Winter is coming! For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the frosty days are getting shorter and the crystalline nights longer as the sun sinks lower and lower upon the horizon.
This year, just before the dawn on December 21st at 4:44am Central Time, the winter solstice and the official first day of winter will be upon us.
A solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice a year in June and December. At solstice, the sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year, with the sun at its highest. The winter solstice is the shortest day, with the arc of the sun across the sky at its lowest.
The word solstice comes to English-speakers from the ancient Romans. Their Latin word for this celestial event was solstitium, a combination of sol meaning ‘sun and stit- (from the verb sistere) meaning ‘stopped or ‘stationary.
The sun seems to stand still. And to the naked eye, it seems to do so for three dark and frozen days and nights.
All over the world, people have celebrated or marked this special day with festivals, celebrations and other observances, some of which still survive today, even as remnants or folklore. Solstice and the dark days that come just after are traditionally a time of warm celebration with family and friends, gift giving and sharing with those less fortunate.
As the days grow longer and darker, another traditional practice has been to take the opportunity for quiet and solitude that solstice brings to look within. There is a certain uncanny stillness that does pervade the atmosphere around this annual celestial event, a breathless moment in which you can almost feel the turning of some great celestial pendulum come to halt and poised to turn back again.
Now is time to slow down, embrace the darkness and change the focus to introspection, insight and renewal. Follow these 8 ideas to achieve personal renewal:
- Light some neroli candles and put out a bowl of big, round, sunny oranges. Oranges and lemons are like little suns you can hold in your hand. Stud them with cloves to make a spicy-smelling pomander. Their zesty smell and fresh flavor awaken the senses.
- Bring in some winter greens. In the dark, cold days of winter, when the trees are bare, evergreens like holly, pine and fir remind us that the earths great heart is yet beating beneath her snowy mantle and the green will return again. If you live in more southerly climes, rosemary is a lovely alternative to evergreens.
- Take a long bath and really go at it with a loofah. Cut your nails and trim your hair. You wouldnt want to show up for your renewal dirty and scruffy, would you? Rituals of purification and renewal are traditional solstice activities.
- Meditate. Nothing fancy, just give yourself the space to sit quietly. In a chair, on the floor, doesnt matter. Even 15 minutes will do. Try not to let your mind wander into fantasy or old hurts. Be mindful of the thoughts that will inevitably arise. Open your heart. Let go of the old. Embrace possibility and the new. Conclude your meditation with a mental image of the light coming forth out of the darkness.
- Open your eyes. Rise and stretch. Make some ginger and lemon tea or some other warming, calming drink. Put on some quiet, instrumental music.
- Now, sit down and ask yourself some serious Capricorn questions about who you are, what you want and where youre headed in this crazy little thing called life. Make room for your hopes and dreams.
- Is your life in order? Are your finances secure? Are you on a path to prosperity and happiness? If not, perhaps this quiet time will offer you insights that will help you embark on a new journey. Make written notes of any insights or thoughts from your earlier solstice meditation, so you can refer to them as the year unfolds.
- When youre ready, celebrate the return to light and life. Stoke up the twinkle lights. Build a fire with oak logs. Enjoy a bubbly citrus-and-rosemary seltzer over ice or pop the cork on some champagne.
Winter solstice may be the shortest day – and therefore longest night. But that also means that from that day, from that moment onward, the light is getting stronger and the days are getting longer!
The yearly cycle begins again. Light and warmth and bounty will return. The sun is born anew out of the darkness. You have the inklings of a plan for financial security and personal growth and your own unfolding. Spring is coming!