The Winter Solstice or Midwinter
The Winter Solstice or Midwinter has been a time of celebration from the earliest points in history in many cultures throughout history. Our ancestors have been following the movements of the sun and its journey through the heavens throughout history. The Winter Solstice was created to welcome back the sun and as a celebration that the darkness was behind and they were moving toward the light again. By using this information they began to understand when to plant and when to harvest their food according to the seasons.
The two main points in the calendar that are celebrated, and have monuments such as Stonehenge built to observe them, are the Winter Solstice and the Summer Solstice. These are the shortest and longest day of the year.
The Winter Solstice is marked each year by the shortest day and longest night. This means n the southern hemisphere the Earth’s southern Pole is tilted the furthest away from the sun. Whereas the northern hemisphere celebrates the Summer Solictice at the same time. This is usually either the 21 or 22nd of June (22nd June 2023). It is believed that the cycle of the Sun is representative or a reflection of the cycle of our lives.
The Winter Solstice was considered one of the most important days of the year as it symbolize the end of darkness and the coming of the light. During this time it was seen as the symbolic death and then rebirth of the sun or the sun God. It was one of the leanest times of year that production was at its lowest and this was seen as a celebration as it would now become warmer, lighter and the days would become longer moving towards a more fertile and productive time.
In order to more easily convert pagans into their faith modern religions took some of the pagan ways of celebrating and adapted them. Here are a few examples of these adaptations.
Good old St Nick and the Christmas stocking are a representation of (before St Nickolas) the early Germanic God Odin. Portrayed as an elderly man with a long white beard that flies from house to house on an eight-legged horse ‘Sleipnir’. Children would leave carrots and straws by the chimney for him to munch on and in return, Odin would reward them by leaving little presents in their booties…… sound familiar?
Christmas Carols are adapted from the original Anglo-Saxon wassailers this word roughly translates to ‘good health’. Every year during this time small groups of villages would move around the village and sing loudly in order to banish evil spirits and bring good health to the village.
The Christmas tree and Christmas lights or lanterns. Bringing a large log or tree into your house and lighting it up with candles was believed to be taken from burning the Yule log. While the Germanic pagans would hang little decorations on the trees around their houses to honor the God Saturn.
Giving Christmas Presents and Feasting. Most ancient cultures celebrated this time of year with feasting and present giving.
The Winter Solstice is one of the oldest known recorded times of celebration and is believed to have been observed as early as the Neolithic period 10,200 years ago. With examples available from all over the world. Some of the most recognized are:
- Saturnalia was celebrated with food, drink and games by the Romans in honor of Saturn the Roman God of agriculture. This was one of the only times that slaves did not have to work and were treated as equals. This celebration happened during the end of the planting season and celebrated the return of the sun.
- Yule (St Lucias Day) was celebrated by Scandinavian people by bringing a large log into their homes and lighting one end. Once this was done the celebrations begin with food and drink and continued until the log burned out. Depending on the log this could take up to a couple of weeks.
- Dongzhi Festival (still observed) is celebrated in China which means ‘arrival of winter’ and is a time when families got together to celebrate and feast.
- Soyal is the winter solstice celebration (still observed) by the Hopi Indians of North Arizona. Ceremonies and rituals are done for purification and blessings. Prayer sticks are crafted and used with dancing and gift-giving to welcome the kachinas or protective spirits from the mountains.
- Yalda is the festival that the Persians celebrate at the winter solstice in Iran. This celebration has been going on since ancient times and celebrates the victory of light over dark and is said to be the birthday of the sun god Mithra, It is a time that families join together and feast on special foods and stay up all night to welcome the morning sun.
Acknowledgment of Country
Energy In Balance acknowledges with thanks the Traditional Custodians of the country that has produced some of the amazing products we have available. The original owners lived in perfect harmony with the environment and found balance with nature. Specifically, Energy In Balance acknowledges and thanks the Gubbi Gubbi people of the Sunshine Coast where we are based. We pay our respect to the elders past, present and future and extend our respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today.
It is now coming to light through stories handed down from one generation to the next as well as stone monuments around Australia that the Traditional Custodians of the Country also had an understanding of the movements of the sun and had celebrations that far predate monuments like Stonehenge. Two notable ones are Wurdi Yougang in Victoria and Mullumbimby “standing stones” in NSW.
Stories varied from group to group across Australia with one story appearing in many local traditions. This is the story of the great emu that sits in the sky. The great emu can be seen in the southern hemisphere during April and May and is made up of part of the dark patches in the Milky Way. The great emu and when it appears in the sky coincide with when wild emus start their laying season so this time of year was a sign to start collecting eggs.
This is a very brief look at the many ways that the Winter Solstice is celebrated around Christmas tradition. However in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere, this time doesn’t fall near Christmas, but the same energy revolves. With this in mind, you can find your own way to banish the darkness and welcome back the light.
It can be as simple as taking a couple of minutes to immerse yourself in the energy of the day at a deeper level. Below are some ideas on how to honor this special time of year.
Ways to Celebrate the Winter Solstice
- Have a Christmas in June and put up a tree light and celebrate with family and friends.
- Give a small gift to your family and friends in celebration of the time of year. When doing these celebrations you never have to spend much as this is the time when the giving of the gift is the most important act.
- See the first ray of light in the sunrise and welcome back the light, some people will stay up all night to do this, however, please do what is practical for your life. While doing this focus on feeling the warmth of the sun and your gratitude for the return of the light and everything it will bring into your life. Great stones to hold while doing this are Sunstone, Libyan Desert Glass, and Carnelian for this.
- Express Gratitude for everything you have in your life right now and what you want in your life moving forward, you are moving into a time of expanse and growth. Some great stones to carry around with you at this time are Citrine, Yellow Apatite, and Green Aventurine.
- Take the time to reflect on the last year and write down everything you wish to put behind you and you can throw the paper into the fire as a note or attach it to a palo or sage stick and allow it to burn. Release the darkness and welcome the rebirth of you and the light.
- Set Midwinter Intention. Set your own personal intention in regard to what you would like in your life moving forward. This is a time of growth and starting new ventures starting your own personal affirmation to assist with this an example at this time of year affirmation would be. ‘The darkness is behind me I am letting go of the past to move into a brighter more prosperous future’. You can create a Mojo Bag that suits your intention and carry it with you moving forward make sure you write out your affirmation and place it into the Mojo Bag.
- Have a fire to celebrate the light. Anything from a candle to a bonfire just please remember to be fire safe.
- Burn a ‘Yule Log’ to welcome back the warmth of the sun. If you can’t have a fire then light a special candle place it in a safe spot and allow it to burn right through – always remember fire safety.
- Have a walk in nature making sure to take the time to feel the warmth of the sun with gratitude. Stones you can use to help you connect and better understand nature and the seasons are Mystic Merlinite, Darwin Glass, Green Aventurine, Moss Agate and Shungite.
- Find the things that make you the happiest, and remind you the most of the coming light; then immerse yourself in it. Feel the light and the joy of the rebirth of the sun and all the happy times to come.
- Have a meal or celebration with the special people in your life and enjoy all that is in season. Try gifting a Sunstone to all guests so they can remember the special occasion.