The Winter Solstice is a difficult holiday for me. My own experiences with growing up Christian and my more recent experiences of religious decorations in the workplace for “the holidays” have made the time of year (in the Northern Hemisphere at least) difficult for me to feel very festive. I am still struggling with how to connect with this holiday ADF style. My work with Brighid lends itself to a Celtic (Gaelic) hearth, which doesn’t necessarily have set traditions for solstices and equinoxes as far as I know. I’ve been so focused on the Fire Festivals for the last few years that it’s a bit of a challenge to incorporate the entire Wheel of the Year into a personal practice again.
In our blended faith household that means putting up the Christmas tree and decorating the altar with Christmas lights. My spouse focuses on the more explicitly religious meanings and themes of the holiday, meaning we have references to Jesus but not Santa, and the Christmas carols we listen to are more “Mary, Did You Know?” and less “Jingle Bell Rock.” It mean sprucing up the altar with a new layout and making cookies and other delicious things together. (Well, they cooked. I ate. But somebody has to do it!)
To me, the Winter Solstice is that moment of quiet-in-the-dark where we can turn to gently congratulate each other on making it this far. For those of us who really hate the dark and the cold (and this year’s winter in NYC is proving to have ample amounts of both those qualities), the solstice is the moment when we know every day thereafter will have just a little more light. It is a holiday of hope, but not necessarily in the warm and fuzzy way I see multiple traditions interpreting it. It’s about being at that darkest point and knowing that things are still going to be rough for a few more months, but deciding you’re going to hang in anyway. It’s a long term hope, that if we survived this far into the dark then maybe we’ll survive that much farther coming out of it.