A Guide to Winter Solstice: Reflections & Rituals for Embracing Renewal

Winter solstice, which occurs this year in the Northern Hemisphere on December 21st is a sacred opportunity to pause, reflect, and celebrate the coming of light and the sun.

The winter solstice is marked and celebrated all around the world. It marks the longest night of the year and the shortest day of the year and has been observed since ancient times--the Mayans and other North American tribes, as well as the inhabitants of the British aisles who built Stonehenge, all built structures to mark or somehow celebrate this unique day in the year.

We know that the Mayans saw winter solstice as a time of renewal, and Yule has long been the Pagan celebration that marks winter solstice as a time of rebirth, and something about this year feels like an especially poignant time to tie into ancient traditions and look to the light after the darkness.

Here are some ways to celebrate winter solstice, and reflect.

Photo by Monica Valls

Reflection During Winter Solstice

Winter solstice is a time to look to your shadow self. What parts of yourself are dormant, exhausted, unheard, or dying? What parts of yourself would you like to leave behind in the darkness; what is ready to encounter the light and be renewed, and what would you like to be reborn?

The darkness of winter is a time of rest for most of nature, and it’s the same for us, as well. How can you find rest for your inner self? How can you invite your soul to step off the modern treadmill of productivity, and instead find renewal? How can you follow nature’s lead, and find ways to hibernate or comfort yourself during this season of winter? How are you looking forward to spring emerging? Who do you want to be when it arrives?

On winter solstice, try to limit your time with technology and other voices--television, social media, etc. Instead, find quiet spaces where you can journal, be creative, or find other ways to reflect.

And use natural lights! Open the blinds to let in as much natural light as possible during the day; light candles when it gets dark. Light is one of the most powerful symbols of winter solstice. Let the lights you light remind you of hope, rebirth, and the cycle of life.

Rituals & Celebrations for Winter Solstice

There are some beautiful winter solstice festivals and celebrations held all over the Northern Hemisphere. For many it is a time to celebrate the bonds of community, light candles to look to the return of the sun, and to set intentions for the season.

Whether you are celebrating with friends or not, the winter solstice is also a perfect opportunity to look to essential oils and gemstones.

Evergreen tree oils like cedar remind us of immortality and oils like frankincense, myrrh, and patchouli are deeply spiritual and grounding. Combinations like our Forest Bathing diffuser blend are perfect for meditating and reflecting.

You can also look to citrus oils like grapefruit or orange; the Japanese use citrus fruits in their winter solstice celebrations, and many cultures look to round fruits as being symbolic of the sun.

Garnet, ruby, and sunstone are crystals traditionally used in winter solstice rituals. Sunstone is also known as the stone of good fortune, believed to harness the power of the sun, sheds light during times of darkness and provides direction when all seems lost. It's known to bring forth joy and vitality, clearing negative energy to make way for renewed personal power and encouraging us to rejoice over even the smallest things. And while you reflect on your shadow self, you can look to black tourmaline. It is also very grounding, and helps you connect deeply to yourself.

These are just a few different rituals to help you celebrate winter solstice; we hope you find one that feels meaningful to you! 

Sarah Guerrero
Sarah Guerrero is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She has a degree in international business from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and writes about sustainable business practices and ethical living.