Illume Winter Solstice Rituals

I wake early on a frosted morning, groggy, and reluctant to decamp from the heaps of down and linen. The air is still; all is quiet under the blanket of last night’s heavy snowfall. The earl grey sky tells me that first light will be approaching, though just as sluggish as my own motivation. I take my first big breath. Obligation gently tugs at the weft of consciousness in my mind and my reluctancy gives way responsibility. I slink out of the sheets and pull on my old sweater, waffle knit thermals, and chunky wool socks. As I shuffle through the cold house toward the kitchen, the floorboards creak in response to my movements - an echo of my own joint’s rousing. I sip on hot chai and gaze through the window to watch the dark of the night fade into the marbled white sky of a new Winter’s day. Today is Yule; the Winter Solstice. The renewed heat in my belly reminds me that despite the chill and long nights past, light, warmth, and growth will soon return.

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In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year - the climax of the darkest period. It marks the rebirth of the sun and the return of warmth. A new solar cycle begins. This extraordinary shift in nature represents a time of renewal, regeneration, and the birth of new light and beginnings. In contrast, the climax of the darkness we experience represents a time of introspection and shadow-side exploration, or the process of understanding the darkness found within. Using Mother Nature as our teacher, we learn about the patterns of life by syncing with and observing her rhythms. This year, connect to nature by celebrating the Winter Solstice with these illuminating rituals.

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Sunrise Meditation

Welcome the rising sun and new possibilities with this renewing seated meditation. Banish darkness and negative energy while filling yourself with light & love. Greeting the dawn is a wonderful way to begin your day in sync with the rhythms of nature and in touch with your own spirit.

Greet the Day Meditation

Benefits

  • Helps you let go of the past and begin anew

  • Encourages hope

  • Calms and centers you for the day ahead

When

Do this mediation outdoors at sunrise facing the East.

Preparation

Gather your chair or cushion and a blanket to keep you warm.

If it is too cold outside, do the meditation inside the warmth of your home.

  1. Find a spot facing East and take your seat just before sunrise. Take a few deep breaths and settle into a comfortable position.

  2. Bring your attention to the sounds of birds and animals stirring, the Earth below you and the sky above. Feel your own energy and be conscious that you are the meeting place where Earth meets sky.

  3. As the sky lightens in the east and the night gives was to day, let go of any sense of failure or regret. Greet the morning with tenderness and feel tenderness towards yourself and others. Acknowledge there has been loss and celebrate a new beginning.

  4. Sit in quiet contemplation until you are ready to start the day.

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Arrange An Altar

Honor the day of Yule by arranging a sacred Altar. Gather and arrange items found in nature that hold special meaning to you. You might consider including items that symbolize regeneration, the contrast between light and dark, as well as totems of the time of year. Consider including holly, pine, red cedar, a homemade wreath, cranberries, rosemary, etc. Position your Altar in a safe place where you can meditate, set an intention, or simply be reminded of the Winter Solstice symbolism.

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Gather ‘Round The Fire

Celebrate the arrival of a new solar cycle by hosting a gathering around a fire. Spark a deeper connection to nature by curating the conversation around the topic and symbolism of the Winter Solstice. Invite friends and family to your gathering , then ceremoniously light candles or a safe bonfire to begin the ritual. Use these prompting questions to facilitate a curated conversation about regeneration, renewal and self-reflection.

Questions

What light do you bring to the world?

What darkness have you moved through this year?

How have the challenges you’ve faced this year supported your growth?

If you could reinvent yourself, who would you be and what would you do?

Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

What would you like to let go of, or shed, from this past year as you move into a new year?

How do you bring positivity into your life when you are feeling down?

Whom do you admire most? In what way does that person inspire you?

What is the last thing you’ve done for the very first time?

What do you wish to welcome into your life?

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Warm with Spiced Tea

Crafting with herbs and spices is a fun way to connect to nature around the Solstice. Call warmth & renewed energy into your life by selecting your favorite spices to blend into a delicious elixir. This easy-to-make and decadent spiced latte is sure to warm you from your belly to your toes.


Vegan Spiced Masala Chai Latte


makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces

  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

  • 10 whole cloves

  • 6 green cardamom pods, cracked

  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced

  • 4 cups water

  • 2 tablespoons loose-leaf black tea, or 6 black tea bags

  • 1/2 cup sweetener, such as brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup (optional)

  • 3 cups cold non-dairy milk, such as almond, coconut, or soy (whole milk can be substituted)

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Instructions

  1. Toast the spices: Place the cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves, and cardamom in a small saucepan over medium heat and toast, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes.

  2. Brew the tea: Add the ginger and water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes.

  3. Steep the tea: Remove from the heat and add the loose-leaf tea or tea bags. Cover and steep for 10 minutes.

  4. Sweeten the tea: While the tea is still warm, add the sweetener and stir until combined or dissolved.

  5. Strain the tea: Strain the tea through a fine-mesh strainer into a pitcher or teapot. Discard the spices and tea leaves. Store in the refrigerator for future use, or keep it warm while you froth the milk.

  6. Froth the milk: For whole milk, froth the milk by shaking it in a jar or by whisking it vigorously over medium-high heat. For non-dairy milks, use an immersion blender to froth before heating.

  7. Heat the milk: Heat the frothed milk in a small saucepan over low heat until warm.

  8. Serve: Pour 3/4 cup of the warm tea base into each mug. Add 1/2 cup of warmed milk and stir to combine. Top with a heaping spoonful of milk froth. Garnish with a dash of ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

Make ahead: The tea base can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Gently reheat before frothing the milk.

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Play Outside

What better way to celebrate the return of longer, warmer days, then by playing outside in the light of day? Go for a walk, run, or bike ride adventure. If you are surrounded by snow, go skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, ice skating, or snow hiking. Embrace the fresh chilly air and get outside to explore! Make a snowman or snow angels. Go for a walk around town or a local park to enjoy the beautiful outdoors.

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Forage For A wild crafted Wreath

If you find yourself on a Winter walk this Solstice, bring a pair of gardening sheers, gloves, and a basket to sustainably forage for greenery to make your own wreath. Only select greenery that is in abundance, and be sure you are foraging on land where it is legal to cut and take flora.

The wreath symbolizes the wheel or natural calendar of the year. This ritual of foraging for plant material and crafting your own wheel is a beautiful way to connect with nature and celebrate the start of the new solar cycle.

Instructions

  1. Gather winter greenery. Sustainably source plant material for your wreath. Select a variety of colors and textures to make your wreath unique and interesting. Use reeds or flexible sticks to create your base ring.

  2. To create the ring, bend a handful of reeds into a circle and fasten firmly at the base with twine.

  3. Secure ring by wrapping twine around the circle of reeds clockwise until the entire circle is wrapped & secure. Tie off firmly at base.

  4. Add greenery by positioning one branch or stem at a time on top of your base ring. Then, wrap twine around the branches (in the same fashion as securing the ring) to secure greenery in place.

  5. Continue around the circle until you have added greenery to your liking. Fasten firmly with a knot at the base when finished.

  6. Add ribbon or any extra accessories to finish.

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How will you celebrate the Winter Solstice?

 
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