Tomorrow is the darkest day of the year. Few of us modern peeps even notice it, except maybe to draw a sigh of relief that the light will begin to return now. Even fewer actually celebrate the winter soltice.
But the older I get, the more meaningful it feels to do so. The more connected I feel to the earth, to the seasons, to the cyclical nature of life, the more natural it feels for me to somehow mark the shift from dark to light, (and back again, on Midsummer).
Where I live, in Sweden, these shifts are huge. The dark season is DARK, with a sun that barely makes it above the horizon, and in the summer, barely sets at all. Living with this kind of darkness can be challenging, but it can also be beautiful and meaningful. Even a bit magical.
Because darkness is more than the abscense of light. It can be a nurturing presence, an invitation to slow down and look inwards. To notice things we don’t see when it’s light. The starlight, the shadow world. It can be so very restful – if we heed that invitation. But we rarely do. It’s not built into our culture to let the changes of seasons affect our lives like that, to allow for slow periods, for hibernation and gestation.
Well, you know my thoughts on this. Our culture has got it all wrong and I want to do it differently. Celebrating the winter solstice is part of it.
And I know Christmas is around the corner. The last thing you might want is another thing on your to do-list. But it doesn’t have to be like that. It can be simple, a noticing, a conscious slowing down and noticing.
It can be a moment in the evening when the house is quiet, to turn off the lights and light a candle. A moment spent pondering what you’re leaving behind in the dark, and what you’re inviting in as you move into the light.
I’ve done it like that for a few years. Just me, a private little ceremony. But this year I felt like inviting the rest of the family and make it a part of our holiday season. Let it be the start of Yuletide. In doing so, we’re also removing some of the extreme focus on Christmas Eve. You know, the months of build up to that one day. It’s stressful, not just for us adults who are making it happen, but for the kids as well.
So, this is what will happen in our home tomorrow:
1. No electrical light in the house for the entire day. Only candles and fire (the Christmas tree exempted, see below) in order to really experience and rest in the dark. No computers or phones.
2. In the afternoon when the kids are back from school, we’ll decorate the Christmas tree. The lights from the tree will be the exception to the rule of no electrical light, because Christmas trees are magical.
3. we’ll light a fire , inside or outside depending on weather. (The fire represents the returning light but you don’t have to make a thing of it if you don’t want to, kids love a good fire regardless).
4. We’ll write what we’re letting go of and what we’re inviting in on litte scraps of paper and throw it into the fire.
5. We’ll have a simple, picnic style feast lit by all the candles we can find in the house. Nothing that needs to be cooked since the kitchen is a bit dark.
6. We’ll end it all with a sleepover on the living room floor, in front of the fireplace. Just bring out some matresses and sleep the whole family together in the dark. Yep, this one was requested by the kids. 🙂
Nothing fancy, nothing expensive, no big party. Just us, spending some very special time together before the rush of Christmas. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Wishing you a blessed Yule, whichever way you do (or don’t do) it.