Tag Archives: holidays

Along Comes the Winter Solstice

As the countdown to Christmas continues and the holiday rush to complete preparations is at its peak, along comes the Winter Solstice, welcoming the official beginning of winter.Moon2Many Chinese consider the solstice a time for optimism and joy and hold celebrations on this day. The Winter Solstice is a perfect example of the theory of Yin and Yang. In Chinese philosophy, Yin symbolizes the feminine, womb-like qualities of the universe while Yang the masculine, more dynamic energy. The concept is based on the observation that when something has reached one extreme, it will turn to the opposite, seeking balance. On the day of the Winter Solstice, the Yin is at its peak with the longest night. From then on, it will give way to the light and warmth of Yang.

The word “solstice” is Latin for “sun-stand still.” It occurs exactly when the Earth’s axial tilt is
farthest away from the sun, bringing the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Winter Solstice marks the great stillness before the Sun’s strength builds, and days begin to grow longer.

The Solstice has long been honored by many traditions as a sacred and rich time. In ancient times, dark and dreary December was a most dreaded time of year because the lack of heat and limited food supply could be disastrous. Thus, to many people the promise of lighter days after the Winter Solstice was cause to celebrate and acknowledge that nature’s cycle was continuing.While interpretation of the event has varied, most cultures have viewed it as recognition of rebirth. Holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals and other celebrations were created to celebrate this event.

st_lucia2The return of the light is the most prominent feature of most midwinter festivals. In Sweden on St. Lucia’s Day, young girls don white dresses and a wreath of candles and awaken their families with cakes and songs. In the Jewish tradition, Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by 8 days of lighting the menorah candles. There is 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.

ChristmasTree2Cultural winter traditions have evolved and include decorating with evergreens, adding lights to outdoor treesoutdoor trees, using fire pits or fireplaces, feasting and gathering with friends and family. These activities create a festive mood and may help to counter complaints of increased moodiness, tiredness, malaise and inactivity due to the lack of sunlight, (officially recognized as SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder) and the stresses of the holidays.

This year, the Winter Solstice is December 21. Since the Solstice also marks a time of new beginnings, we can begin to think about what we want to let go of and what we want to create as we move ever closer to 2015.  I appreciate the opportunity the Winter Solstice provides to pause during this often-frenzied holiday time and reflect on the beauty of the season and consider what is personally meaningful to each of us.


I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December,
A magical thing
And sweet to remember,
We are nearer to spring
Than we were in September.
I heard a bird sing
                        In the dark of December.– Oliver Herford

May your Holiday be wrapped in warmth, touched with wonder, and filled with love.

Tis the Season of Yin and Yang

SnoTreesDecember in Minnesota is a perfect example of Yin and Yang. The short, dark winter days combined with the quiet beauty of a blanket of snow personify Yin. Add Yang energy with glowing holiday lights that brighten and twinkle, and you have a season of Yin and Yang. In balance, Yin and Yang contribute to the beauty we so enjoy at this time of year.

But just about the time holiday fervor is threatening to create an imbalance of Yang energy, along comes the Winter Solstice. The word “solstice” is Latin for “sun-stand still.” The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year and represents the official beginning of winter. Yin energy reinstates itself!

Saturday, the 21st of December, I attended a Winter Solstice celebration, and in so doing, connected with the energy of other cultures around the world that have celebrated solstice festivals since ancient times. Sunset

This year, I joined a gathering of eight women at a mutual friend’s home. While not everyone knew each other, the camaraderie was instant. We shared delicious food as we engaged in “getting to know you” talk. Then we settled in to focus on the purpose of getting together: acknowledging the Solstice and sharing gratitude. Our hostess first invited each of us to shine a light on what we were grateful for in 2013. A candle was lit, bringing light to the darkest day of the year. As the softly glowing candle was passed from one woman to the next, intimate stories of healing and insights were shared. Each person talked about challenging and difficult times experienced this year and how those darkest of times brought the greatest lessons learned. The light shone brightly for each of us on gratitude for the subsequent insights, wisdom and understanding gleaned from those lessons. Candle

After sharing gratitude, we participated in a solstice tradition of writing on a piece of paper what we wanted to release before entering the new year: arrogance, ego, selfishness, poor health, self-doubt, negative thoughts and so on. These pieces of paper were then tossed into a fire to be set free. This ritual provides a powerful sense of release.

I am grateful for friends who afford me an opportunity, in the midst of the holiday rush, to take time to pause and acknowledge the transition to a new season, to appreciate nature’s celestial beauty and wisdom, to speak my gratitude in the presence of others and to symbolically release what did not serve me well in 2013.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer

 Happy Solstice! Happy Holidays!