For many of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice means one thing: a few long, cold, dark months are ahead of us, with seemingly no end in site. While the winter solstice might not be something worth celebrating to you, to others, it's an extremely spiritual day full of sacred rituals. In fact, to some, all of that extra darkness isn't a bad thing at all — it actually adds to the spiritual significance of the day. The winter solstice has so many spiritual meanings that make it so much more than just the shortest day of the year.
For many cultures around the world, the winter solstice (which falls on Dec. 21 this year) marks an important milestone. It's the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year, and signals a powerful transition point between seasons that is impossible to ignore. Because of this, it has been celebrated and revered in ancient civilizations, indigenous cultures, and various religions, all of which have their own rituals for taking advantage of the unique energy.
According to Forever Conscious, "The winter solstice celebrates the longest hours of darkness or the rebirth of the sun and is believed to hold a powerful energy for regeneration, renewal and self-reflection. In Pagan times the winter solstice was referred to as Yule and was a celebration of the Goddess (Moon) energy. It was believed that on this day, the moon would give birth to the sun." That certainly puts a slightly more magical spin on things!
Each year, the winter solstice falls a few days before Christmas and New Year's Eve. This isn't just a fun coincidence; in fact, there's a much deeper meaning there. According to Alokananda.com, "The spiritual and energetic significance of the winter solstice is multi-layered, but the most direct relevance is that it symbolizes the birth of the sun." The birth of the sign is representative of the birth of Jesus. Alokananda.com says, "The birth of these higher beings at this time of the solstice was symbolic of the birth of the spiritual sun within, that we are not separate from the creator, as we have been conditioned to believe to feel that we are less than divine beings." That's where the religious aspect comes in.
If you aren't particularly religious or spiritual, you might feel like this has nothing to do with you. Actually, it does! The winter solstice is a time of quiet energy, where you get the opportunity to look within yourself and focus on what you want and need. It's a time to set goals and intentions for the coming year, to examine and let go of our past, and to make changes within ourselves. The solstice is essentially tied to a personal awakening.
Feeling inspired to embrace a more spiritual take on the solstice this year? One way to celebrate is to take part in Christmas traditions, if you celebrate the holiday. The holiday is actually strongly based on Pagan beliefs, which are also strongly tied to the winter solstice. If you aren't a religious person at all, though, you can still take part in the spirituality of the day. There are so many rituals that are linked with the solstice, and honestly, they might bring a whole new meaning to new year's resolutions. It might feel overwhelming to pick just one, but there are a few options out there anyone can take part in.
Take Advantage Of The Natural Light
In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year. It will probably be black outside by 4 p.m., which, let's admit, can feel a little bit depressing. So it's no surprise that, for many cultures, taking advantage of the light they're given is so important on this day. Try to get outside while it's light out to connect with nature. Take a walk, go for a hike, bundle up and enjoy your coffee while sitting outside for a little bit. You won't have much time, so take advantage of it while you can!
Light Your Way Through The Darkness
A lot of common solstice rituals include candlelight to get through the extra darkness of the day. Mystic Mamma suggests making glass mason jar lanterns with candles to light all day. Mystic Mamma also suggests that once the sun goes down, turn off all the lights and spend a moment or two in darkness. Once you've honored the sun's light in your mind, you can light some candles on your own, or with loved ones.
Set Up A Fire Releasing Ceremony
The winter solstice can be about looking inward and getting rid of the past you don't need to hold onto. Mystic Mamma suggests making a fire (outside or in a fireplace!), and gathering with loved ones (you can obviously do this alone, too). Grab a piece of paper, write down the things you want to let go of, then toss the paper into the fire as a symbol of release.
Celebrate With Friends And Family
An important part of celebrating the solstice has always been showing your love to the people closest to you, like friends and family members. Circle Sanctuary says, "At the heart of Saturnalia was the custom of family and friends feasting together and exchanging presents. Continue this custom by visiting, entertaining, giving gifts, and sending greetings." Make the solstice feel a lot more cozy by having people over for a small, casual party.
Disconnect And Focus On Yourself
Probably the most important spiritual meaning of the winter solstice is that this is a time meant to reflect and recreate yourself. You should spend at least an hour doing that on Dec. 21. Light a candle, keep the lights off, and embrace the darkness. Turn your phone off, and don't even think about using a laptop or your TV — not even your smart watch! Take some time to think deeply about yourself, your past, and what you want for your future. This is a time where you aren't harsh about your decisions, and you really let things go. Could there be a more perfect way to enter the new year?