The turn of the year is often a good time to reflect on what’s come before and clear our minds for the start of a new phase. Many cultures and religions mark the turn of the year, the shortest day in the northern hemisphere, through rituals designed to reflect on turning points and changing phases.
Winter solstice rituals across cultures tend to focus on celebrating the return of light as the days grow longer, on eating foods that celebrate abundance and the coming of summer, on recognising the balance between summer’s long days and winter’s long nights, and on refreshing or renewing ourselves for the coming year. While each culture’s specific ways of honuring the winter solstice are unique, we can see our shared human bond through the many ways we seek reassurance that the warmth of summer will return and in our desire to mark time with a ceremony that builds meaning through the ages.
Ceremonies and rituals are ways for us to step outside the ordinary flow of everyday time, the day-to-day grind of emails and bill paying and laundry, to view something about ourselves or the group we belong to in a different way. They reaffirm our commitment to something bigger than ourselves and mark particular experiences as special–and in doing so, give us the opportunity to understand what is special about ourselves.
As you approach the end of the year, and the beginning of a new one, think about the ingredients you would like to use for your own solstice reflection. Perhaps light a candle, take a refreshing bath or use a refreshing scent, and enjoy some of your favourite foods of abundance. Then ask yourself: what have you learned about yourself in the year that has passed? What would you like to learn in the year to come? In this year which has been so challenging for so many, what has stood out to you as special, abundant, or luminous? In the coming year, what qualities in yourself would you most like to cultivate? How will you create the time and space in this coming year to attend to these qualities of self? What specific activites would you like to do to work on those qualities?
Wishing you a healthy, happy, and renewing start to the new year.