Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Winter Solstice

During our visit to Lummi, we were so fortunate to take part in a Solstice Celebration that my cousin, Emily, has developed over the years. Some Scandinavian traditions have been interwoven with it, becoming a combination of Solstice and Saint Lucia celebration. Ben and I found it so enjoyable and such a better way to celebrate the coming year, rather than the traditional New Year's Eve celebrations. Emily was so kind and wrote to me with much of what the celebration entails so that we may do our own celebration in the future. I thought writing a post on this would be a perfect way to remember and pass on the ideas to others. It could be modified to suit anyone's traditions, such as substituting the prayers for others more appropriate to one's beliefs. The main idea is to celebrate the changing of the seasons intentionally, rather than letting what happens outside fly by without acknowledgement. This is a very important act in this age of separation from the natural world. It also focuses on how one's life is being used and making new goals for the coming year, which is so very important to anyone on this earth. We only have a short time here. How will we use it?

Swags
The celebration begins with making a swag with any kind of tree and shrub cuttings that you pull together. I didn't get a picture of this part, but it was lots of fun with everyone picking and choosing different cuttings. These swags, often with holly in them, are used to decorate one's home during the darker time of the year when deciduous trees shed their leaves. The swags are saved and burned during the Summer Solstice celebration.

Dinner
A celebratory dinner is next on the agenda, of which we did in great style. I would think a Bûche de Noël would be a perfect dessert for this celebration.

Cleansing of the Palate 
After dinner, everyone has raspberry sorbet with a splash of bubbly, like Prosecco. We are preparing to cleanse our hearts and minds of things we need to leave behind in the year that is coming to a close.


Bonfire
Light a bonfire or fire in a fireplace and a traditional yule log may be used. Jenny McGruther writes of this traditionFor years upon years, generations celebrated the changing of the seasons. At the winter solstice when the darkness shrouded the world and daylight waned to but a few grim hours, families and tribesmen would venture out into the bleak and bitter cold winter to harvest the yule log. They’d light it afire, beckoning the return of the sun on the darkest day of the year.


Saint Lucia, Star Girl/Boy and Moon Girl/Boy
An old Germanic pagan custom in Norway had the oldest daughter in the household, dressed in white with a crown of greenery and lighted candles, deliver special cakes to her parents and elders on the morning of the Solstice. When the king declared that everyone in Norway must become Christian and adopt Christian holidays, the citizenry went on with their midwinter Yule customs, but changed the name of this custom to Santa Lucia, with the oldest daughter representing the Italian saint, Lucia, meaning light. The struggle between light and dark in Scandinavian folklore is very strong and makes sense when sunlight diminishes so dramatically in the winter at such a high latitude. This custom is now called Saint Lucia's Day and is celebrated on December 13. My aunt explained this tradition to me and said that when Emily and Marian's children were smaller, they started this custom of dressing up the children in white, with red sashes, and evergreen wreathes on their heads, making lussekatt buns (King Arthur Flour has a great recipe for St. Lucia buns) and sending the sleepy-eyed youngsters into their grandparent's bedroom to the recorded music of Santa Lucia. This continued with variations over the years and finally became part of their evening Winter Solstice celebration on December 21.


Prayers
We all come together to listen to the children read prayers. There is a ringing of the bells to quiet our minds and prepare our hearts for the ceremony.

A Sunset Prayer for Yule
The longest night has come once more,
The sun has set, and darkness fallen.
The trees are bare, the earth asleep.
And the skies are cold and black.
Yet tonight we rejoice, in this longest night,
Embracing the darkness that enfolds us.
We welcome the night and all that it holds,
As the light of the stars shine down.
~Patti Wigington



Winter Sky
The winter sky’s like velvet-deepest blue.
Sprinkled lavishly with stars like shining jewels.
It captures me, amazes me
While I gaze with heartfelt wonder
As the chilly night unfolds.
Enchanted I stand alone,
Their majestic beauty holds me
In their grasp.
I stand there gazing up,
My heart is near to bursting
With this beautiful sight.
My senses refreshed,
My spirit renewed.
I feel so blessed,
Being a part of this glorious night.



A Prayer to the Moon
Silver lady nestling in the midnight sky,
Shine your ageless wisdom upon our souls.
Guide us and nourish our spirits with your mysteries,
So that we may flourish and grow under your beauty.
Oh beautiful moon, teach us the truths we so desire,
And let us bathe in your silver aura.
Stream down your purifying light.
And uplift our minds with your magic and majesty.
So shall we honor you with our hearts.
And forever follow your illuminated path,
To the center of our souls.

Walk to the Bonfire
If you can be outside, walk to the bonfire location in as close to darkness as you can safely manage. The star girl/boy and moon girl/boy lead the way since darkness is still dominant. Lucia walks behind everyone with her crown unlit. Emily put little tea lights in small jars along the walkway and the bonfire was on the beach. It was beautiful.


Prayers continued at the Bonfire



Make Me Strong in Spirit
Make me strong in spirit,
Courageous in action,
Gentle of heart,
Let me act in wisdom,
Conquer my fear and doubt,
Discover my own hidden gifts,
Meet others with compassion,
Be a source of healing energies,
And face each day with hope and joy.
~Abby Willowroot



Count Your Blessings
I am grateful for that which I have.
I am not sorrowful for that which I do not.
I have more than others,
Less than some,
But regardless,
I am blessed with what is mine.
~Patti Wigington



A Prayer for the Beginning of Winter
See the gray skies overhead,
Preparing the way for the darkness soon to come.
See the gray skies overhead,
Preparing the way for the world to go cold and lifeless.
See the gray skies overhead,
Preparing the way for the longest night of the year.
See the gray skies overhead,
Preparing the way for the sun to one day return, bringing with it light.
~Patti Wigington


A Prayer to the Earth at Yule
Cold and dark, this time of year.
The earth lies dormant,
Awaiting the return of the sun,
And with it, life.
Far beneath the frozen surface,
A heartbeat waits,
Until the moment is right
to spring.
~Patti Wigington


Leave Behind
Flowers are dried from the summer and saved for this part of the ceremony. It is a time to think of something you wish to leave behind. Once you know what you want to leave behind, throw a dead flower stalk into the fire.


Hope for the Year Ahead
Next comes the use of sage - sage symbolizes wisdom and all that we hope for in the year ahead. Take a moment and think of the positive things you wish to focus on in the year ahead, then thrown in a piece of sage.


Read by Santa Lucia
A Prayer to the Sun
The sun is high above us
Shining down upon the land and sea
Making things grow and bloom.
Great and powerful sun,
We honor you this day
And thank you for your gifts.
You are the light over the crops,
The heat that warms the earth,
The hope that springs eternal,
The bringer of life.
We welcome you, and we honor you this day,
Celebrating your light.
~Patti Wigington



Light the Candles
Candles are passed out to everyone. The Lucia lights her candle from the bonfire and lights one person's candle. Then the light is spread on down the line until all candles have been lit.

Lucia leads us back to the house with her crown illuminated, and all our candles still lit. Before going inside, you can close the ceremony with a ringing of the bells, then blow our your candle.

The Light Returns
The morning after the Winter Solstice, each family member reads the Sunrise Prayer in their own private way.

Sunrise Prayer
The sun returns!
The light returns!
The earth begins to warm once more!
The time of darkness has passed,
And a path of light begins the new day.
Welcome, welcome, the heat of the sun,
Blessing us all with its rays.
~Patti Wigington

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this tradition. I've wanted to start a winter solstice celebration but starting from scratch is hard!

    ReplyDelete

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