“This is the solstice, the still point of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold and unlocking, where the past lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door of a vanished house left ajar.” – Margaret Atwood
The winter solstice comes tomorrow, how do you celebrate this time of year?
The Winter solstice (for us here in the Northern Hemisphere) falls on December 21st this year. The solstice is the longest night, and shortest day of the year. It marks the beginning of winter, and the coldest weather – but it also marks the return of the sun, and the truest turning of the year.
The days will grow in length again, steadily through the next six months until they once again begin to bow out to the dominance of night time following the Summer solstice (look forward to it Thursday, June 21st in 2018)
The Winter solstice is the day of the year that the earth is tilted on its axis the furthest it will face away from the sun. Because of this, on the flip side, the Southern hemisphere experiences its summer solstice on this day, and their winter solstice in June.
Head over to the National Weather Service’s page and learn more!
Holidays and History
Cultures the world over have long centered many of their holiest days and celebrations around the solstices and equinoxes, for good reason. In observation and honor of the turning of the seasons, and the way the behavior of the world flows, older cultures were far more in tune with nature. These celebrations are now thickly coated with the plasticized superficial preferences of our larger and more corrupt societies; but their roots remain thoroughly embedded in the deep places of the earth.
The widespread traditions of decorating with pines and lights stems from the early Pagan and Germanic Celebrations of Yul. The conversion of these societies to christianity was facilitated by the adoption and integration of existing traditions and beliefs.
Santa has his roots in Odin, the concepts of the Holly and Oak Kings. Ornaments, the yule log, lightening candles (hanging lights) – all have their origins in the celebration of The Winter solstice and the return of the sun.
Hanukkah also carries the theme of light, though its tradition is quite a bit more original than the adopted Christian customs. (and stems from rising out of oppression rather than the direct result of oppression, but that’s none of my business…..)
“That’s what Hanukkah is about: trying to survive the darkness on the far-fetched hope there’s still some life and light left in the universe. It’s more than just a religious story. The days have been growing shorter, imperceptibly but inescapably darker…. Heading into the night of the winter solstice, every spiritual tradition has some kind of festival of light. We’re all just whistling in the dark, hoping against hope that someone up there will see these little Hanukkah candles and get the hint.” – Lawrence Kushner
The list goes on – but no matter what religion your subscribe to, there’s always more room as we enter into the gloomiest time of year for more celebration. It is well known that this time of year is incredibly difficult emotionally for the vast majority of people. Why not spend a little extra time celebrating everything you can? I really recommend tuning in to the natural world and taking some time, even if it is just a brief moment, to observe and celebrate the winter solstice.
Celebrating the Solstice
Get outside! Do something to stimulate your blood flow, do something to stimulate your brain. This time of year represents a rebirth, so look back on your year and plan for the one ahead.
Tomorrow will be a full day for me, and I’ve been struggling to figure out how I’m going to find some time aside for a quiet moment of thought. There are few better activities to facilitate reflection, and appreciation, than a giant ass mug of earthy home brewed tea. And there is always time for tea.
I’m a big fan of Pine needle tea for its comforting aroma and huge amount of vitamin C. I make a variety of Pine needle based teas pretty frequently, the ingredient list changing with the individual need and purpose. I’ve got a friend that calls these brews ‘Witch Tea’, and I guess it must be so, because it is genuinely pretty fricken magical.
This particular combination is a little more heavily ‘themed’ for the solstice. It is strictly herbal, but goes incredibly well with green tea leaves if you’re looking for caffeine and an even wider variety of antioxidants. Put the water on to boil and steep yourself a big mug of this solstice tea, and make a literal toast to your health, and the coming year!
Check out some facts and health benefits you’ll get from these ingredients first! There is a (somewhat vague) recipe card below.
Pine needles are FULL of vitamin C! For a monstrous boost to your immune system, pick young needles from a host of healthy trees. Right around of cup full of needles is the perfect amount. If your needles are particularly long, chop them up. Crush and roll fresh needles prior to steeping for the greatest release of their oils. I wrote an entire article on the benefits of coniferous trees, it includes more information than I will write in this little snippet. Click that link for more information, as well as a list of species you should avoid when foraging. Pregnant women should use caution!
Spearmint, like most mints, is wonderful and powerful. It is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory. Aside from the fresh lovely flavor, spearmint can be good for soothing headaches, anxiety, nausea, and reducing inflammation. It is a calming but uplifting herb ( and probably one of my favorite scents)
I wrote about Rosemary too! This is one of my favorite plants for so many reasons. In tea, it helps to improve circulation, cognitive function, and digestion. It is anti-inflammatory, and full of antioxidants.
Rosemary is a classic holiday scent, and compliments the fresh earthy sweetness of pine and spearmint very well.
Chamomile is so calming it can even be applied topically to help soothe disturbances on your skin. Drinking it in a tea is centering, calming, and good for your health (catching a theme here?) It can help soothe your entire body, and boost your immune system (so many themes! Its almost like I’m hinting that our immune systems are compromised this time of year or something…)
Follow this link and read a genuinely interesting article about chamomile tea
Optionally, add a touch of sweetness with raw unfiltered honey that is local to you – just another super pleasant boost for your immune system!
Winter Solstice themed herbal tea for a strong immune system boost
- 1 cup young Pine Needles, fresh, crushed
- To taste dried Spearmint Leaves
- To taste dried Rosemary Leaves
- To taste dried Chamomile Flower
- 3 cups water
- Pick young pine needles from healthy trees, crush and roll needles, chop into two inch sections if desired
- Bring water to rolling boil, remove from heat
- Add all ingredients to water, cover
- Steep until pine needles have fallen to the bottom.
- Strain into mug and enjoy!
Measure ingredients to fit personal preference. Steep longer for stronger tea. If desired, add green tea leaves after pine needles have sunk and steep for two-three minutes Stir in desired amount of raw unfiltered local honey after tea is safe temperature to drink
Let me know how you like this tea! Join me in conversation in the comments below! Tell me about how you celebrate this time of year, and your goals for the coming year!
Now, for the disclaimer – I am not a vet, adventure guide, personal trainer, doctor, nutritionist, or medical authority, this is meant to be only a source of information and inspiration, implementing these techniques into your daily life is something you do of your own free will and at your own risk.
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