I’ve been meaning to take time to write about how we spend our holidays and what we’re doing for Solstice. This is the first year that we’re actively celebrating a winter holiday and after a such a meaningful Samhain (celebrated around the same time as Halloween), I’m really looking forward our first Winter Solstice.

Of course many of you have seen that I’ve been crazy busy working on a countdown calendar and I thrilled to say I’ve finished…. at least finished enough for the holiday. Next I’ll add buttons to the fabric to hang the pieces on and then I’d like to add some smaller details with embroidery, like ground (grass etc) and hills (for the bear to be placed on). I’d still like to add a backing to give the pieces more structure and hide the embroidery thread and I also need pockets to hold all the pieces. Click on the picture to see it up close with notes on what the pieces are and what day they show themselves.

Solstice Countdown Calendar

I’ve looked for inspiration online for more secular activities and traditions but with little luck. We aren’t Christian or Pagan or any other religion but we are enjoying being inspired by the ways our ancestors celebrated these different holidays before they were Christianised and then commercialised. Thankfully I have at least one book on hand to offer some suggestions on how we can celebrate the shortest day of the year.

Bear peaking out from behind a moss covered dead tree

Solstice symbolises a turning point where the days start to get longer again almost like the beginning of a new year. Celebrating this time of year is helping make our dark days not seem so dismal. It’s a time to spend indoors reenergising with more time to sleep. We get to reconnect with each other being in close quarters and work on quiet projects. I’ve noticed with my embroidery work getting done, my kids have been drawing, reading and quietly pretend playing quite a bit. Lily’s skill in drawing in particular has really grown and I notice her adding little details that look a lot like what you’d do if you’re embroidering.

In the next day or two, the kids and I plan to make an Apple Chain out of paper to hold our memories for the year. We also hope to make sweet “Wish Bread” where we talk and think about our hopes for the coming year. Other neat foods to make at this time of year are Meringue Cookies, Chocolate Cookies, Sun Custard, Sun Cereal with Polenta and Snow Candy with Maple Syrup. I’ll make an effort to share the recipes and some pictures of these and any other activities we do before Solstice in case any of you are interested in trying yourselves.

Do you celebrate Solstice? What are some of your traditions?

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15 Responses to Four More Days Until Solstice

  1. Your calendar is SO AMAZING! WOW!

    Yes, we do celebrate Solstice. We have been for 4 years. We used to live in the Yukon, near Alaska, so the return of the sun really IS a big deal! We have a celebration with 4-5 other families around a bonfire. We serve warm apple cider and sometimes, a yam and coconut soup. We bake a sun bread that we pass around and everybody takes a piece to symbolize the community that we can rely on, even at the darkest time of year. We make sun crown for the children, we play musical instruments, we sing and dance around the fire. I tell a story and then I give everybody a star shaped floating candle to light before going to bed (in a bowl of water) to help the sun wake up (it goes with the story). Some year, we have been burning something that we do not want to carry in the next year. Enjoy! This is one of my favorite celebration! One year, someone started the fire like our ancestors did. It was amazing!

  2. em says:

    Your embroidery is just so beautiful! I love the bear :)

  3. debbie says:

    I keep trying to move us more towards the Solstice in our celebrations, but it is still mostly me…we’re too far south to really feel the darkness of this time significantly, and the pull of Christmas all around us is so strong. We have on and off celebrated Solstice with making lanterns and having a lantern walk – one year with a lovely group of friends, which was wonderful! – there is a really nice story i read recently about lanterns in the winter; i’ll try to find it again and post it to you – about inviting the sun to stay through the winter, and giving it a “home” (the lantern) to keep a small ray in…Celebrating the Great Mother is a nice resource for moving towards the older traditions of the year’s cycle, as is School of the Seasons. Wish we were closer! We’d love to celebrate with you!

  4. Jo says:

    Archaeologically speaking, I think you should slaughter a suckling pig. Just like Stonehenge and Avebury!
    Seriously though, I would be interested in some of the resources you are using for the solstice celebration. We are just starting to actually talk about all the winter-time traditions with A, and wouldn’t like to leave anything out!
    We’ve even talked about Saturnalia a bit!

  5. I love that you’ve taken the time to investigate this season more thoroughly than I have so I would love to know about more of your resources. Catherine’s tradition sounds cool and it’s nice to hear how what other celebrations have become.

    Two years ago I decided to bring light to the winter season by celebrating solstice (since a lot of the commercialized and Christianized traditions seem so dark and empty to me). It’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever done as it’s given me a completely different view of this time of year.

    These past two years we’ve taken the day of solstice for ourselves. It’s a day to relax, an evening to enjoy by candlelight and an excuse to go out and look at the stars at the designated hour. In search of the community piece we’ve invited folks for a “seasonal” gathering this Sunday. There will be the usual climbing but I’m also pulling out my kite paper and a few other craft supplies since the basement fills up quickly. I debated whether or not to add gift giving to our whole thing but will be giving out little match boxes which I covered with snippets of my painting. If we get generous we might add beeswax tea lights too so it’s that much easier for people to light a candle on solstice.

    Happy solstice to your and your family Annie. I hope you’ll share the highlights of your experience and some of Lily’s drawing with us!

  6. Krista says:

    Eeek, the embroidery, the talk of the sun and solstice and celebrations, the quiet, concentrated time in the home with focused (and I’m guessing meditative) activities… it’s all giving me goosebumps! I want me some of all of that. Life is so good.

  7. Sarah says:

    That calendar is absolutely beautiful. Well done, you!

    I introduce a bit more Solstice into every winter season. My husband (a Christian) hates tradition – any tradition, be it Christmas or Solstice – so I’m doing it without, and around, him.

    I like the idea of a bonfire. One of my friends does that and we may do it this year.

    We’re also making a peanut/cranberry/popcorn chain for the animals, and maybe suet ornaments. And making sun crafts.

    It’s funny to me to see “Don’t forget the reason for the season” signs around, referring to Christmas. It seems to me that *the season* is the reason for ‘the season’.

  8. Annie says:

    Thank you thank you thank you! I’m enjoying the shared enthusiasm for this holiday and I’m so inspired by new ideas! My mind is spinning with how to fit in so many neat activities.

    We could definitely do a bonfire, maybe out at one of the local lakes… Catherine, I love so many of your ideas. I would love to make lanterns too. I had seen some on flickr (?) in mason jars with tissue paper glued to the outside with wire handles and that seemed like an easy and beautiful idea. We made peanut/cranberry/popcorn garlands this afternoon and hung them from the trees outside our kitchen window. Can’t wait to see what eats them!

    Sarah- you hit it spot on for how I often feel about big holidays- ” It seems to me that *the season* is the reason for ‘the season’.” rather than remembering the original reasons for the seasons. I don’t think a lot of people even know what the reasons are we celebrate the mass holidays!

    Wish we could celebrate this holiday with all of you!

  9. Wow, your calendar is amazing! I have been doing a lot of embroidering lately, but nothing nearly as extravagant!
    We have always celebrated the Winter Solstice as a family, (our daughters are 5 and 9), but the last few years we have added our own simple Christmas traditions as well. We figure we may as well be quite festive, we need the inspiration and strength to get through the coming winter months! We celebrated St. Lucia day last week… another wonderful celebration of light. Really we have many seasonal traditions that take us throughout the year. Unfortunately I am still waiting for the “slowing down” part to happen this month. Hopefully soon!

    I just discovered your blog and am looking forward to exploring a bit!

  10. The lantern jars with tissue paper are cool… the class I observed made the ones you describe but the finishing touch I’d never read about is to gently paint oil onto the tissue covered lantern. Linseed oil or mineral oil are better if you plan to keep the lantern for years since the other oils go rancid.

    There were a few different sized jars in use for our St. Martin’s day walk and mid-sized ones that weren’t too narrow seemed to work the best. I’d guess they were about 500 mL – 1L in size. Otherwise the tea light bangs around and goes out or with the narrow jars, maybe there’s not enough oxygen to keep the flame burning?

    Have fun and yes, I had a similar reaction to you about Sarah’s “the season” comment. Since I figured out how Christianity has taken over an older tradition I’ve felt much the same way. Happy solstice!

  11. Stephanie says:

    We aren’t Pagan or Christian, either, though we celebrate (in a pretty secular fashion) both.
    Lots of nature and science and fun for all of us, and lots of spiritual connections for the Mama of the house. :)

    We’ve done lots of lanterns lately, I don’t know why I didn’t think to make them for Winter Solstice! :) Silly.

    I made a big list today of things we’re thinking of doing for the holiday on Monday – next year I’ll add lanterns to the ‘possibilities’ list.

    Happy Holidays!

  12. Dawn Suzette says:

    Just getting caught up Annie… Your calendar looks amazing! Really wonderful work!
    We are just adding Winter Solstice to our celebrations. We talked a lot about it last year. We wrote poems about winter to read at breakfast time. This year I made little dolls out of felted sweaters for the kids. They are super snuggly and just seemed to go with the “season”…
    I have seen traditions about giving socks or pajamas on winter solstice too. I got the kids some new fun socks. Next year I hope to make them some cozy pajamas to start that tradition.
    Hopefully we will get to have a bonfire out at the farm when we go out on Thursday… I love fires in the snow!
    Thanks for sharing your celebrations… and to everyone for adding such wonderful ideas in the comments.

  13. Oh, how I love the calendar! Beautiful job!
    We aren’t pagan or christian either, just very earthy and mother nature types, our own kind of thing…..
    I love your idea of memories of the past year, I will be doing that for sure with the girls.
    We made gingerbread men and wish bread as well. Making a yearly ornament is a big to do….the entire family gets a new ornament handmade by the girls every year. It’s fun to see them on everyones tree year after year. It can be hard coming up with ideas though.

    I hope you are staying warm up there!

  14. ohhhhhh, love Sarah’s comment, “the season is the reason for the season”…..I could get a few friends upset with that comment; although I don’t say a word about their beliefs……

  15. Karen says:

    I’m a new reader of your blog. It’s lovely and your calendar is wonderful

    We’ve celebrated the solstice in a non-religious way for a few years. Here are some of the elements of our traditions:
    We do a candle spiral on cake plate, lighting one beeswax tealight for each night from Dec 1st to the Solstice. The spiral is decorated with cedar and a few small dried flowers from the summer. For our evening mealtime blessing we read mostly ones related to the sun and the earth and the gifts we receive from them.

    On Solstice or Solstice Eve (timing varies a bit depending on schedules) we get together with 5 or 6 other families and we walk on a favourite trail by the river by candlelight. The kids carry all sorts of candles, tissue paper or tin can lanterns etc. We stop at a special clearning and decorate the trees with gifts of food for the animals and then share a snack and read a story – Sunbread by Elsa Kleven is a family favourite for the younger kids (we often bring Sunbread as the shared snack). We light sparklers for the kids and they dance in the woods to wake up the trees and invite the sun to come back. Then we hike out singing Solstice songs and ringing bells. It is our favourite pre-Christmas tradition by far.

    On Solstice we dine by candlelight on bright and sunny foods – pasta with yellow tomatoes, yellow peppers, carrots, etc and we make something light and sunny for dessert – lemon cheesecake usually. We start new beeswax tapers for our dinner table on Solstice, and light the last (largest) candle in our spiral. We have a stack of favourite stories for Solstice and some “sun” or seasonal poems which we choose for our bedtime reading.

    I hope that helps!

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