Winter Solstice Rituals To Honor the Season

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Winter Holiday Nostalgia

No other season emphasizes tradition like this time of year does. From the music that plays everywhere to the decorations to the enjoyable food, there is something special about this time. This is likely why it has become associated with so many different customs, most of which have been passed down for generations.

What Is the Winter Solstice?

As the end of the year draws closer, those in the Northern Hemisphere prepare to enjoy the winter holiday season. Though most may be more familiar with holidays such as Hanukkah and Christmas, many people also celebrate the Winter Solstice, also known as Yule. The Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year, the return of the sun, and the start of winter, and it generally occurs sometime between December 21 and December 24.

This is a time to pierce the darkness, not just in the world around you, but also within yourself. Winter makes it easier to introspect more deeply, and that isn’t something you should ignore or brush over. Modern life is jam-packed. In the past, fewer daylight hours meant more free time to spend with friends and family, or it represented a chance to learn new skills, among many other things. These days, most people move through this time of year on autopilot, even despite the opportunities it presents. This year, let’s slow down. Take this chance to honor the season — and yourself.

Winter Solstice Traditions To Try

If this article were to discuss every single winter holiday and tradition, it would take another full year to read through it all! As such, here are just a few to get you thinking.

Yule Log

Originally, an entire tree was used for the creation of the Yule Log! The largest end of the “log” would be placed in the hearth while the rest of the tree kind of jutted out into the room. You couldn’t just light the Yule Log, though — even that had traditions attached to it. First, it had to be lit by someone with clean hands. Second, common practice was to light it from the remains of the previous year’s log, which would have been kept safe all year.

Since not everyone has a fireplace anymore, a new type of Yule Log has come about: a cake version. Made of chocolate sponge cake and filled with mousse or cream, the “log” is covered in chocolate and decorated to look like an actual wooden log!

Decorating a Tree

This is a familiar tradition to many people, regardless of belief system or religious denomination. You can put a fresh tree up either inside or outside your house and hang ornaments and other decorative elements on the branches. Many families also have personalized or inherited adornments that they can add to their trees. If you don’t have any yet, consider creating or designating some ornaments that you can use consistently and eventually pass forward. This is a beautiful way to not only decorate your home but to reflect on your connections with the people around you.

Listening to Music

Music sets the mood like nothing else. Perhaps there’s an album that you play every winter that helps you establish a tone you like, or maybe you just enjoy listening to the tunes that play inside every shopping center, restaurant, and café during the holidays. Regardless, this Solstice, take some time to listen to songs that soothe you. Enjoy the music, and the rest of the season as well.

Creating and Burning a List of Things To Release

The end of the year is quickly approaching, and before long, it will be time for New Year’s Resolutions. In preparation for that, this Winter Solstice tradition is all about reflecting on your achievements — and on the places where you’ve hit roadblocks. Write down all the things that have interfered with your ability to find happiness and balance. For instance, if your problem is that you always say yes to other people even if you’re already overloaded, try writing down: “Making myself too available to others.”

When you have your list and have focused on what you want to release or change, burn the list and scatter the ashes. Be careful. It may be wise to use a fireproof bowl for this endeavor, and be sure to have other safety measures prepared.


This is a Scandinavian tradition that involves lighting candles. Starting six weeks before Yule, a candle is lit each week as a poem is read. Part of this tradition also involves spending some time gazing into the lit candle as a form of fire scrying. The candle is then snuffed out until the following week, when it is relit alongside a fresh candle, all the way until the arrival of the Solstice.

The Solstice Sunrise at Newgrange

It’s a long-standing tradition for people to gather at Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland every year to watch the sunrise on the Winter Solstice, where a Neolithic passage tomb stands. As the sun rises, it shines directly into the tomb for a few minutes each year thanks to what is known as a roof box. While traveling to Ireland certainly isn’t possible for most people, and access to the chamber is limited regardless, this event is frequently live-streamed. Whether you tune into this broadcast or just go outside to enjoy the world around you, consider celebrating the Solstice by watching the sunrise and indulging in the early morning rays on the shortest day of the year.

Make Your Own Rituals for the Holidays

This is a magical and unique time of year. In addition to the customs listed above, there are dozens upon dozens of rituals, rites, and traditions that you can integrate into your winter season, whether that involves just adding them to the agenda or combining them with your pre-existing practices. If none of these sound like the right fit for you, just remember — traditions are what you make of them. A ritual does not need to have a long, storied history. Whether it’s something that was passed down to you or something that you came up with yourself, the best Solstice traditions are the ones that mean something to you.

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