to you. This is all to get your energy centered and ready for the ritual.
Hand write down in a piece of paper all of the things you’d like to release from your life. All the difficult things that have happened in the last year that you’re ready to make peace with and let go of. It can be anything… attitudes, feelings, relationships, situations. Basically, anything that no longer serves you, grows you or makes you happy should go on the list, so you can start the new year free from those old burdens and ready to start the next phase of your life anew. You can also gather some symbolic items to be burned along with your piece of paper. Things like photos, letters or receipts.
When you’ve got everything ready, you can read your list aloud and then start throwing everything into the fire to burn while you focus on your intention to let go of these things to make space for new and better things in your life.
Once you’re done, make sure to give thanks. Thank the Universe out loud for helping you let go and for bringing new & better things into your life.
21. Throw a Potluck Dinner Party
Would you like to host a large get together for your friends or family this winter but you just can’t face the amount of time, work & funds you’ll have to invest to make such a night happen? A potluck dinner party is the best way to go about this sort of winter gatherings. They are a super fun & relatively easy way to have a feast with friends or family without having to cook up a storm yourself or do insane amounts of dishes after. The concept is simple: everybody invited brings a dish to share.
As the hostess, your main job is to plan and communicate with everyone so you on party day, you end up with a cohesive dinner and not a bunch of different desserts. It’s always a good idea to pick a theme for the party as well, that way you make it easy for everyone to decide on what they should make to bring. Either way, you will end up with tons of variety and whole lot of conversation starters, which always make for a fun evening.
And the best part? Afterwards everyone takes their empty dishes home to wash themselves! 😉
22. Practice Forgiveness
During the Winter Solstice, there’s something in the air that invites us to Forgive. Ask for it, give it and your soul, like the coming months, will be a little lighter for it.
In Ancient Rome the winter solstice festival Saturnalia began on December 17 and lasted for seven days. It was held to honor Saturn, the father of the gods and was characterized by the suspension of discipline and reversal of the usual order. Grudges and quarrels were forgotten while businesses, courts and schools were closed. Wars were interrupted or postponed and slaves were served by their masters. In Poland the ancient December solstice observance prior to Christianity involved people showing forgiveness and sharing food. It was a tradition that can still be seen in what is known as Gody. .
It doesn’t really matter how you look at it, Winter has traditionally been known as a time of forgiving and you know what Buddah said: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” So do yourself a favor and allow yourself to forgive and let go this Winter. You will feel much better and letting go of that heavy, dark energy will make room in your life for bigger & better things.