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#GoneGreen2016 Day 269 / 365

Winter Solstice has been celebrated for centuries by every ancient culture there is. It doesn’t belong to any single set of religious beliefs; in fact, it has its place in every modern religion because it was celebrated before most of the organized religion we know today were formed. 

It is a time for ritual, reflection, and renewal; cradling you with the longest night of the year, and offering a final extended state of serene silence so you might pull back to feed your spirit and nurture your soul.

When I was a little girl, we celebrated Winter Solstice. My mum would give us each a new pair of flannel pajamas, and we would sit around our dining room table drinking hot chocolate and eating cookies while we made garlands of popcorn and cranberries and listening to the Wyrd Sisters version of the Solstice Carole. When we were finished, we'd cover our new flannel pjs with our winter coats and boots, and walk down to the Red River by our house with candles lighting our path, to dress the trees by the river with our edible creations as a gift to the wildlife of winter. We continued to practice this tradition until I moved out and away in my late teens, and sadly I’ve never really celebrated it in Europe since. 

While my family’s way of celebrating might seem a bit hippie-dippy, it is an important part of our upbringing, helping my sisters and I to understand the rhythms of the seasons and encouraging us to reflect on what these changes meant to us and plants and animals which lived around us - making all three of us more sensitive stewards of the earth. 

The traditions of Winter Solstice celebration aren’t actually that foreign to those with a less pagan-infused upbringing than I. Many of the commercialized or commonly practiced Christmas traditions originated with ancient religions and cultures such as Norse, Pagans, Druids, Incas, Romans, and Egyptians ... and have been practiced longer than Christianity or Catholicism.

- 5 Familiar Ways To Celebrate Winter Solstice -
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One. Light the Yule Log & Candles
Light a log or a candle. Fire and candles were used during ancient winter solstice celebrations as a way of remembering that spring would soon come and honouring the light. The custom of burning the Yule Log goes back to, and before, medieval times. Yule is the name of the old Winter Solstice festivals in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe. It was originally an entire tree, that was carefully chosen and brought into the house in ceremony. The largest end of the log would be placed into the fire hearth and it would be lit from the remains of the previous year which had been carefully stored away and fed into the fire. 

Two. Bring Some Of The Outside In 
Evergreens (from the Old English word aefie meaning “always” and gowan meaning “to grow”) have been symbols of eternal life and rebirth since ancient times. The pagan use and worship of evergreen boughs and trees have evolved into the Christianized Christmas tree we know today as well as the holiday wreaths we hang on our front doors which come from the ancient tradition of honoring the circle of life and nature. 

Three. Hang Some Mistletoe 
The tradition of hanging mistletoe in the house goes back to the times of the ancient Druids. Mistletoe is supposed to possess mystical powers which bring good luck to the household and ward off evil spirits. It was also used as a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology and that’s where the custom of kissing under mistletoe came from.

Four. Make An Offering
The giving of gifts has its roots in pagan rituals held during the winter. Whether you want to make an offering to a plant or the animals around you by creating biodegradable and edible ornaments like my sisters and I did, or, if dressing up the outdoors and hugging it out with trees isn’t your thing, you could make a monetary offering through donations to an organization which protects animals and wildlife. All you need is a positive intention to make it count. 

Five. Say A Little Prayer For You
Whether you reflect through meditation, during your yoga practice, or through prayer, this is an ideal time to reflect on the year which has passed and your hopes for the year to come. Write two small notes, one which has aspects of the year that you want to let go of, the other aspirations you wish to fulfill in the year to come. Light a fire, or a candle outside and read the notes out loud before burning them. Reflection is rooted in no religion, it’s a human tradition!

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