Winter solstice on December 21st means that it is the shortest day of the year and it rings in the official first day of winter. The longest night of the year has been celebrated in history by many different cultures as a time to slow down, reflect and welcome the longer days that are coming.
Solstice is known as the Dongzhi festival in China & East-Asia, which celebrates this day with a huge festival and is even more important than Chinese New Year. Or know as Yule to the pagans, where they have the tradition of welcoming the sunrise together. Persians celebrate it as Yalda Night, a tradition where families get together and eat watermelon.
Some of our Christmas traditions today are thought to have been "borrowed" from pagan winter solstice traditions. Christmas trees for instance, were known as Yule trees long before it was named the Christmas tree in the 1840s. They were seen a a symbol of continual life, and were even decorated with wishes for the New Year. Coins for wealth, lights for sunlight and corn for a good harvest.
Mistletoe was often used by ancient Celtic as a symbol of sexuality, fertility and abundance and Pagans decorated their homes with it around the solstice. The reason we kiss under it goes back to a Scandinavian myth: "Baldur, the son of Odin and Frigg, was so beloved that his mother made everything — including trees, stones, elements and sicknesses — promise that it would not harm him. However, Loki, god of fire, found that she had forgotten to ask mistletoe and killed Baldur with a dart fashioned with the poisonous plant (we assume for the lulz). Afterward, Frigg vowed that the plant should never again be used as a weapon and that she would kiss anyone who passed under it. So, like with many things, kissing under the mistletoe is Loki's fault."
Yule logs actually were named after the Yule celebration of solstice. Pagan rituals included burning logs in the fireplace or in a big bonfire.
Pagans would feast and over indulge during Yule to manifest an abundance of food in the coming year (sound familiar?) And it is said that in the Middle Ages the wealthy and noble would compete with each over and show off their wealth by handing out gifts and food to the poor.
So how can we slow down consciously and celebrate this day. Especially since this year solstice happens on the same day as the Great Conjunction.
What is the great conjunction?
"Astronomers use the word conjunction to describe meetings of planets and other objects on our sky’s dome. They use the term great conjunction to describe meetings of Jupiter and Saturn, which are the two biggest worlds in our solar system. Though the two planets will appear spectacularly close together on the sky’s dome now, Jupiter and Saturn are actually 456 million miles (734,000 million km) apart. Saturn is nearly twice as far away as Jupiter.
Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions happen every 20 years; the last one was in the year 2000. But these conjunctions aren’t all created equal. The 2020 great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will be the closest since 1623 and the closest observable since 1226! 2020’s extra-close Jupiter-Saturn conjunction won’t be matched again until the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction of March 15, 2080." Pretty awesome right?
How to create your own solstice / conjunction ritual
1. Go outside tonight and stargaze, if you're lucky you might get to see Jupiter and Saturn looking like one huge elongated star or a double planet
2. Have a Fire & Mirror meditation:
Gaze at a flame (candle or fireplace) and watch the fire dance. Breathe slowly and intentionally, starting your ujjayi breath if you know how to (watch our how to on it). Then think about all the highs and lows, the roses and thorns of your past year. Don't judge, just run through these moments. When you're ready, take your eyes off the flame and look into your own eyes in a mirror. Out loud say "I forgive and let go of the darkness and move into the light". Repeat until you believe it. Then look back at your flame and close this meditation with a smile and awe for the fire/flame and light.
3. Journal about anything that came up during this meditation. If you need starters consider these prompts:
- What would I be doing if I knew I couldn't fail
- What is standing in my way from achieving my goals
- What is time to let go of
- I forgive myself for ....
4. If you can, wake up and watch the sunrise. Do something you love like dancing, walking, doing yoga, reading, ...
Enjoy the solstice and let us know how it goes!
The Bodhiac team