For the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year, when the Sun is at its lowest elevation in the sky and when one of the Earth's poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun. Although the winter solstice itself lasts only a moment, the term sometimes refers to the day on which it occurs. Other names are "midwinter", the "extreme of winter" (Dongzhi), or the "shortest day”. It is possible to observe the winter solstice without the use of technology since the sun appears to stand still in the sky, which is precisely the meaning of solstice.
Since prehistory, the winter solstice has been seen as a significant time of year in many cultures and has been marked by festivals and rituals that celebrate the symbolic death and rebirth of the Sun. The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days. Because the event was seen as the reversal of the Sun's ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common.
Traditions that surround natural phenomena will always be important because they recognize that our place in nature is bound inextricably with that of the cycles of the natural world. We observe the shortest day of the year with reverence for the sun and we seek to honor it with fires and candles for warmth and light that have been dampened by its seeming death. We also celebrate its resurrection, for with it, a sense of hope returns, marked by longer days and warmer times.
In our own lives, the winter solstice is a reminder that light and dark are carried within us also and the duality of our lives bear no inherent virtue or vice. Both light and dark are equally important and we spend the winter season moving inward to become intimate with the depths of our souls. This is a time for quiet contemplation, inner healing, and getting to know our shadows. It is a time for looking ahead to brighter days and making commitments to ourselves about what it is we would like to manifest in our lives. It is a time to resurrect the lightness of our being and to meet ourselves anew. We honor the dark so that we can move into the light with grace and authenticity and so that we do not become consumed by one over the other. May you manifest what you want in your life and may you be blessed on this winter solstice. We hope you find ways to honor the dark and to give thanks for the resurrection of the sun that brings with it the light.