The Winter Solstice marks the turning of the seasons, as we finally make the gradual return to more daylight hours. It is a day steeped in legend, history and tradition, as an avid storyteller I fell in love with the tales around this celebration and for me it has become more like my ‘New Years Eve’. The last day of nature’s calendar rather than our January-December 12-month calendar.
Many Celtic traditions tell the story of the annual battles between the Oak King and the Holly King, each coming to fight it out at Winter Solstice (Yule) and Midsummer (Litha), with the Oak King taking victory in the Winter.
Traditionally at Solstice fires were lit as an offering of light, as friends and families gathered for a feast and Yule logs were made from Oak as an offering to the King. Decorated with evergreens, berries and seeds they act as a symbol of rebirth before being burned on the fire. The ashes were then collected and spread across the fields to encourage fertilisation in the Spring, with a small piece of the log kept to start the following years fire. (Nowadays Yule logs tend to me more of the chocolate variety…you can thank the French for that modernisation of this age old tradition!)
If, like me, you don’t have access to a garden to build a fire, then instead fill your home with candles, make a hot toddy, invite some friends round and take part in a Releasing Ceremony. Much like setting resolutions at New Years, a Releasing Ceremony can be used to let go of regrets or disappointments from the previous season to wipe the slate clean or to set intentions for Spring. Give your guests each a paper and pen and invite them to light a candle each in a moment of reflection.
May you find peace in the promise of solstice night
That each day forward is blessed in light
That the cycle of nature, unbroken and true,
Brings faith to your soul and well-being to you.
Rejoice in the darkness
In the silence find rest
And may the days that follow be abundantly blessed.