In 2017, the start of winter and the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere falls on December 21. But this particular Thursday is more than another pre-Christmas date on the calendar. There’s a long history all over the globe of using the winter solstice—the darkest day of the year—as an opportunity to turn inward and celebrate the light inside the individual and the community. Ancient cultures including the Pagans, Celts, Norsemen, and even Romans used the solstice as a time to celebrate the death and consequent rebirth of the natural world that happens because of winter.
In addition to its spiritual traditions, the winter solstice is astrologically and astronomically significant as it marks the point in time when we in the northern hemisphere are tilted as far away from the sun as we’re going to get. So it’s not only the season of the shortest days with the least light, the winter solstice also marks the longest night of the year. Basically, the cold and dormant landscapes many of us are surrounded by combined with decidedly moody light conditions are ripe for tempting mere mortals to retreat from the world into a person-sized nest on the couch.
While a little hibernating with Netflix is certainly understandable, a self-care focused solstice celebration could be the perfect chance for you to check in with your whole self and make sure you’re tending to your needs and living intentionally, even during the darkest time of the year.
From the more recognizable December traditions like feasting and gathering around Yule logs, to the seemingly otherworldly customs that historians believe were nature and light-worshipping rituals at Stonehenge, there’s lots to be inspired by when it comes to honoring the winter solstice and the woman within.
Witchy Wellness with a Modern Twist
The “witchier” aspects of celebrating this darkest day are coming back into style (yay!), providing the perfect opportunity to reconnect with yourself and the natural world. So whether you want to go solo with some soothing solstice-inspired rituals for yourself or celebrate the season of spirit with your coven of friends, we have a few ideas about how you can mark the day in a meaningful and wellness-focused way.
Try This: Mind
Pagan author and educator T. Thorn Coyle writes that “for contemporary people, solstices … are a chance to still ourselves inside, to behold the glory of the cosmos, and to take a breath with the Sacred.” Whether you have an established mindfulness practice or are merely interested in meditation, a great way to help yourself focus on and take stock of the inner you is to try a guided meditation for inner reflection, acceptance, and celebrating the light within. Here’s a great one from meditation expert Esther Teule of Ekhart Yoga.
Try This: Body
Get outside! Pull yourself out of a hibernation funk by celebrating the things you love that you can only do in winter or that are made even better by the cold. If you’re in a snowy locale, plan an ice-skating or sledding date with your significant other, your kids, or your circle of female friends in true pagan tradition. Get in a little heart-pounding exercise while you celebrate the way the so-called harsh conditions of winter make this kind of fun possible. Just add a hot cider and cookie-fueled fireside (or rather, Yule log-side) chat afterward for the perfect afternoon ritual.
For solo reflection, try this cold-weather self-care practice: Fill your tub up with extra hot water, add a few drops of some of your favorite essential oils, light candles, and listen to relaxing music as you make time to melt into the tub. You can make this ritual special and specific to the winter solstice by using a mixture of oils like frankincense, pine, cinnamon, and clove, which have ties to ancient solstice celebrations.
Try This: Spirit
Whether or not you believe in divination or have experienced the cards truly speaking to you, the tarot is a time-honored tool that encourages self-reflection. The way you interpret your tarot spread can really give you insights into your personal psychology and the state of things in your head and heart that you might not have been able to realize via other means.
If you have your own deck, the solstice is a great time to use a past, present, and future spread to take stock of your life as it is and start thinking on your intentions for the new year. If you don’t have a deck handy, consider visiting a reader or exploring options that really demonstrate the modernization of the tradition, like having your cards read over the phone or even online.
Whether you want to connect to your own witchy roots or you’re just wanting another excuse to feel festive and focus on your own wellbeing, celebrating the winter solstice with one or all of these modern riffs on the theme is sure to inspire you through the long winter months.