Winter Solstice: Honoring the Return of Light

Rituals, reflections, and renewal to honor the darkest night of the year.

As the hectic holiday season arrives, you may want to consider taking a moment to honor the winter solstice this year for a peace-infused, spiritual reset to rekindle the light within. And the best part—no purchase required! 

On December 21, winter Solstice occurs as the sun travels the shortest path through the sky giving us the longest, darkest night of the year. Solstice happens twice a year, (winter and summer) and marks the exact moment that one of the Earth’s poles is at its maximum tilt.

We experience winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere while our friends in the Southern Hemisphere experience the Summer Solstice. 

Celtic and Pagan in origin, winter Solstice, also known as “Yule” or “mid-winter” has been celebrated for centuries as a rebirth of the sun. It was revered as a catalyst of great resilience to endure the dark, cold days before the sun’s radiance returned once again. The promise of Spring’s life force, fertility and abundance brought faith and hope inside the winter’s barren, dark times. 

winterlust sceneIn Latin, “solstice” translates into “sol” meaning the sun, and “sistere” meaning to stand still. For an astronomical moment in time, the sun stands completely still. Symbolically, we too can honor a sacred pause within our own being. We can sit peacefully, soften to receive our breath, and light a candle to spark the flame of our true nature. We can release the desire to do more, crave more, and be more. We can literally and metaphorically connect with the universal zenith of winter solstice by aligning with the reciprocal nature of duality: our inner self to outer self, giving to receiving, and darkness to light. We can activate rituals of letting go to release excess and imbalance of the past year. We can ignite the flame of inner peace and call forward our fresh inspirations for the coming year. 

When we honor the seasonal wheel of the year while reflecting on our personal cycles and process, we are reminded that we, too, are connected to a universal life force that is generative and wildly transformative. Celebrating the Solstices and Equinoxes can deepen our connection to mother earth, our communities, and our life journey.  Seasonal rituals are like mirrors, reflecting to us what has shifted, what is of value, and how to source true inspiration from within. The multi-tasking mind can pause, reflect, and recalibrate into a frequency of clarity and positivity. The past gets reviewed, and the future becomes spacious. We feel less overwhelmed, and instead more centered and intuitive. Through Solstice’s sacred pause, we can go beyond the mundane of self-limiting narratives and discover greater meaning and purpose in life. 

Winter solstice is a time to give thanks to the sun for making it return once again. It’s a time to take nothing for granted.  Honor the farmers who grow your food. Celebrate abundance and volunteer time or give to those in need. Send out warm blessings of compassion and love to your friends and family, to the earth and the sun for the sustenance you receive daily. Give thanks to the plants and animals for contributing to a healthy ecosystem. And know that by showing up and honoring the solstice, you are aligning with radiant souls across the globe who are doing the same. 

Winter Solstice Ritual to Release and Renew

winterlust meditationThis winter solstice you may want to create a personal ritual or share one with friends and family to discover the magic inside this light-fueled alignment. Like many of our ancestors did at Solstice, we can gather around a bonfire, or candles to welcome in the return of light.  Set your intention to receive the light and warmth fully, fire is a potent teacher of transformation. Write down the habits, cycles, or patterns in your life that no longer serve you. You can burn the paper as a symbolic cleansing and visualize these energies leaving your body and mind.  Then take some time to be in stillness and silence.  Now write down what you want to bring forward in the coming year. Connect your intentions with how you want to feel, and let this arise from your center, not your mind. Give to the fire what you are welcoming in. Visualize yourself already there. If you can see it, and feel it, you can create it.  Journal about your experience or share with a trusted friend.

Winter Solstice Journal Prompts

  1. Reflect upon 2022, list all your personal accomplishments, your perspective shifts, and the personal wisdom received.
  2. What seeds did you plant in 2022?
  3. What is growing in you now?
  4. What is releasing or clearing out of you now?
  5. Is there any current difficulty, stress, or repeating patterns in your life?
  6. If yes, what daily ritual or practice can support personal transformation?

For example: For 7 days, I will replace opening my phone in the morning with a short gratitude meditation. 

  1. In what ways do you want to focus your energy in 2023? Choose one word, or guiding affirmation for the year ahead.

Winter Solstice Affirmation

I honor the dark within.

I honor the light within.

I soften to release limiting core beliefs and unsupportive actions within.

I rekindle the flame of radical self-love and deep-rooted compassion.

I trust in my journey and share my true nature with the world, unapologetically.



Mara Branscombe is a mother, writer, yogi, artist, teacher, mindfulness leader, ceremonialist and spiritual coach. She is passionate about weaving the art of mindfulness, self-care, creativity, mind–body practices, and earth-based rituals into her life and work, and she has been leading community ceremony since 2000.

An adventurous spirit, Mara has sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, trekked across the Himalayas, studied yoga in India, planted trees in Canada’s north, lived off the grid in a remote cabin in the woods, worked as a Waldorf (Steiner School) teacher, and then found her passion for dance and choreography. All the while yoga, meditation, mysticism, and ritual have been at the heart of Mara’s journey. Her trainings in the Incan Shaman lineage and the Pagan tradition have greatly inspired her life’s work of earth-based, ceremonial, intentional, and heart-centered living and loving.

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