We all crave a little stillness and peace in the heart of midwinter, but this can seem like an impossible quest! Pressure and busyness are heaped upon us in incremental daily doses until we are virtually on our knees by Winter Solstice. We expect ourselves to buy the perfect gifts for our family, decorate our homes and mail off thoughtful Christmas card messages to all those far away friends.
If we are parents, then the stresses pile up even higher. We are flat-out, shepherding our offspring to parties and nativities, ensuring that they don’t miss out on the joys of the festive season. What a tall-order at a time where we naturally crave more sleep and rest.
It can all result in us feeling decidedly frazzled and un-festive. It seems ironic that the essence of Winter Solstice is steeped in calm and tranquillity and yet this tends to be dwarfed by the huge expectations of Christmas. How can we centre ourselves and access this quality of stillness, like snow silently falling on the sleeping earth, wrapping the landscape in the softest, coldest and most beautiful of slow-motion blankets?
Winter Solstice is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Most Pagan celebrations focus on the return of the light, and I too have spent many a Solstice morn cheering as the first sunbeams break out in the East at daybreak, heralding the start of longer and warmer days.
However, this year I feel different. I don’t want to dismiss the energy of the dark, incubatory time of the underworld capriciously with the rise of the sun on the morn after Solstice. This to me feels like wishing away my bleeding days rather than savouring their gifts. In reality it takes at least three days for the days to begin to grow and many more before most of us notice a real difference. We remain shrouded in rich, velvet blackness for a good chunk of time at Solstice.
We can choose to embrace Solstice quietness, with early bedtimes and lie-ins, before rising to enjoy the noisy demands of Christmas and the return of the light. As the solar pendulum swings leisurely over a period of days, I plan to enjoy the long nights, by listening to my dreams, soul-searching and savouring those wakeful moments in the night, where I will lie silent under my duvet, listening to the elements howl at the pane.
Being in the dark, slowing down and opening ourselves with rawness and honesty exposes our cracks and vulnerabilities. This enables us to acknowledge our pain and grief and thus begin our healing process and the process of renewal. I welcome and honour this uncomfortable, but essential dialogue with myself. Once I’ve wrapped a few more presents I will be ready.
Accepting the importance of winter, preparing our hearths & homes to keep us snug and linking hands with our communities to appreciate our greater connection across the land, enables us to taste all that deepest Winter Solstice and Christmas have to offer us.