‘What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.’
― John Steinbeck
While our neighbours in the northern hemisphere move into summer this weekend, June 22 brings us the Winter Solstice.
A solstice describes the annual moment when the sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky at noon. More specifically, it’s the exact moment when the sun reaches it’s most southern point from the earth’s equator (December), and it’s most northern point (June). Each year this day marks the longest (summer solstice) and shortest (winter solstice) days of sunlight.
For thousands of years, solstices have been regarded as important days for celebrating the transition of seasons, and shift in energy. Because the Winter Solstice celebrates the longest hours of darkness, as well as the ‘rebirth of the sun,’ it is believed that the day holds powerful energy for introspection and renewal.
Our ancestors found wisdom in celebrating and aligning with these seasonal occurrences, as it inevitably widened their perspectives to the universe around them. They understood humanity’s place, as part of the whole – connected with a much larger picture. Festivals represented a spiritual connection to Mother Earth.
There is evidence that the solstice was a celebrated moment in the annual cycle for cultures as far back as Neolithic times. We also witness this within ancient Indian, Iranian and Japanese cultures to name a few.
In Pagan times the Winter Solstice was called Yule. The day revolved around the Goddess and the moon’s energy. In fact it was thought that on this day, the moon gave birth to the sun. The Winter Solstice was honoured as a time of birth, or the start of a new cycle.
‘If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.’ – Anne Bradstreet
Astronomical events such as the Solstices correspond with each of our own rhythms – they can help us to understand where to place our focus amidst the changing cycles of life.
Throughout history, solstice celebrations have involved dance, ceremony, folklore, and the telling of myths. By participating in rituals, people felt understood and connected with nature.
Today, there are lots of ways you can honour the Winter Solstice. This might be through pausing, exploring your inner world, or by bringing Yin energy into your home through practices like yin yoga, or journaling.
Here are a few other ideas.
Disconnect with Candle Light
Fire is a wonderful way to celebrate the light, as humanity has done for thousands of years before us.
Honouring the winter solstice with fire is easy enough. Switch off your phone and other distractions, then simply light a candle or two. Keeping the lights off, embrace the darkness, and take the time to reflect on the beauty and qualities of light. Feel the stillness, quiet, and peace here.
The next activity you could do with a group of friends, family, or by yourself. If you feel drawn to do so, on a piece of paper you could write down some of the things you have accomplished within the last six months. Reading them out aloud, with gratitude, you can then burn the paper – letting go of attachment to the past, and allowing space for new abundance and opportunity!
‘Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.’
― Yoko Ono
Another equally valuable ritual would be using the start of this new cycle, to set intentions.
Have a long and deep think about the things that you might like to remove from your life. By focusing on what you want to release, you can then direct your attention to what you want to more of, with spring.
Feel gratitude for the opportunity to focus on this work and ask for the energy to focus on your intentions over the next months. This winter solstice is the perfect time for making plans. Think of it as the stage of a cycle that comes right before the birth of a new project, opportunity, or phase of life.
If you’re after even more of a winter reset, another wonderful option is a Happy Buddha winter Retreat. There’s nothing like a day of yoga, fireplace reading and home cooked meals to brave the cold and hit recharge!