Mid-Winter Night Dreams

dreamstime_7702976 WINTER SOLSTICE by RatafonHere Comes the Sun–again

Today, December 21st , marks the winter solstice; the shortest day of the year (in the northern hemisphere) and the point where the sun is at its lowest arc in the sky.  Whether you recognize the event as the beginning of winter or mid-winter, rituals and celebrations honouring the return of the light—or rebirth of the sun/son, in many pre-Christian and non-Christian spiritual traditions—date back thousands of years and across diverse cultures around the globe.

I can well imagine that for our ancestors, the cold, long, dark nights that set in by early November would have provided ample time for speculations on the likelihood of surviving the winter months and whether the sun would ever return.  It’s not surprising, then, that our ancestors created rituals to encourage the sun to return and to honour the continuation of life.  At the very least, a gathering of family and friends around a Yule fire to share whatever treats were available would certainly have lifted some of the winter gloominess.

Luxuriating in the Quiet Darkness

The extended hours of darkness throughout the winter also allowed time for stillness (rest), introspection and reflection.  Just as most plant life goes dormant and many animals hibernate in dark spaces throughout the winter, humans can also benefit from some “down time” in the winter to rest, and revitalize their bodies, minds and creative processes. Yet, rather than taking the space and time to rest and reflect inwardly on our lives and ideas, many of us feel that we must constantly be in “doing” rather than “being” mode.  Indeed, at this time of year many of us are busy running around preparing for whichever seasonal holiday we celebrate and barely taking time to remember to breathe, let alone make room for stillness and quiet reflection.

With the advent of easy access to electric lights, heating and power, the number of activities we can—and are often expected to–carry out within the span of a day is no longer constrained by the hours of daylight available to us.  We can read, work, write or party until the wee hours of the morning, as long we have the stamina to do so.

Many of us have lost our connection both to nature’s cycles of growth followed by rest/dormancy or fallow periods and to the diurnal and seasonal cycles of light and dark.  Increasingly, I’m beginning to think that in the process of shifting too far out of alignment with the seasonal cycles, not to mention our own bodies’ rhythms and cycles, we have also become misaligned with our inner selves and wisdom.  How can we really take time to understand our deeper natures, “notice what we notice” and convert those observations into inspired creative expressions of our inner voice if we have fallen out of the habit of stillness and introspection?

Of course, we really need to take time out on a regular basis for stillness and reflection, but I’m going to gently encourage readers of this blog to take some time out for themselves for stillness and quietude over the next couple of weeks.  Take time to honour the “reason for the season”, as Leigh Vozella (2009) so eloquently phrased it in her online article about the history of Yule-tide celebrations.  Gift yourself with more sleep, rest and quiet time at home to daydream, journal or do nothing at all.

Celebrating the Return of the Light

Creating a small ceremony to acknowledge the power of winter and appreciate the gifts of both the darkness and the light can start to forge a personally meaningful connection with the seasonal event. Here are some ideas for a low-key, no-fuss winter solstice ritual.

A guided meditation that perhaps focuses on the positive qualities of darkness as a still space for reflection, introspection and the germination of new ideas, or that recognizes the gifts of both light and dark on a daily basis, might be ideal.  You may want to do the meditation in almost complete darkness (perhaps have one or two candles burning) and then switch on more lights to symbolize the return of the sun’s light.  You may like to try this meditation from

This is also a good time of the year to spend some time journaling about the events of the past year.  I’ve noticed a number of bloggers are sharing their reflections for 2010 in a fairly public way on their blogs.  I’d like to thank them for their courage and willingness to make themselves vulnerable, and for encouraging their readers to  take stock of this year and plan for 2011.

For other ideas, you might want to check out this article by Amy Kreydin (2009) on how to observe the winter solstice.

Traditionally, rituals are completed with the sharing of “cakes and ale”. Even if you choose a small, solitary celebration, it’s still fun to end the ritual with a treat to get you re-grounded.  You don’t need an entire feast—just something to nibble and something to drink.  My personal preference would be ginger cookies with spicy hot chocolate (add a dash of cinnamon and a very tiny amount of chilli powder or cayenne pepper), but check in with your intuition and go with what works for you.

A Mid-Winter Night’s Wish

However you celebrate the winter season, I wish all of you a peaceful and restful holiday season. May all be blessed by the return of the sun’s light with much love, laughter, friendship, good health and abundance, and may we all join forces to create a more peaceful, equitable and environmentally sustainable presence on the planet.

© Susan Chambers, December 2010

December 21, 2010 · Susan · 2 Comments
Posted in: Spirituality

2 Responses

  1. Rajiv - December 27, 2010

    Hi Sue,

    nice thoughts on the meaning of the Winter solstice, and using the winter as a time to regenerate.

  2. Susan - December 27, 2010

    Hi Rajiv,

    Thanks for your kind feedback on the post. I hope you had a peaceful holiday season.

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