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Honoring Winter Solstice

This is the solstice, the still point 

of the sun, its cusp and midnight, 

the year’s threshold 

and unlocking, where the past

lets go of and becomes the future; 

the place of caught breath, the door 

of a vanished house left ajar.

~  Margaret Atwood ~

Greetings to all my precious people!!

We are in the midst of transition to Winter, the time of deep reflection, inward movement and incubation.   For those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice occurred on Thursday, December 21st, marking the shortest day and the longest night of the year. This cycle of Nature has arrived consistently throughout millenia, reflecting the natural rhythm of the Universe that is also part of our own rhythms as a human being made of stardust. 

The word “solstice” derives from the Latin word sōlstitium and translates to “sun stands still.” This astronomical event has been significant across various cultures and traditions carrying symbolic, spiritual, and celebratory meanings.  

Societies across the world have held festivals and ceremonies marking winter solstice, the day of the “sun’s rebirth.” Most often, winter solstice celebrations honored the symbolism of fire and light, along with life, death, the rising sun, and the moon. The winter solstice represents a time of transition, renewal, and hope as the days begin to grow longer, inviting the return of light and the promise of a new cycle in nature.

Seasonal changes and shifts are important themes in Chinese medicine. The familiar symbol of Yin and Yang, called the Taijitu, has its roots in Taoist philosophy. Yin and Yang is the basis of Chinese Medicine, a concept of dualism – where opposite and seemingly contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world.

They cannot exist apart.

Yin is the dark part of the figure, where Yang is the light part. Though they are separate, they can not exist independently and are in fact, inter-dependent upon each other.  They provide context for each other – without dark, there is no concept of light, without cold, there is no concept of heat, without stillness, there is no concept of movement, etc. Note that there is a little circle of Yang within the Yin, and a little circle of Yin within the Yang, reminding us that nothing is completely Yin or completely Yang. Each aspect also contains the beginning point for the other aspect, flowing and changing with time.

The winter solstice exemplifies this philosophy. On Thursday, Dec 21st, Yin was at its peak. It was the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year. The solstice brings forth the Yin – the earth’s movement toward increasing darkness –  transitioning to Yang – the earth’s movement toward increasing light. In this exact moment of the transition, there is believed to be a mysterious blending of the Yin and Yang that opens the possibility of new creation and rebirth.  

During this time the seeds of Yang begin to grow, and the daylight incrementally grows a little longer. However, the winter season is still considered Yin time – a time of stillness to sit quietly and travel deep within ourselves to embrace introspection. Ironically, the holiday season brings forth Yang-type activity. We have a million things to do, people to see, shopping to do, holiday travels, etc. This extroverted expenditure of energy is the opposite of what we need at this time of year!

Consider the following to support the natural rhythms according to Chinese medicine concepts: 

Nourishment. The physical body absorbs nutrients best in the winter. It is recommended to eat nourishing foods, such as bone broth soups with healing herbs, soups and stews, shrimp, walnuts, black beans and kidney beans, and warming spices like cinnamon and ginger.

Rest. During this time of extreme yin, characterized by short days and long nights, nature reminds us to adjust our sleep accordingly. Align with the seasonal energy by going to bed earlier and waking later.

Preservation. Set boundaries in your social life, put yourself first and take care of your own well-being. Get acupuncture to help restore balance, tend to dis-ease, and foster rest and relaxation. Clear toxicity from your personal space with decluttering and cleaning.

Introspection. Look inward to find your potential, overcome fears and recognize the opportunity for hope and renewal.  The moments of possibility are endless!

Today, the winter solstice is a reminder to honor our connection to the natural world. It is a way we can celebrate the change in seasons without traditional holidays, gifts, or decorations. Instead, we can honor winter through rituals and self-care, looking specifically to our ancestors and heritage for inspiration.  The solstice is seen as a turning point, signifying the gradual return of longer days and the rebirth of the sun. It symbolizes hope, renewal, and the triumph of light over darkness. Many cultures view this period as a time of new beginnings, reflection, and setting intentions for the coming year.

Here are a few ideas to create new modern traditions: 

  • Consider practicing a pagan yule candle tradition (a tradition with European roots). Create an altar with items that bring you joy and peace, and surround it with candles. Light the candles as a symbol of the sun’s ability to give us both life and light.
  • Wake up early on the day of the winter solstice to watch the sunrise. Close your eyes, and feel the sun’s warmth on your face. Observe how the sun lights up the world around you. Bring a journal and write down any thoughts that come to mind.
  • Create a traditional winter feast with warming foods to eat on the night of December 21. Have fun creating a meal that warms and nourishes the body.
  • Draw a winter solstice bath, adding citrus essential oils to symbolize the energy of the sun.
  • Create something handmade that honors the sun or the natural world, such as a wreath from what you have around your house or backyard. Paint or draw the sun. Grab an instrument you haven’t played in a long time and write a song; then share it with loved ones.

In the weeks after the winter solstice, something has shifted. The sun is no longer waning but waxing, slowly building up energy and intensity in the Northern Hemisphere. But it is as deep underground as a seed nestled deep into the earth, growing and reaching toward the surface, but not quite visible yet. We are in a liminal phase, an in-between moment where we are no longer in the waning of the year but not yet feeling the warmth of the returning sun. It is the interminable waiting and holding space of the seasons.

This period parallels a time of conception, when a seed is planted deep in the darkness of a womb. It will be a while before that seed becomes visible, and it is a delicate time of growth and change that is nearly invisible, especially from a distance.  When we can tap into the energies of the deep winter, we can connect with the urges of this season: we can rest, dream, hope, think, intend, and, for some of us, work on conceiving a baby (the most popular month for babies to be born is in September, about nine months from now).

It is a time to reconnect to our creativity and whatever projects we are gestating. The book won’t be published yet – perhaps it’s not even quite getting written. But the ideas and the intentions are there and something will begin to sprout when the sun returns in full force.

This dark winter season is truly a time of “not yet.” We know that change is occurring, and the energy will shift and move back into the rhythms of everyday life. But we need to take a moment to slow down, to feel, to process all the things that have happened during the last year. As much as we might want to jump forward into the next stage of our lives and our work, it isn’t quite time for that yet. We must learn to sit in the “not yet” and be okay with the slowness and quiet here.

It is important to honor that there is a purpose to this long, slow, dark winter phase. To see the value and the joy of incubation. To give ourselves permission to rest, and to grieve if we need to.  It is a time to hope and dream and look forward without needing to take any action right away. Allow ourselves to linger in this liminal place – the time between, not quite one thing, not yet the other – and let ourselves be here, drinking in the medicine of the dark winter season.

May you find peace in the promise of the solstice night, 

that each day forward is blessed with more light.

That the cycle of nature, unbroken and true, 

brings faith to your soul and wellbeing to you.

Rejoice in the darkness, in the silence find rest, 

and may the days that follow be abundantly blessed ..

~ Unknown ~


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