The Winter Solstice begins December 21st, which is when the sun will be the furthest south in the Tropic of Capricorn. The sun will travel on its lowest arc in the sky, making it the shortest day of the year, (in that the length of time before sunrise and sunset is at a minimum for the year); which of course, makes it also the longest night. In ancient history, this diminishing of light would cause fear in the tribal people, spawning great celebrations and rituals to encourage the gods and goddesses of the Light to return and bless them. The ancients understood the laws of death and rebirth, having the Winter Solstice as a perfect representation of this process. The Solstice sun at its lowest and darkest would die at the end of the year’s cycle, only to be reborn the next day to increasingly more light. The dark would seem to triumph, but only briefly, as the rituals and celebrations would please the gods and the days would begin to draw longer. From the dark of the womb of the night, the light would be born, especially if there was much merriment and revelry to hasten on the light.
The Solstice celebrations had some of their origins in Roman times when the god Saturn was feted. Saturnalia was a major roman festival with drinking, gift giving, carousing, decorations, bonfires and candles. It was usually a many day affair, ending on the Winter Solstice. Being a non-Christian holiday in an increasing Christian time, it was decided to have the worship and honoring of the birth of Christ super-imposed on the Saturnalia festival so that not only could all be happy in their revelries, but that also the Christians could surreptitiously convert the pagans to their belief system. Christmas became December 25th officially around AD 354 and solstice celebrations were shifted to that new timing, with the old significances of death and rebirth changed to the birth of Christ. Instead of the Sun being reborn, the Son of God was born as the base emphasis for the holiday. There was still the gift giving, candles and decorations, but with a different importance.
In our modern times, we carry on with these age-old festivities, conglomerating many traditions into our own holiday. For modern Christians we still use the color-scheme of red, green and white of the Druidic yuletide. We decorate with the Roman holly, ivy, bay, laurel and mistletoe. The idea of the son of God reflects the Egyptian myth of Isis and Horus. We bake or buy round cookies in the shape of the sun. The wreath on our door symbolizes continuity of life, the wheel of the year and the cycle of death and rebirth. In both Jewish and Christian traditions this is considered a holiday of light. Candles adorn the house as they did in ancient times and bonfires burn to help the sun bring in the light of goodness and dispel the darkness of evil. We also may have a yule log representing the increasing of light in our lives (as well as to keep us warm on cold winter nights!) And of course what is the holiday season without partying, drinking, dancing and gift giving as they’ve done throughout history.
There are many people who still worship the Winter Solstice in this day and age and if you google Winter Solstice practices or rituals, you’ll find a host of suggestions. Some that I like include essential oils. The “third chakra”:http://www.suzannebovenizer.com/aromatherapy-essential-oils/the-third-charka, the solar plexus, is considered our chakra to access the sun’s light. So around the Winter Solstice it is nice to honor the solar plexus energies by rubbing oils on the belly, with the intention of bringing light and wisdom to this new season. Essential oils that connect us to our light and to our higher wisdom are
*frankincense, sandalwood, elemi, vetiver, angelica, cedarwood, jasmine, lavender, rose, neroli, rosewood, helichrysum, and myrrh*. Candles can be rubbed with essential oils or have drops of essential oils dripped into them to create a higher frequency of energy at Yuletide. Some essential oils that resonate on a similar frequency to yellow/fire are *lemon, melissa, helichrysum, verbena, mugwort, ginger, chamomile and jasmine*. Any of the seasonal cooking spices can also be included in any Winter Solstice ritual, including *cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger and allspice*. They harmonize and uplift our spirits when we invite the light to shine. And burning essential oils in an aroma lamp at the Winter Solstice also creates a connection to the cycle of life. Some nice holiday scents are any of the pine essential oils like spruce, or any herbs like *rosemary, bay, lavender, peppermint, spikenard, rose or sage*.
Sometimes we are not all sunshine and light at this time of year, despite the Winter Solstice’s encouragement of rebirth. This change of season, from autumn (ripeness and harvest) to winter (death and hibernation), can have darker implications. This can be a time of despair, melancholy, fatigue and stress. The cycle of death and rebirth can get stuck in the death part and often we are unable to believe the light will ever come. “Seasonal Affected Depression”:http://www.suzannebovenizer.com/aromatherapy-essential-oils/aromatherapy-and-seasonal-affective-disorder (or SAD) often has its roots in this month because of the lack of light (although it tends to manifest more in January and February). With SAD we may suffer from feelings of fatigue, anxiety, lethargy, loss of energy, difficulty concentrating, irritability, loss of libido, and oversleep. Essential oils that can stimulate and awaken our systems are *rosemary, peppermint, lemon, basil, ginger, tea tree and cypress*. SAD can create social withdrawal and lack of enthusiasm; can isolate a person, leading to deeper despair. This should be a time of light and celebration, of friends and festivities, not isolation. Essential oils that can assist in building self-worth and confidence, bringing a more positive attitude are *frankincense, cedarwood, sandalwood, jasmine, ylang ylang and neroli*. For connection to others, many of the winter spices also appear to increase interest in others, and the aphrodisiacs like *neroli, patchouli, sandalwood, jasmine, ylang ylang, and rose* can stimulate sexual arousal, raising the libido and encouraging more social interaction.
At this time of the change of season, allow the light to be reborn from darkness, and let joy emerge from within. Have a happy Winter Solstice!