As written in my one of my last post (you can read it here), we tend to forget our natural connection with Nature. For a couple of weeks already, shops have stocked up on Christmas decorations and incentives to start setting up your house as well as presents shopping.
In this frantic pace and purely commercial oriented affair, a major date is approaching. It has been celebrated by pagans for decades but has become rather outdated recently.
This date is the winter solstice which will happen this year on December 22nd.
The word solstice brings together two latin words: “sol” (sun) and “sistere” (stand still). At the winter and summer solstices, the sun as seen from Earth appears to pause in its seasonal motion and then reverse its path. It is the perfect moment to pause before the chaos of the rest of the holiday season.
This is the day where we will have the longest night and the shortest daylight of the year and when we will move to days with more daylight. Because after this date the days become longer and longer, it was the “rebirth” of the sun which was celebrated. It is still the case in the countries which are more up to the North. It is also a time to say goodbye to the old and welcome the new. In old Europe, it was known as Yule, from the Norse, Jul, meaning wheel.
There are traditional elements which all a specific signification which are included in a winter solstice celebration.
Gather up pinecones, holly, and other seasonal items to decorate your Yule log or your house. Place holly, ivy, evergreen boughs, and pine cones around your home, especially in areas where socialising takes place. Hang a sprig of mistletoe above a major threshold.
Greens from Nature represent immortality, and the log (which must either be harvested from the householder’s land or given as a gift, but cannot be bought) is the highlight of the celebrations. It is decorated with greenery and dusted with flour (represented by the icing sugar on the log cake we make at Xmas). The flour represent the accomplishment of triumph, light and life. Traditionally the log was burned and the essence of wood used had a specific signification (aspen was chosen for spiritual understanding while oak symbolised strength and wisdom).
Wreaths are other familiar aspects of solstice celebrations. Wreaths can represent both the family circle and the cycle of seasons.
A lovely little ceremony which can be carried out is to write down on small pieces of paper what you are grateful for from 2015: what you are ready to release, what you wish to bid farewell to, what you are freeing your future up from… and simply light these strips of paper on fire and watch as the paper transforms to smoke… carrying your intentions out to the Universe. You can use this ceremony to release any old thoughts, patterns or unwanted energy from 2015, as well as to welcome in your hopes, dreams and 2016 wishes and watch the light transform your written words into heat and light.
Because they symbolise light and the reemergence of daylight, candles are important to solstice celebrations. Have them all around your house (you could even may be use only candles as your source of light that evening) and you could decorate outdoors as well. Place candles inside glass holders or canning jars or punch decorative patterns in tin cans.
Apples and oranges have to be part of the feast, as decoration and to be eaten as they represent the sun. When it comes to food, think rustic simplicity showcasing local foods and seasonal ingredients, like root vegetable gratins, hearty bean stews and squash or sweet potato ravioli. Food that should be privilege is those which are round and orange or yellow. Think orange slices (really slices, to make sure they are round), squash soup, but you can also cut carrot sticks and arrange them in sun rays…
The Winter Solstice is a perfect excuse, in the last rush before Christmas, to hit the breaks and slow down, to reconsider some basics and focus on important values such as family, nature, love, joy, to let go of all the commercials and media pressure of buying more, doing more, wanting more, reaching for perfection…
Our Winter Solstice celebration will focus on Family and Nature. My son will find in his Advent calendar a candle which he could use later on during the evening. I will cook a simple diner and focus on those yellow/orange colours an I will not forget to bake some treats. I will enjoy this slow motion moment just a couple of days before the “chaos” of Christmas.
Have a wonderful celebration.
Credits: Photos by Stéphanie Castelain, Illustration by Linda Dieschbourg.