Christmas of Hope 2020: The Winter Solstice, a Moment to Stand Still and Look Ahead.
Today, Monday 21st December 2020 is the Midwinter Solstice.
It strikes me as weird that in some parts of the world it’s actually looked at as the first day of winter when, in my mind, it really does work better with early November as the start of winter and now being halfway between beginning and end. I like the link between the Sun and the seasons, really, plus I find at work that the coldest weeks are usually now, around Christmas, rather than February unless we get a visit from the snow fairy in the temperate UK.
With its timing just before Christmas, it’s easy for the solstice to get sucked in and subsumed by the Great Feast, especially since for so many the religious aspects of Christmas have been edged aside in favour of a totally consumer-focused period of giving and exchanging gifts, food and drink. I’ll leave the theologians to argue why this is and whether anything needs to be done about it, but I’ll argue the case for taking time today to slip out of 21st Century festivities and look back to an earlier, arguably harder, time when the Solstice had a real importance in life.
In pre-Christian and early pre-history, the turning year would have heralded dark and dangerous times. Hunger, illness and dangers would have increased during the winter and the home (cave, hut, whatever) would have had increased importance in their lives. The knowledge that the Sun would return and grow in power each year would have been vital to them, especially once farming and gardening became their source of food rather than hunting and foraging. A new Sun meant a new year and new life.
Winter, as a dormant period in growing and harvesting, provides an ideal time for a period of introspection. It’s a good time to hold a life audit, to identify the parts of your life where changes are necessary or to name and own the lessons learned over the past twelve months and those you hope to learn over the next.
Although I like to use Romjul (the period between Christmas and New Year) for most of my introspection, since it’s a natural period of rest, recuperation and forms a gateway between the past and future, the Midwinter Solstice itself is a good day to set up that time of reflection and to perhaps identify areas to consider. I like to have a flame to meditate with, either a full-blown fire in my firepit or a small candle inside by myself, and to use the natural lure of fire to ground myself. It’s easier to get into a more reflective state when you stare at a flame for a few minutes. I let my mind wander, focusing on the flame and its natural dance, letting thoughts pass through my brain without needing to consciously catch them. I place the questions I will be asking in greater depth after Christmas into my mind and let them float around as well.
- What did I learn last year?
- How am I feeling now about the past year?
- How am I feeling now about the future?
- What do I want to learn this year?
- What steps do I need to take to achieve this learning?
I don’t take notes, I don’t set out to consciously achieve an answer: it’s a matter of getting the ideas in there, and letting my subconscious mull over them before I ask for more definite guidance after Christmas. I may sit quietly for a few minutes, or longer depending on how relaxed I’m feeling. And at the end, I move away and return to everyday life.
It’s also good, on the Solstice or the morning after, to rise up early enough to see the sunrise. Time to feel the echoes of the past again, to face the East and to know with heart, mind and body that the Earth goes on regardless of any human issues, that the Sun rises as a symbol of light in the darkness and that we play an infinitesimally small part in that history. There’s nothing like knowing how small a speck we are in real life to give one a sense of respect for eternity.
Daily Read: A few articles today, some Pagan in flavour, some explaining a Christian approach to the Solstice.
9 Ritual Ideas to Celebrate The Winter Solstice. Simple ideas to celebrate the Solstice that would work for many people. It includes ideas like using pine or sage to freshen the home, displaying a Winter wreath and looking backwards and forwards at the turning year (Contains reference to tarot cards, but the questions are equally valid if used just for journalling)
17 Winter Solstice Rituals from Around the World. From as far apart as Vancouver to China via Ireland and Iran, people celebrate the passing year in many ways but most of these celebrations focus on light and food.
Celebrating the Winter Solstice as a Christian Family. Believing that God is the ultimate creator and made all the Universe, doesn’t it actually make sense to celebrate the changing seasons, course of the Sun and Moon and all the wonders of the world not as a polytheistic, they are all gods way, but in a pantheistic, God is in it all sort of way.
Should Christians Celebrate the Solstice: Yes. If they want to.
Winter Solstice: Can We Celebrate the Restful, Welcoming Darkness? We need the dark to make the light mean more. We need sadness to temper joy and make it more complete. We need to recognise both sides of our being to be a whole person.
How to Celebrate the Winter Solstice: A beautiful post on celebrating the solstice with children, and easy ways to bring a love of nature into solstice celebrations.
Daily Book: It had to be, didn’t it? The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper. Although the second volume in the series called The Dark Is Rising, this works so well as a stand-alone book set at the Solstice. Tonight will be bad, but tomorrow will be beyond imagining. I love to read this, and to listen to it but please avoid the 2007 film, also called The Seeker. I’m hoping that Bad Wolf productions, who make A Discovery of Witches and The Northern Lights trilogy may one day be given free rein to make a good series of the books.
Self-Care Act for the Day: Take the time today to draw a mandala, a circle pattern wheel. The name means Sacred Circle in sanskrit, and drawing these repetitive circular patterns is supposed to act as a link between one’s inner and outer world. They’re calming, repetitive and easy enough to start drawing, although they can be as complicated as you like. You can use a guiding grid through copy paper, if you want a perfect circle, or go for a good-enough circle free hand. This Art Therapy post explains how to draw a mandala or, if you really don’t feel confident creating your own, ready-printed mandalas are available in book form or on the net.
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted or bought by me with my everyday wages.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
A Self Care Christmas: A short ebook on keeping Christmas simple and making sure it doesn’t overwhelm.
Celebrating a Contagious Christmas: Available in ebook and paperback, it’s about making this year a festival of Hope.
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little rhings in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas, however we get to celebrate it this year, and a Happy, Healthy and Simple New Year.