Winter Solstice has become my favorite time to celebrate, and specifically celebrate with my community. A while back I spend a large amount of time researching old and even ancient traditions on the different seasons that the internet would provide me. It was interesting how much of the seasonal celebration had to do with the community. The celebration would give an opportunity not just for family, but for community, neighbors, tribes to come together, gather, celebrate and give thanks.
Historically Winter Solstice shared all these things, but in addition, I found that in many cultures it hosted a simple and sometimes grand community ceremony that the town, the tribe, the community participated in to honor the significance of what happens when they come together as a group…united. Most of these gatherings had something to do with the “returning of the light” hosted on the darkest day of the year. Almost every celebration or community ceremony around the returning of the light had something to do with the power of the community.
As I read them, I got chills and tears and knew I found a tradition that I could wholely support.
One of my favorites came from an old-world community. On Winter Solstice everyone in the town would put out their candles and fires in the stoves and fireplace. They would bring their town into utter darkness. The darkness symbolized dark and destructive events that often happen specifically in a community or town, like hunger, poverty, war, and disease. The community would gather in the center of town and together as a community, with everyone’s participation build one large fire together. They would each add to the fire, each of them allowing the fire to grow bigger and bigger. The light and warmth would grow on this darkest day of the year showing how a community together can “hold back the dark.” And, as the light of fire held back the dark of the night, they celebrated together.
Ok even writing this still chokes me up, but it gets even better.
At the end of the event, each person would collect some of the community fire and bring it back to their homes to restart their home’s fire and light their candles, bringing the community back into their home as a symbol of how the community supports each other with light and warmth.
I love that this beautiful tradition of a community coming together and celebrating the power of what happens when each one participates.
A modern version of The Return of The Light ceremony is just as powerful and it's wonderful to pause and honor the power we have together as a community. It’s one we’ve done and will do this Winter Solstice. You can, too.
It begins with gathering your community, whether it is 20 or 200 or more, you gather in the evening. That already makes it fun! Once dark you turn off as many lights as you safely can.
Then one person lights one candle. If you have a fire that you put together great, but a match also works perfectly fine.
It’s good to pause here and take note of how much dark just one candle, one person, can hold back.
Then from this lit candle, another person lights their candle. Now you can see what two people with light can do to the darkness.
Proceed with each person in the gathering slowly, one at a time lights their candle. As more and more from your group, your community lights their candle, the darkness recedes. As more and more people add their light to anything the dark can’t help but back down.
The light can represent so much. Light can mean strength and warmth, but it can also mean understanding and knowledge. There are many, many ways our own community can come together and bring our individual light to hold back the darkest of days. Step one will ALWAYS be to gather, to come together.
This weekend we will celebrate and call our own community to gather for a Winter Solstice Open House. Each person attending will have a candle on the table to light when they arrive. I’m very excited to see the "glow" that this gathering will put out, out at our place and out into the world.
I wish you all a wonderful Winter Solstice. I’ll be sharing more about this season and how you can use it to prepare for Spring and a time to emerge.
Huge, big, enormous, unconditional love to you all,