December 21st at 5:05 am MST
“Sun Standstill in Winter”
- Winter Solstice occurs at the instant when the Sun's position in the sky is at its greatest angular distance on the other side of the equatorial plane from the observer.
- In the Northern Hemisphere this time falls anywhere between December 20 and December 23.
- Though the Winter Solstice lasts an instant, the term can also be used to refer to the full 24-hour period.
This day is the first day of winter.
- Winter Solstice marks the reversal of the gradually lengthening nights and shortening days.
- Solstice is the longest night and the shortest day. From now til Summer Solstice, the days get longer. Then it reverses again.
- Some believe that the very instant Solstice occurs provides a magical window when anything is possible. Ceremony and observances celebrating healing and purification occur worldwide at this moment. Stonehenge in England, and other ancient stone circles mark this moment.
- The sun shines through a particular portal of the stones only at Solstice.Even the Native American Museum in Washington, D. C. (part of the Smithsonian Institute) has its central rotunda lined up so that at Solstice the sun radiates through a specific skylight, casting a sliver of light in the center!
WHY CELEBRATE THIS MOMENT?
- Sometimes the common holiday celebrations of Christmas, Hanukah, etc. can be a bit much. They may be stressful and filled with impossible expectations and commercialism.
- Solstice celebrations are simple, connect us to the earth and resonate at a core level. They are easy to do
- Since this is the time of year to have good friends around, share food and warmth and find meaning in the season, a “modernized” ancient Winter Solstice celebration makes sense
- Enjoy, experiment and don’t take yourself too seriously. If it comes from your heart, you can’t go wrong.
- You can even celebrate by yourself, OR join one of many community Solstice Celebrations advertised in local community newsletters and publications. Look around.† †
PLAN IT OUT
- Decide on a Focus or Intention. “Why are you doing this?” Maybe it’s for family bonding, connection to Nature, to ancestors or to the community of all life on planet earth. Maybe it’s to learn about other cultures or to extend the Christmas celebration. Could even be an alternative to what you “always” do and the creation of new traditions. For sure, it’s a renewal of love, family, spirit.
- Pick a Time that Works for Your Situation. Are you hard-core and want the exact moment of Solstice? Maybe you’d rather have sunrise, sunset or noon. Perhaps the actual day, the weekend, the night before? Maybe it’s as practical as when people can get there.
- How Long? Depends on intention. Are there young kids involved, babies? Solstice celebration could last from a few minutes to 24 hours to a whole day. Your group will tell you what’s right. If this is a brand new concept, the first year might be short and then as the idea catches on, next year longer.
- Where? Anyplace from around the Christmas tree, family room, kitchen table or outside around a fire. In a park, your backyard, on a mountain top. The local yurt.
- What? Here’s the biggie. Naturally you need FOOD and then a CEREMONY. Ideas follow.
- THE FEAST: Favorite family food and drink. Pot luck. A Solstice prayer. A Solstice candle. A pie or cake with a sun on it. Birthday or Hanukah candles could be put on this solar dessert. Then each family member lights a candle and makes a wish for the holiday season or the upcoming year. Once all candles are lit, the group as a whole can blow them out to send wishes on their way. Then call out "Happy Solstice" or "Good Yule" in unison.
- YULE WREATH CEREMONY: If it’s a crafty gathering you could make a group wreath from evergreens collected by guests. If not, just get a wreath. Either way, circle around this symbol of the cycles of Nature. Mention Yule and Jul, names for this time of year. Each person shares something they love about winter. Then ceremonially hang the wreath on a door, a wall or use as centerpiece for the table. On or after New Year's Day, the wreath can be returned to Nature, or kept until Summer Solstice and then burned in a bonfire.
- FIRE CEREMONY: Use an indoor fireplace, an outdoor fire or many candles. Ceremonially light the fire and observe it as the beginning of Earth’s renewal and longer days to come. Each person, as they feel moved, makes an offering to the ceremonial fire that represents something they would like to change in their life. OR they may add something to the fire that symbolizes a closure or ending . This may be done silently or out loud depending on the person’s choice. A final blessing is then made one by one for the good of the whole, the community, the world, the planet, the Great Spirit, God or Deity that is appropriate.
WINTER SOLSTICE PRAYER: “SHARING THE LIGHT”
(Could use this prayer before your feast, around the hearth, before any of the above ceremonies.)
From the most ancient times this night is recognized as the darkest time of the year.
To remember, we begin this circle in darkness, for without the darkness we could not see the light.
In early times this darkness brought fear and despair, and those who dwelt upon the earth felt great isolation.
At last, through the years, a few people learned to put aside their fear.
People began to trust each other and help each other through the night.
All of us grew stronger – those who took the help and those who gave it.
And gradually, this became a time of joy for the fullness of life.
A time for thanksgiving for the light we share.
We share the light of our Center Heath which glows brightly with warmth.
From you I receive, to you I give, together we share, from this light we live.
Tonight, we let our light shine so that this circle becomes a beacon of light and love.
With the speed of light, our circle joins circles of light around the world and throughout the universe.
We are are part of one another.
One Family, One Community, One World.
And so tonight, we meet here to thank those who have helped and to REMEMBER.
Even the greatest darkness is nothing so long as we share the light.
Our December Newsletter is adapted from the following resources: