Winter Solstice: A Family Celebration

There's a lunar eclipse on the winter solstice 2010
There’s a lunar eclipse on the winter solstice 2010

There’s a lunar eclipse tonight. It’s also the night some folks are celebrating winter solstice (while others will celebrate tomorrow, when the calendar says it’s solstice). There’s a special magic to the pairing of the winter solstice and the lunar eclipse, which Starhawk shares with the Washington Post.

For my family, and lots of others, the winter solstice is a major holiday every year. We’re Pagan, and our holidays follow the changing seasons.

Winter Solstice, or Yule, is a holiday for most of the earth-based or modern Pagan traditions. My Pagan family celebrates this festival o ight with an all-night vigil, or party. Obviously, this is my kids’ favorite holiday. They don’t really stay up all night, but it’s the one night a year they don’t have a bedtime.

This year, we’ll be hoping to get a peek at the full moon during our celebration. Hopefully that will make up for missing the cloud-covered lunar eclipse we’d hoped to see tonight.

Here in Boston, we’re enjoying the first snowfall of the year instead of the spectacle of a lunar eclipse.

On solstice night, we gather with a group of friends, family and loved ones. We light a fire at sunset, and keep it going through the longest night of the year. We often play music, tell stories and light candles of prayer on our winter altar. Together, we tend the fire through the darkness, and greet the new sun with song and fresh-baked bread.

Winter solstice is a time to reflect on the past year, celebrate the connections we share in the present, and look ahead to the coming year. It’s when Witches set intentions for the New Year, not that different from the New Year’s Resolutions a lot of us will make a week later.

For the kids, its a chance to connect with friends and feel included in community. They make simple crafts like beeswax candles and beaded jewelry. They help bake bread. They play in the snow at night and wear jammies and fall asleep in their godmother’s arms listening to dad playing guitar.

If we get a few inches of snow sticking through tomorrow, we’ll add snow candles to our list of winter solstice activities. These are fun and easy to make: just pour hot wax into the snow and dip a wick into it as it cools. You’ll get a candle shaped like the melting snow, a great solstice keepsake.

Does your family celebrate the solstice? What traditions do you cherish for the longest night of the year?

Photo: Chad Davis

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