The holiday season is a jam-packed whirlwind of traditions and fun at our house. We have countdown calendars for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and as my kids fill a pocket each morning, the excitement grows and grows (and sometimes tips over the edge into madness)! It is a very fun time of year. But I know I'm not the only one who feels there is a disconnect at times with what we feel like doing (being quiet and going inward) and what we feel we need to do (ALL THE THINGS!).
Also, many of us have complex relationships with our families that can bring up a range of emotions when we are together. This can feel like we're at odds with the love, light and cheer we associate with the holidays. I have found that bringing in old traditions that embrace the different aspects of each season help us to pause and process everything as well as connect as a family. Join us in enriching the holiday season with fun and meaningful winter solstice traditions!
"I have found that bringing in old traditions that embrace the different aspects of each season help us to pause and process everything as well as connect as a family."
So, yes to the fun and love of the season while having an awareness of the sleeping, wintery world around us. To be aware that, for our ancestors, winter was a time of resilience, looking inward and finding strength. Also, it's fun to harness the energy of the year's longest night by making intentions to release what no longer serves us and dream our dreams for the new year! On December 22nd, we wake to the return of the light as the days grow longer again.
Clearing Out Old Energies
We spend so much time cleaning for guests during the holidays, but cleaning with the intention of receiving new and beneficial energies in the new year helps me shift my focus. You can also smudge with sage or burn a candle with intention and clap your hands or ring a bell throughout the house to disperse old energy. The traditional blessing for clearing your house:
May the winds inspire you,
Earth protect you,
Water heal you, and
Fire always warm the hearth.
Decorating with sprigs of evergreen, red berries and ribbons represented the passing of the old year and the birth of the new -- a longstanding holiday tradition we still do today. Also, the Christmas tree was inspired by the solstice or midwinter tradition of decorating evergreen trees. I have to include my favorite poem about Christmas trees because reading poetry aloud is so great for really slowing down and being present. I also think this poem is so sweet.
by E.E. Cummings
little tree little silent Christmas tree you are so little you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest and were you very sorry to come away? see i will comfort you because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark and hug you safe and tight just as your mother would, only don’t be afraid
look the spangles that sleep all the year in a dark box dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine, the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms and i’ll give them all to you to hold every finger shall have its ring and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy
then when you’re quite dressed you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see and how they’ll stare! oh but you’ll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands and looking up at our beautiful tree we’ll dance and sing "Noel Noel"
Yule Log Tradition
The Yule Log is an ancient tradition that symbolizes the light of the new-born sun. The logs were usually made from oak and decorated with sprigs of pine, ivy and holly to represent the masculine, feminine and the promise of spring. We use what we have on hand to make one because intention is everything.
Some guidelines for the Yule Log tradition:
Choose a large log and decorate with sprigs of pine and tie with a red ribbon. You can write or carve your intentions and dreams into the wood or attach prayers with ribbons.
Light the log on solstice eve, and as the smoke rises imagine your prayers and wishes being sent off to be heard. As the log burns, you can do a toast and tell good stories. We like this collection of stories about the winter solstice: The Return of the Light. You can also say traditional blessings such as these:
As the Yule Log is kindled, so is the New Year begun, as it has been down through the ages, an unending cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Every ending is a new beginning.
My the Yule Log burn
May all good enter here
May there be wheat for bread
And vats full of wine
We recently discovered flying wish paper, which is a really fun way to make wishes with a magical effect. We use these while we burn the Yule Log, but they would be a great substitute if you don't have a fireplace.
Bedtime Traditions for the Solstice Eve
One of our favorite things to make are Yuletide Dream Dolls. I was inspired to make them after seeing DIY flaxseed and lavender warming pillows all over the interwebs. I combined it with the old tradition of placing lavender (for good sleep), rosemary (for inspired dreams) and cinnamon (for psychic intuition) in one's pillowcase on the night eve of the winter solstice. We warm the doll on the hearth while burning the Yule Log. This is a really great way to get my daughter excited about celebrating the solstice and bringing more meaning to the season.
As you prepare for bed, turn off all the lights except for your bedroom. You could light a candle, as well. You can make your own blessing that calls in all the sparkly dreams you would like to manifest in the New Year or recite the traditional solstice eve blessing:
As we approach the year's longest night,
I ask you, (insert your name for divine energy),
to be with me and my loved ones
and safeguard us through the hours.
May we be blessed in community,
bountiful in feast,
and rich in the earth's gifts
as we welcome the return of the light.