Time to celebrate another year around the sun
Illustration by Briana Corr Scott
The days begin to dim and the cold beckons us inside. Wrapping ourselves in a fuzzy blanket, we snuggle in, seeking warmth. The change of seasons is delightful to witness and the winter solstice, the marking of the sun wrapping up its own cycle, is worthy of celebration.
The December solstice is the shortest day — and longest night — of the year in the northern hemisphere. Earth has reached its maximum distance from the sun, receiving the least amount of sunlight. Applauded as the giver of light and life, the sun has completed a full solar year (the time it takes the sun to reappear in the same spot as seen from Earth). Darkness begins to give way to light, and this is reason to mark the occasion.
Nova Poirier, co-owner of Re-Earth lodge in Pictou County and leader of Re-Earth Spiritual Healing, honours the seasonal change each year with a special ceremony. She invites participants to join her.
“Winter solstice is one of the most important ritual times; the dying of the old solar year and the birthing of a new one,” Poirier explains. “At winter solstice we seek to renew life by feeding the darker aspects of our being into the gap that occurs between the worlds at the solar crossing. Solstice eve rituals engage us in the labours required to rebirth/renew ourselves and the world we live in.”
The practices vary from year to year but are mindful of all living beings.
“Trying to remember ourselves as part of the great cycle of things,” says Poirier. This practice of remembering is why she has named her facility the Re-Earth Lodge. She also considers the current happenings of the world around her. “The ritual is medicine work; trying to alleviate the suffering of the world.”
Happenings sometimes include offerings to a fire, with effigies of things that need to be released in order to move forward.
“We all have missteps, failings, and misgivings. This is a chance to acknowledge them and offer them up and reach deeper into our humanity to do better,” she explains, describing it as a time to release burdens and seek resolution.
Marking the cycle of the sun has happened since the beginning of time.
“Our ancient ancestors all tracked these things,” says Poirier. Monuments such as Stonehenge (England), Chichen Itza (Mexico), and the Goseck circle (Germany) provide evidence of this. Festivals and events throughout many cultures, and around the world, happen this time of year, including Yuletide and Christmas, marking the birth of the sun/son. Some celebrate with less formal ceremonies but still honour the solar event.
For Mary Beth Carty, a vocalist and musician in Antigonish, it also involves contemplation.
“Solstice is the most important calendar day for me,” says Carty. “It’s a great moment to reflect, put things in perspective, spend time in nature and reset for the next quarter! No matter what our religion or belief system, we can all celebrate the solstice.”
Music is a part of the festivities. For the past two years, she has been invited by the Canadian Parents for French Nova Scotia organization to host an online sing-along concert for families.
“The idea is that people can join in from the comfort of their own homes and practice singing. It’s so fun!”
Carty goes on to explain the value of music. “Sometimes we need to get out of our heads and away from chit-chat and just dance. Music has the power to take us to other dimensions, and it can change the mood from rumination to celebration. Get a beat going, whether you want to rile people up or calm their heart rates down. It’s all about the rhythm of the tunes. A bit of melody can’t hurt either.”
On a personal level, she uses the end of the sun’s arc over our sky to evaluate the year gone by and consider the new one approaching.
“I like to mark the day with a mountain hike and journalling, using the following prompts: ‘What do I want more of?’ and ‘What can I leave behind?’” she explains. “In the evening, my friends and I often gather in the hills at a farm near Ohio, Antigonish County, and have an outdoor bonfire. There is something about bundling up and gazing at the stars and the flames that is so good for the soul.”
Regardless of whether your experience of the winter solstice is light and joyful or contemplative and full of thought, it is a time to honour our connection to the natural world and take notice of its beauty.
Ways to pay tribute to the winter solstice
- Light a candle
- Burn a Yule log
- Have a bonfire
- Decorate a Yule tree
- Drink a beverage such as mulled cider filled with warming spices like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg
- Wake early on the solstice to see the sunrise and feel the sensation of the sun’s warmth on your face
- Journal your thoughts. What can you leave behind from the past year? What do you seek for the new cycle of the sun? Set your intentions for the new year
- Create a meal of warming foods to eat on the evening of the solstice
- Have a bath adding citrus essential oils to symbolize the energy of the sun
- Craft something to honour the natural world such a wreath or swag. Use items around your yard or neighbourhood
- Paint or draw the sun
- Write a poem or song
- Spend time outdoors to appreciate the beauty of nature
- Notice the sky, the trees, the natural world around you
- Practice yoga
- Gather with family and friends
- Practice gratitude