We have had it! Our educators are exhausted from working out the countless kinks of remote learning. Our parents are pulling their hair out from trying to stay on top of their child’s assignments. Students are cranky and tired from learning in isolation and not being able to really play with friends. Yes, these are COVID times—the worst days we have ever known. We need some light.
Let’s revel in the winter solstice. The official start of winter, our shortest day and longest night of the year, happens this year on December 21. Also known as yule, midwinter, the longest night, and solstice night, this ancient holiday provides us with a reason to celebrate nature and the concept of a new season. Let’s look at it as a fresh start. Doesn’t that sound good? You may be thinking, how can we celebrate the winter solstice when we can’t even get together, because, hello, we are still in this. Yes, but we can still mask up and go outside, and experience joy. Here’s how:
Take the family on a winter-solstice hike. Go in the early evening, if you can. Make sure to dress for the weather, bring masks, hand sanitizer, water bottles, ugh, your phone if you must, and whatever else you may need. Try to refrain from talking for a while. Just look around and explore. Just breathe and allow yourself to recharge.
After the walk, sit under the stars and enjoy a natural snack—delicious nuts, seeds, and berries. Talk with your family about the coming year. Focus on the new year and talk about making plans, setting goals, and enjoying family time.
How about a song? Can everyone agree on a song that feels right for the occasion? Play it or sing it, dance to it, or just listen to the words. Feel the happiness.
Make a unique wreath with your family using twigs, branches, leaves, and dried berries. Add some sparkle to your masterpiece by wrapping garland in the mix. Use twines of varying thicknesses and textures to make your wreath really pop. Hang it on your front door.
Exchange gifts with family members that are inspired by the solstice, such as wreaths, colorful crystals and stones, and even packets of seeds. Think rebirth and rejuvenation, as we focus on the natural world.
Take a moment with your family to stand outside, feel the chill, and be still.
Solstice is derived from two Latin words: “sol,” meaning sun, and “sistere,” meaning “to stand still.”
Don’t hide from the cold. Get out there and get lost in the splendor of nature.
Create an outdoor meditation space for you and the members of your family. Use it to help you find calmness and peace. Design it according to what feels right to you. Set up a chair or not, add a yoga mat, lights, pillows, candles, or just have a small mat. Take the time that you need in the space. Whenever someone in your house feels tense, lead them to the space. Have your family name the space.
Play simple games—tic tac toe, a game of jacks, checkers, cards, or even Hop-Scotch. Enjoy the quiet simplicity of the play.
Make time for silence. Be quiet alone or as a family. Quiet time doesn’t mean you are in time out. It means you are spending quality time reading, thinking, daydreaming, meditating, or just being still.
The good news is that winter solstice means that from this day forward, the days will get longer, the sun will be stronger. The light will come.
Winter Solstice Celebrations
The Hopis of northern Arizona mark the winter solstice with Soyal, a ceremony that includes dancing, gift-giving, and purification rituals.
The Burning of Clocks festival happens in the seaside town of Brighton, England. Celebrants of winter solstice enjoy a parade and bonfire. They wear silly clock costumes and carry paper lanterns. At the beach, they burn lanterns, symbolizing the wishes, hopes, and fears that will be passed into the flames.
In China, the arrival of winter, Dong Zhi, is a time for family get-togethers.
Yalda, a Persian festival in Iran marks the triumph of light over darkness. To celebrate, people munch on nuts and pomegranates, light candles, and read poems. Some stay up all night to greet the rising sun. In Iran, it is believed that eating lots of summer fruits can protect you from illness in the winter weather.
During Toji, the winter solstice in Japan, people eat winter squash called kabocha. Hot baths with citrus fruits are believed to refresh the body and spirit. In Japanese zoos, at this time of year, fruit is thrown into the warm waters that the animals soak in.