Celebrating the Solstice — How to Embrace the First Day of Winter
by Catherine Morris | December 18, 2020, updated 4 months ago
The darkest day is almost upon us...and I'm not speaking metaphorically. On December 21, the sun will rise for the shortest day of the year and that means winter's officially begun (November snow storms notwithstanding).
This year’s Solstice is particularly special thanks to some unique planetary shifting. Jupiter and Saturn are getting very cozy this month—changing their positions in the sky so they’ll transition from one astrological sign to another and appear to ‘meet’ overhead to form one large star. They haven’t been this close since 1623.
This ‘Great Conjunction’ as it’s known, takes place on...you guessed it...solstice night and has astrologers predicting a new age of Aquarius while stargazers are eagerly dusting off their telescopes for a look at the dazzling phenomenon.
Whatever lies ahead in 2021, the solstice has long been a time of reflection and gratitude. Both traditional and modern cultures know that the turning point of the year is the perfect time to assess your physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing to acknowledge any issues and set new goals for the coming year.
Solstice Through the Ages
The solstice isn't just a fun bit of astrological trivia, it's an important seasonal shift that was marked by ancient cultures across the globe and has inspired many spiritual traditions that continue to this day.
Translated from its original Latin, the word solstice means 'sun stand still'. At this time of year the sun is at its most southerly point in the sky and for the few days before, during and after the solstice, its path changes so incrementally it appears fixed in place.
For early civilizations this was a time of celebration. While the solstice itself offers few hours of daylight, the days gradually get longer from this point on, so ancient communities were very ready to celebrate the 'death' and 'resurrection' of the sun.
Ireland, in particular, has a long tradition of solstice celebration. The 5,000 year old megalithic structure, Newgrange, was the place to be for the longest night of the year, and retains its popularity today. If you're lucky enough to win a solstice ticket in the Newgrange lottery, you can welcome the sun's return from inside the tomb, watching as the first ray of winter sun creeps along the passageway and floods the inner chamber, illuminating intricate carvings and sacred stones.
Another pre-Christian solstice site is Stonehenge in England. Unlike Newgrange, where the chamber was specifically built for the solstice and catches the sun just once a year, historians aren't entirely certain why Stonehenge was built, but it's been adopted as a popular spot for solstice viewers who want to welcome the sun from a place of spiritual significance and rich history.
What the solstice means for you
Medical astrologer Traci Thomsen says the solstice represents a shift, and is an opportunity to think about reconnecting with ourselves, and our needs, saying—
“There are many cosmic shifts taking place at this potent time. I really believe strongly that humans are being called to learn to connect with their own intuitive wisdom; their own creative spark.”
“Winter solstice, especially this year, is calling each of us forth to find the light within, to follow our internal rhythm, to source and connect deeply with our sovereignty,”
4 Ways to Celebrate the Solstice
You don't have to be a druid to celebrate this time of year. You don't even have to be particularly spiritual. Look at it as a chance to run an internal audit and perhaps take time out from the festive frenzy as we get pulled in all sorts of directions in the build up to Christmas.
1. Spend Time in Nature
2. Get Decorating
If the wind is howling and the snow is piling up, you can always invite a little nature indoors. Now's the time to decorate for the holidays if you haven't already. So get that tree up, string those sparkly lights, and hang a few sprigs of mistletoe around. Wood-scented garlands, blazing log fires, cheerful poinsettias—getting more nature in your space is a good way to show your gratitude for the changing season, and have a more mindful (and cozy!) midwinter.
3. Watch Along
Both Stonehenge and Newgrange have gone virtual in recent years, taking the Solstice to the internet so anyone can watch along, no matter where they are in the world. If you want to soak up a little of that ambience and immerse yourself in a tradition stretching back thousands of years, hop onto the livestream and get in touch with your inner pagan god or goddess.
Whether you're creating a new practice, or reigniting an established habit, meditating on the solstice can give you a spiritual kick and can help you set your intentions and goals for the next season… whatever that brings.
Try mindful breathing, a guided meditation especially for the solstice, or hook up with a meditation coach to get customized tips on technique and find your favourite style. As the winter peaks and then wanes, it's a good time to look inward and let your light shine along with the returning sun.
New Season, New Year
Why not get started on those New Year's resolutions early? If you're looking to pick up a new healthy habit in 2021, prioritize self-care, overhaul your diet, or just try something new. Which Doctor practitioners can help.
We've a range of services and health professionals in our network, whether you want to step outside of your comfort zone and try something unique (a salt float, a soundbathing session, energy healing) or explore more established alternative care options with a naturopath, herbalist or TCM doctor.
The cusp of a new season and a new year can be a hard time for mental health, as well as physical. If you need to set some goals for 2021, get support for coping with the holidays, or maybe learn some new tools to keep you in a mindful head space, reach out to one of our therapists, counsellors or life coaches today.
Catherine Morris is an award-winning journalist with a bad case of wanderlust and a passion for all things health and wellness. Originally from Northern Ireland, she worked as a news and feature writer for media outlets in the UK, South Africa, France and the Caribbean before settling in Canada. Catherine now lives in Alberta with her husband and rescue mutt and spends her time happily exploring the great outdoors with both.