The Winter Solstice is unique among days of the year — the day on the calendar that marks the longest night and the shortest day. The dark triumphs, but only briefly. For the Winter Solstice is a turning point. The nights grow shorter and the days grow longer, the dark wanes and the light waxes in power. From the dark womb of the night, the light is born.
Long ago, people in the northern hemisphere celebrated the winter solstice, when the days grew short and the sun was at its lowest point in the sky. Many people had good reason to dread the cold, dark days of winter. So when the sun seemed to change its course and grow in strength again, they rejoiced.
In some places, people performed rituals and ceremonies to mark this special time. The Druids in Britain decorated oak trees with apples and candles to encourage the return of the sun. The Celts brought evergreens inside to protect their homes. Everyone lit candles or bonfires to chase away the darkness. In pagan Scandinavia, the winter festival was the yule. Great yule logs were burned, and people drank mead around the bonfires listening to minstrel-poets singing ancient legends. It was believed that the yule log had the magical effect of helping the sun to shine more brightly.
Today, candles, evergreens, and family feasts continue to symbolize this time of year. The opportunities for merriment are many: Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanza are just a few of the holidays celebrated around the world. Through rituals, we celebrate our passage out of the darkness. Symbolic rituals can mark a transition to the new by clearing the mind and allowing us to move forward into the new.
Earlier traditions focused on the battle between the dark and the light, but both are needed to embrace our full wisdom. This is the season when animals hibernate and nature sleeps, and we can turn inward too. Perhaps some of the depression people feel during the holidays comes from not providing a space for allowing the feelings of sadness that can also be associated with this season. You may want to set aside time before the New Year for sitting in the dark and quiet, taking time for silence and reflection.
This is a natural time for letting go and saying farewell. What sadness, resentments, and regrets linger in your heart or in your mind? When we deny the parts of ourselves that feel and hold onto those things that we may call “negative,” we limit our access to that which lies on the opposite end of the spectrum: joy, peace, bliss… Is there anything you have been in resistance to? Bring it close, bless it, and release it into the darkness, knowing it will be transformed. By integrating shadow, you are freed from delusions of right or wrong, good and evil. Shadow provides an opportunity for you to bring in all of your expanded essence.
As we head toward the New Year, what is it that you are bringing to completion at this time? As you expand into the new, what old patterns that no longer support your growth are asking to be shed? How can you step into the mastery and wisdom you are being called to embody? For to live in balance, we must not only spend time with our shadow, but also embrace our light.
As you celebrate the holidays, you may find yourself lighting candles and perhaps also fires in the fireplace. Do so with the intention of also bringing your light into the world. What are the ways in which you can help make the world lighter? How do you bring light into the lives of those around you? Make a conscious effort to increase the amount of light you create. Radiate your light in all your thoughts and actions. Shine forth the clarity of your true essence.
As you magnify your full presence, you will be assisted in more ways than you can imagine. As you move toward your core of light, you will find an awareness that is innately innocent. In this place, the mind is restored to it’s original state of receptivity. Clarity and freedom become expressions of being, and bliss becomes the body.
Happy Solstice. Merry, merry. Dreidel, dreidel. May you and yours have a wonderful season of celebration.