Celebrating the Return of the Light

Zemirah Jazwierska
One of my favorite times of the year is Winter Solstice, a time of going within in the dark to be still and present with the world within. Being the shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, Winter Solstice invites us to pause and devote some time to stillness during what is for some the busiest time of year.

The word solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium which is made up of the parts, "sol" or sun, and "sistere" which means "to stand still." The literal translation is "the standing still of the sun." It is the time of year when the sun reaches its lowest place on the horizon creating the shortest daylight of the year.

Winter Solstice has long been a tradition recognized by cultures around the world where the return of the sun is both honored and celebrated since the days begin to lengthen from this day on until reaching the Summer Solstice, the longest daylight time of the year.

To lead us into the spirit of the season, I share some excerpts from the "Winter Solstice Prayer" by Edward Hays from Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim:
May we find hope in the lights we have kindled on this sacred night, hope in one another and in all who form the web-work of peace and justice that spans the world.
In the heart of every person on this Earth Burns the spark of luminous goodness;
May we who have celebrated this winter solstice, By our lives and service, by our prayers and love, Call forth from one another the light and the love That is hidden in every heart.
Part of Winter Solstice tradition has included the Yule Log, both as a symbol and an act of reverence to celebrate the return of the light. The Yule Log was a tradition which began in Norway to celebrate Winter Solstice. A log was cut from one's land and hoisted into the air and onto the earth in order to celebrate the return of the sun. Over the years, it became customary to burn your yule log on Winter Solstice to bring back the light into life for the coming year. It also symbolized the letting go of the old from the previous year.

You can honor this tradition by creating a Winter Solstice altar, considering as you place each item what meaning it holds for you. Traditionally, the type of wood that was selected for the yule log also carried meaning. Follow your heart and be creative, using materials and items that you are drawn to--even cinnamon sticks can serve as beautiful fairy-size yule logs!

Here are some ideas to prime your creativity and imagination.

Colors for candles or altar cloth:
  • Gold, yellow, red or white symbolize the sun
  • White, silver, black symbolize the moon
  • Green, blue, red, white symbolize the season of the year

You can collect a stick from the yard or park, or draw the wood of your choice on a paper and roll it up to make a mini-stick or log. (As an excellent side-activity, look up the different grains of wood and take mindful notice of the variations in nature's beauty.)
  • Pine: success and wellbeing
  • Birch: new beginnings
  • Ash: prosperity
  • Willow: honors God or Goddess/deities
  • Aspen: spiritual knowledge Holly: opens the mind to inspiration

  • Pinecones: comfort, protection, symbolize ever-green even in the darkest of winter
  • Rosemary: cleansing, releasing from the past year
  • Dried oranges: symbolize the sun: shifting from the dark to the light
  • Star anise: good luck
  • Pomegranates: abundance
  • Cinnamon sticks: good luck

To create the Yule altar, find a quiet place in the house where you can watch the sun set, or perhaps a space facing west if you aren’t able to actually see the sunset. As you are creating, consider what each item means and symbolizes for you, and place it with mindful intention. Perhaps consider what you would like to release from this year and what you would like to create in the new year.

On the day of the Winter Solstice, this year on Tuesday, December 21st, put on some cozy socks, gather some snuggly throw blankets, turn down the lights and light some candles. Gather around your yule altar and with reverence, release the old and invite in the new. Perhaps light a candle for each. Next, taking your candle in hand, hold it up and place your other hand on your heart, say, "I welcome the return of the light and honor the light of God in my heart.” Then state your intention out loud, "This year, I open my heart to...”. And close with prayer.

Sending blessings to you and your family for a heart-centered year-end completion and may the Light of the Divine continue to expand, blossom and grow within your awareness and experience.

With Love and Blessings of the Season,