[This post contains affiliate links, which means that I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you follow one of my links and make a purchase.]
If you’re wondering how to celebrate the Winter Solstice (or perhaps even why we should celebrate it), this post is for you. Here are nine Winter Solstice celebration ideas for you to try this year.
What is the Winter Solstice, or Yule?
In the Northern Hemisphere, December 21st is the Winter Solstice, also known as Yule in pagan and witchy circles. It’s the first day of winter and also the longest night of the year.
Put another way, the Winter Solstice marks the darkest, or shortest, day of the year right before the sun is “reborn.” In other words, after the Winter Solstice, the nights get a little shorter each day and the days get a little longer as we head toward spring.
Why Celebrate the Winter Solstice?
Winter Solstice, or Yule, celebrations focus on the promise of the coming light. So why do we celebrate it? Because Yule is a time of hope and understanding that the world is darkest just before the light. It’s a lovely reminder that if we hold on, light and joy are on their way to us once again.
Yule is also known as the Sun’s birthday. In fact, it’s no coincidence that Christians celebrate Christmas, or the Son’s birthday, right around Yule. Cool, right!? Both holidays celebrate the coming of hope and salvation at the darkest time of the year.
In fact, can we talk about the lyrics of one of my favorite Christmas hymns, O Holy Night, real quick and how that song is basically a Yule song?
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
How to Celebrate Yule, or the Winter Solstice
Here are nine simple and beautiful rituals to help celebrate the reflection and introspection that winter invites into our lives as well as the hope and joy that lie ahead.
If you’re wondering how to celebrate Yule, the ideas below will get you started.
(Related: 9 Ways to Celebrate the Fall Equinox)
1. Reflect on the past year with your tarot cards
The Winter Solstice is the last major milestone, or sabbat to some, of the calendar year. So, when celebrating or recognizing the Winter Solstice, ideas around reflection and looking back on the year are quite fitting.
When I was younger, I’d forge ahead into the new year with all sorts of ambitious and lofty goals and ideals without pausing for even a second to recognize how I had grown or evolved the previous year. It was just “Good riddance” and on to the fresh, new start!
But now, I always make sure to do an end-of-year reflection in my journal. In fact, I now use my tarot cards to help me go deeper.
(Related: How to Read Tarot Cards for Yourself)
Think about it. You need to know where you’re at now as a starting point before planning for the next year. What do you have under your belt? How can you leverage a new strength you developed this past year? What is an anxiety or pain point that you need to take into consideration instead of just ignoring or repressing?
Here is a past year reflection tarot spread by one of my favorite tarot sources, Emerald Lotus Divination. If you don’t have tarot cards, I still suggest answering the questions in your journal. If you do have tarot cards, I suggest answering the questions yourself first, then leaving space to draw a tarot card for each question and go even deeper with your insights.
2. Purify your home with pine.
Of course, when discussing how to celebrate the Winter Solstice, pagan traditions abound. Here’s a great one to start with.
Burning a pine bundle is thought to have purifying powers, cleansing your home of negative vibes. I love the idea of clearing out any stagnant or stale energies before ringing in the new year.
Always burn dried herb bundles with caution and in a fireproof dish. If you can’t find pine, a sage bundle, a palo santo stick, or frankincense resin are nice alternatives.
(Related: How to Cleanse a Space with Sage)
3. Decorate your front door with an evergreen wreath.
Evergreen, as a plant that withstands even the snowiest of winters, represents everlasting life. Since a circle is also an everlasting or infinite line that never breaks, a classic Yule decoration is the evergreen wreath.
Yup, this is where Christmas wreaths come from!
If you are the crafty type, you can create your own fresh evergreen wreath.
If you are less crafty, you can always purchase one and jazz it up yourself with dried orange slices, pine cones, holly berries, ribbons, or some tiny Christmas ornaments.
4. Light a Yule log, or watch one on Netflix!
Ancient Druids began the tradition of lighting a giant Yule log that burned for twelve days to combat the darkest time of the year. Now, of course, lighting a fire in the fireplace is just a fun winter tradition, and I’m here for that.
Make a big to-do over lighting a fire (perhaps the first of the season?) and gather around to watch your favorite holiday movie or have some cozy holiday drinks, like cider or cocoa (or a double martini, I’m not here to judge). And if you’re celebrating the Winter Solstice with kids, a family puzzle or game night sounds like lovely quality time together.
Or, indulge in a lovely quiet evening of solitude. Enjoy some alone time to write or read in silence next to a cozy fire. Your Winter Solstice rituals can look however you want!
Finally, if you’re a chimney-less apartment dweller like me, have no fear! Netflix has us covered. Just search for “Fireplace For Your Home” on Netflix and you’ll get a crackling fireplace scene on your screen set to some holiday tunes. Honestly, with the lingering 80-degree days we are having in Los Angeles, this might be the best option even if you do have a real fireplace, depending on where you are!
5. Watch the sun rise the day after the Winter Solstice.
Here’s another song that makes a perfect Yule theme:
Little darling, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter.
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here.
Here comes the sun!
Why are the Beatles the perfect soundtrack for your Yule celebration? Because Yule marks the sun’s birthday. And since the Winter Solstice is the darkest day of the year, the very next sunrise officially begins the season of longer, brighter days.
Getting up early to watch that first sunrise after the solstice is such a magical way to celebrate the birth of hope and light. Pour some coffee to go and head to your favorite east-facing spot. Bask in the sun’s rays and really let its warmth and reassurance wash over you like a loving hug.
And man, I need this right about now after the year we’ve had!
6. Fine, sleep in. But wake up with some sun salutations.
If you are not even remotely a morning person, you can greet the sun at whatever time you wake up. Try some sun salutations, a basic yoga sequence that is a great way to get your blood and energy flowing in the morning.
Below is how to do a sun salutation.
7. Take a soothing milk bath.
Milk baths are particularly hydrating and soothing in the cold and dry winter months. Milk also symbolizes regeneration and essential nourishment, which are right in line with the Winter Solstice.
To make your milk bath more seasonally appropriate, add wintry cleansing herbs like cinnamon, rosemary, chamomile, or peppermint. Then, as you soak, imagine all the unwanted thoughts, feelings, and vibes swirling around inside you being pulled out and away from you, leaving you shiny and new (and moisturized!) for the winter season and the new year.
A soothing warm milk bath right before bed also sounds like a lovely natural sleep aid for the darkest night of the year.
8. Make a donation or give a gift.
As the season of perpetual hope (according to Kevin’s agitated mom at the airport in Home Alone before John Candy saves the day), gift-giving and spreading cheer is a wonderful gesture this time of year. And since the Winter Solstice is all about hope, I think it’s our duty to spread hope to others as well, not just experience it for ourselves.
I understand that we don’t exactly want to spread anything during a pandemic! So how can we safely celebrate Yule with friends this year?
Well, if your area is still social distancing like Los Angeles and you want to celebrate the Winter Solstice with friends and family in mind, how about a surprise drive-by cookie drop-off? Or, make it a random act of kindness by anonymously dropping off seasonal goodies at a few neighbors’ doorsteps.
And, of course, so many worthy causes could use donations if you are in the fortunate position to give. (I know many simply are not this year through no fault of their own, which is why this comes last on the list.) A few causes I’ve donated to this year, in case you want some suggestions, are the NDN Collective, Black Visions Collective, and ArmeniaFund.
No matter what holidays you celebrate this year, I hope these Winter Solstice ideas inspire you to align with nature a bit more and make room for the natural cycles of the universe in your existing holiday traditions.
Let me know which ways to celebrate Winter Solstice and Yule speak to you the most. Or, what Winter Solstice rituals or Yule traditions would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!