Until recently, I didn’t know a whole lot about the Solstices.
Previously published on The Wellness Universe, December 20, 2019
Except that many years ago, I had been told by a particular religious group that the Christmas holiday was celebrated at about the same time that Pagans celebrated the Winter Solstice. I knew that astronomically-speaking, the Winter Solstice was the shortest day, (a day with the least daylight), that we experience during a year. So if this is your first dive into the topic, you’re not alone.
When is the Winter Solstice?
In the northern hemisphere, the Winter Solstice occurs from about December 18th to the 25th; depending upon the year. Most people acknowledge the Winter Solstice only on December 21st or December 22nd. At the prehistoric sacred site of Newgrange in Ireland, the sunrise Winter Solstice will be observed and celebrated between the dates of December 18th to the 23rd, 2019.
Since many people from around the world revere the Winter Solstice as a deeply spiritual time, that reason alone makes it an interesting topic to understand. We all know how fractional religious matters can be. Yet, Spirit seeks to unify the fragmented parts of the whole.
Some think the Winter Solstice is a time of connection, quiet reflection, and profound joy. Others experience this time as busy, complicated, or even chaotic; and not just around planning celebrations or such. Sensitive or intuitive persons actually dream a lot or experience spiritual downloads of information!
Naturally, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season may make it difficult to find time for ourselves, but we can use the Winter Solstice as a way to excuse ourselves from some of the drama and overwhelm and take a pause. Yes, take some time and sit for awhile to reflect on your hopes, wishes and desires for the future.
It might also be a good time to contemplate about how your year went, and maybe set new intentions and realign your priorities.
Eastern beliefs offer an explanation of how the Solstices affect us. Not only symbolically, but in a very real sense; yin energy is the darkness before the Winter Solstice and then at sunrise, the dark opens to the lightness of the yang energy.
By seeking to first understand, we may actually give ourselves more space to live and let live, let go of the past and give ourselves a break from feeling the need to control.
Curiosity, Like Love, is Eternal
Like the spirals engraved on the neolithic and monolithic rocks at sites like, Knowth and Newgrange in Ireland and Stonehenge in England, humans have sought to leave their mark on the planet.
I listed Knowth first because some believe it to be the oldest of the astronomically-oriented structures built. Unfortunately, the caretakers of the Knowth site do not allow entrance into its chamber.
Thankfully, near Knowth you can visit the larger site of Newgrange and go inside its tomb. However, to enter the burial chamber during the Winter Solstice sunrise, you must fill out a lottery application and be chosen to gain entry. The lucky few who win the opportunity to go inside the tomb at sunrise, get to see the rays of sunlight fill the chamber via a lightbox cut-out of the stones above the passageway entry. Those inside the chamber during sunrise will watch as sunlight fills the entire chamber, (weather permitting), for 17 precious minutes. Yes, it’s a very big deal and a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Interestingly, Stonehenge may be the world’s most famous prehistoric monument and sacred site to host the Summer and Winter Solstices that is aligned to the Winter Solstice sunset; while Newgrange only aligns to the Winter Solstice sunrise. I find this dichotomy intriguing.
The opportunity exists for all of us to visit these sacred sites and stir our inner curiosity about who and why all of the etchings were made on these gigantic stones. And we can be grateful that we are alive during this time in history when it is possible to visit these sacred sites.
I have been forever changed by visiting the West Kennet Long Barrow, (an Avebury site), Knowth, Newgrange and Stonehenge. Where allowed, I stood, walked, sat near and touched, many of these incredible stones; marveling their presence.
Last July, while meditating at Stonehenge inside the stone circle, I came to know of our “rightness to BE,” in the world. The experience quickly put me into a meditative state; when I am home, it takes me many minutes to reach that state of meditation. At Stonehenge, I became aware of why certain sites are sacred, and why, if we have the opportunity, we should protect them.
As I take the next long and luscious deep breath, I reach for the grace to continue to live and travel to these highly energetic places for many years to come. I want to take my granddaughters to these sites when they are of age.
Marking the Time
Nature shows us the effects of time. The inner rings on the trees mark the passing of years. Very few things last forever and no one agrees on the age of the neolithic structures that still stand on the earth.
Astronomically-speaking, the Winter Solstice marks the beginning of longer days and shorter nights. This is why it makes sense that as we head into the dark time of year, with shorter days, we allow ourselves the luxury of some time to journey within.
The Winter Solstice is observed by various cultures; not only Pagans and Druids. Eastern and Western cultures give meaning to the Solstice, because it marks the transition from darkness to light, or cold to warm.
In Japan, the Winter Solstice is a celebration of all things pertaining to the fruit Yuzu; that typically includes taking hot bath soaks filled with different tart citrus fruits. This event ushers in an important change in season. Cleansing rituals like celebrating the Solstice are honoring, both to us and our ancestors, before the earth makes another journey around our golden and life-giving sun.
Balance and Synchronicity
For me, this will be the first holiday I’ve experienced without my dad and third without my mom; at least in the physical sense, and I am an only child. Perhaps that is why the Universe has gifted me with so much recently; I’m thrilled, no matter the why or how!
I am simply grateful that through the use of all the holistic tools I have put into my proverbial “wellness toolbox,” I finally feel centered and balanced; even when emotionally triggered. Yay!
As an aside, one of my blog articles, “Why Am I So Emotional-Tips for Grief” was scheduled to be published on January 6th, 2020; that is my parent’s wedding anniversary! When I read the email from the Wellness Universe with that publishing date, I immediately sensed it was because my mom and dad are still with me in spirit. Truly, you can’t make this stuff up!
Yes, I see the synchronicity more clearly and feel this statement that was given to me spiritually or psychically years ago, even stronger now; “We Are ALL Connected.”
I write this as an aside, and that it’s a big reason why I am personally going to spend dedicated and focused time before and during the Winter Solstice to unpack my thoughts and set a new course for adventure!
I hope this article has been interesting and informative and that sometime soon you can experience the joy that awaits for you on the Winter Solstice in whatever way you observe this time marker.
I won a place for myself and a guest, (out of 30,861 lottery applications drawn by children from three different schools), to go inside the Newgrange burial chamber for the Winter Solstice sunrise on Dec. 18th, 2019 in Ireland and we are going! Stay tuned for the next post to read all about what mysteries it unlocks for me.
Thank you. Amen. Awomen. Namaste. OM