The Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, is the longest night of the year and the official start of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and it is meant to celebrate the returning of the sun. Honoring ancient traditions like this one in recent years has actually helped me to appreciate all of the seasons throughout the year so much more. I’m a person who is almost always cold so I’ve always despised winter, but now that is changing. I have enjoyed really embracing time, seasons, and moon cycles as a way of being mindful and developing gratitude for everything the year has to offer.
I learned this past Spring that one of my spirit guides is a Bear – so this year I’m taking a page out of the Bear’s book and honoring the Winter as a time for rest, recovery, planning, and preparing for the warmer months ahead. It is a beautiful time in which nature forces us to take cover indoors – it is only natural to use this time for inner-work. I’m taking time to deepen my yoga and meditation practice, develop my business, focus on my goals and dreams, and manifest good things for our future.
All of that is to say that I wanted to embrace the Winter Solstice this year by making a traditional Yule Tree. You might have already guessed that this is the pre-Christian tradition that was the original inspiration for the Christmas Tree. Although traditionally Winter Solstice or Yule Trees were evergreen trees, because they represent continual life – I don’t have any of those in my yard so I had to make do with the Rose of Sharon next to my front porch.
The Winter Solstice trees would be decorated with coins or trinkets that represent wishes for the New Year. The trees could also be covered with fruits, nuts, and different natural things to feed the birds as we enter the longest night and coldest time of year. This also resonates deeply with me because I inherited a passion for taking care of birds from my father and grandfather. And although my Grandpa is no longer with me on this earth, I definitely felt connected to him while decorating my tree.
To decorate my tree I sliced some oranges and hung them with some jute cord I had around the house. Then I made these apple bird feeders by slicing some large apples, spreading peanut butter on the flat surface, and pressing sunflower seeds on the peanut butter. Then I poked a hole through the apple so I could put some jute cord through and hang them on the tree with the orange slices.
As I hung my little offerings on my tree – I meditated on my gratitude for my ability to spare these fruits to feed the animals in need. I sent love and light to my relatives and ancestors that are passed and to my friends and family that are still living. I also took time to appreciate the earth and the inspiration it provides us to continue on, no matter how dark or difficult things may be.
Luckily this tree is close to where I have all of my bird feeders set up already. The birds are already accustomed to coming to this area of the yard and gathering in this little tree. I love hearing their songs outside my window even as the snow falls and it gets colder outside.
Don’t forget the little critters that can’t fly! I spread some smaller apple slices and loose sunflower seeds on the ground to feed the animals that can’t fly but still need extra food and warmth for the long winter ahead.
Looking for other ideas on how to celebrate the solstice this year? Throw a feast or party, burn a yule log, hang mistletoe and holly, decorate your home with red, green, and white, or bake some gingerbread. If that is starting to sound a lot like Christmas, you are not far off – many Christmas traditions were originally based upon Winter Solstice or Yule celebrations.
How are you honoring the Winter Solstice this year? Have you ever done anything to recognize this day of the year before? I would love to hear your traditions.
Sending love and light to all of you this holiday season,