This is a special time of year – it’s marked by a variety of significant celebrations for people of different faiths and nationalities. But there is one momentous occasion that is shared by every single one of us – the solstice. In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the winter solstice.
On December 21, 2019 at 11:19 pm EST, the northern point of the Earth’s axis, or the North Pole, will reach its maximum tilt away from the sun. That means everyone north of the equator will experience the shortest day and the longest night of the year.
This is when we receive the least direct solar energy of the year. After the winter solstice daylight hours begin to increase until we reach the summer solstice in June.
This point in the Earth’s rotation around the sun marks both the beginning of winter and our gradual movement back to summer. It’s traditionally a time to celebrate the return of the sun to its summer path. It can also be considered a rebirth of the sun – the time when the sun of the old cycle dies and the sun of the new cycle is born.
Incidentally, the winter solstice is also the day you’ll see your longest shadow of the year.
Despite the artificial rush of holiday shopping and parties, the shift to winter marks a time of low energy for nature and for people. Animals hibernate, plants store all their energy underground in their roots, and people spend more time eating soup and curling up under blankets indoors.
The shift to winter means we’re at the height of our quiet, introverted energies. If you can manage it, this is the season to slow down – sleep more, dream more, and generally gather strength for the year ahead.
Winter is a good time to reflect on the previous year and set intentions and goals for the spring when life will begin to blossom again.
So how does one celebrate the winter solstice? Here are some ideas to start with…
- Make a list of things you love about winter.
- Take a walk in the woods. Notice the change in sunlight, pay attention to the bare tree limbs, feel the quiet that descends when life has moved underground.
- Decorate your home with holly, ivy, evergreens, wreaths, and pinecones. Put mistletoe over the door. Add festive lights, candles, even a yule log. Decorate an evergreen tree. Gather with loved ones and give gifts. (Oh, but maybe you’re already doing these things for Christmas. These were the traditional ways to celebrate the solstice before Christmas came along.)
- In the spirit of renewal and rebirth, make note of the endings and beginnings that are happening in your life. What is it time to let go of and what are you ready to bring in?
- And as always, offer your thanks to the Earth and Sun for making this season and all of life possible.
Don’t forget to notice how long your shadow is this time of year. Happy Winter Solstice!
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