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Winter Solstice and Yule

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

7 Ideas to Ease You into a Restorative Winter

December 21st is the first official day of winter and the winter solstice here in the northern hemisphere.

The solstice represents the two moments in the year when the Sun is the farthest north or south from Earth’s Equator. At the winter solstice the day is the year’s shortest, and at the summer solstice it is the year’s longest.

In English, the world solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium, meaning "sun standing still". It seems to suggest a brief pause as the sun reaches its most extreme point.

It's interesting that as a culture we've made the days that the "sun stands still" so busy, stressful, and chaotic.

Inevitably come January 1st there will come a rush of "New Year, New You!" marketing emails from gyms, nutrition plans, and retailers. I understand it, but I personally find that message rings hollow. Winter has only just begun, and the explosion of new growth in Spring is still far away.

Before Christianity, Christmas, and capitalism came to Western Europe, the winter solstice kicked off the 12 day long celebration of Yule.

Yule is designed to honor the sun in its stillness and the long nights' darkness, so we may later welcome the return to light. 

This year, instead of succumbing to any guilt that you can't be everywhere all the time and all things to all people, I'd like to invite you into some Yule practices of restorative stillness.

And remember, there are 12 days of Yule, so there is no rush to enjoy. This is a time to relax, reset and begin to settle in for the hibernation energy of winter.

1) Light Candles

I have a Swedish friend who, when describing winter in her home town explained to me, "The candles are everything." It's hard to impart the beauty, emphasis, and passion of her tone and accent on the page, so you will have to imagine.

Here in San Francisco the Sun will set around 5 pm, but in Sweden it's more like 2:45 pm! I'm picturing an Ingmar Bergen scene, cold and snowy. I can imagine a scene from Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, with Nora looking inside the warm homes as she braves the cold night.

As you settle into winter, treat yourself to a candle lit dinner. Place votives in your windowsill and watch as the cold condenses on the glass. You can save on electricity and embrace the circadian rhythm of an early sunset and an early bedtime.