Today is Winter Solstice, the first day of winter and the official start of the winter season. For the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. As the day celebrates the rebirth of the sun and beginning of winter, it is one of the oldest winter celebrations known by many cultures around the world.
Christmas traditions including dinner feasts, gift-giving, and decorative wreaths can all be traced back to winter solstice rituals. For instance, for the Celtic druids, mistletoe was a sacred plant called “All Heal.” Mistletoe was believed to cure illnesses, serve as an anecdote for poisons, ensure fertility and protect against witchcraft. Some people would hang it from their doorways or rooms to offer goodwill to visitors. Much like Christmas, Druidic holiday colors were red, green, and white. Similarly, ancient Romans would decorate their homes with holly during winter solstice. Holly wreaths were given as gifts and used as decoration in public areas and in homes to honor the sun god Saturn.
Our Yuletide or Christmastide was originally celebrated by Germanic people as Yule, a pre-Christianity religious 12 day festival. Today, some of us incorporate our Christmas traditions on the day of Winter Solstice in recognition of the day, others follow ancient traditions whole heartedly. Yule is a time to spend with friends and family, exchange gifts and honor the sun. Homes are decorated with red, green and white decorations – colors that hark back to Druidic traditions. Druids still typically celebrate the holiday at Stonehenge in England. Last year 3,500 visitors watched the sun rise and watched how it cast a line that directly connects the altar stone, the slaughter stone and heel stone. Similar celebrations take place at other ancient sites such as Newgrange in Ireland and the Cerro del Gentil pyramid in Peru.
In appreciation of the new winter season, our family set out to enjoy nature, which isn’t done often in the winter time. We enjoyed siting by a warm fire in our back yard and soaking in the elements of earth under our olive tree, fire by our outdoor hearth, water from our trickling water fountain and air by a crisp winter breeze.
I even made these pretty ice lanterns that reflect how astounding nature truly is with greenery and herbs from earth and the transformation of water.
How to Make Ice Lanterns:
- To make these ice lanterns, you simply need two different sized containers. Plastic candle jars in different sizes work very well for this.
- Fill the larger container with greenery, berries, and even slices of orange. Don’t be afraid to let the greenery stick out, it looks great.
- Place the smaller container in the larger container and make sure it is nestled in with the greenery so it won’t move. You can also use tape to secure it, but I did not see the need.
- Fill the larger container portion with water and freeze for a couple of hours or overnight (freezing time depends on how big your containers are. My lanterns only took about 2 hours.
- Once the water turns to ice, simply put your large container in hot water for half a minute and they will pop right out.
A Blessed Yule and Merry Solstice!