Happy Winter Solstice! This year it is December 21, 2019. On this longest night of the year – rich with history, culture, and story – join me on a Solstice Walk!
As the “holiday season” ramps up, taking (or perhaps making) a time out can be so beneficial. Remember fun times can be stress inducing too, so to help keep cool as a cucumber throughout the week from Solstice through New Years, find ways to slow and soothe the stress response.
Taking a solstice walk is one such way. It can be done solo or with a group, with lights, with cameras, sketchbooks, or just your own sense of wonder! And isn’t it enjoyable to get out and do something outside at a time when you may not otherwise?
When the days grow shorter and colder, we tend nestle up indoors, but when we prepare properly (the right clothing, safety lights, etc.) getting out on the longest night can be a ton of fun.
Taking a walk may not change the stresses that seem to come along with the time of year, but it can change our emotional state and response to it – increasing our emotionally focused coping skills. And hey, a good dose of quieting and relaxation helps us avoid binging on junk food too! (Although if it’s Lagusta’s Luscious chocolates I say eat with no abandon!)
Some benefits of walking 30 minutes a day are:
*Increases heart and lung health
*Improved management of hypertension (aka stress)
*Relieves joint and muscle stiffness
*Increases strength and endurance
*Boosts the immune system
*& Improves mood
All wins I’d say – and that list doesn’t even include the benefits of spending time in nature!! Now, combine all the benefits of simply walking with a special day of the year like Solstice and you have the recipe for a great reason to get out and take a walk!
Wonder Wednesday 88:
Take a Solstice Walk
A solstice walk is an activity that can be turned into a fun nature ritual for both winter and summer solstice. It gets us out observing and connecting with our natural world on days of the year that have been honored since humans evolved!
The sun is the giver of all life on Earth, so it makes sense that humans would celebrate it in it’s short and long forms as it travels across the sky and back day after day and year after year.
On the days up to the winter solstice, some of the earliest humans would engage in strict rituals of fasting and bathing in rituals of mortal sorrow – including slaying their own kings and sacrificing animals! They believed that this sacrificing of humans and animals to the sun would relieve the larger group from another year of possible death.
Then, once the sun began to move in the sky again, on the day after the solstice, they would celebrate! Huge feasts and parties would ensue. They believed that once the sun resumed traveling across the sky again, and the days became longer day by day, the parties reunited the humans, earth, and sky.
The only sacrifice activity may require is one to bundle up, get outside, and enjoy the wonders of the longest night of the year!
Weather appropriate clothing
Any lantern or light devices needed to make the activity safe in the chosen walk location
Bird seed or seed/suet blocks
Optional: Cameras, candles, sketchbooks, a thermos of hot tea (see the link below for a special Sorrel drink recipe), a special snack or anything else that will make this special!
Plan your walk location – Will you go to a park, around your own yard, a farm, a woodland trail, the beach?
Plan a special treat for when you return from your walk. Perhaps citrus themed cookies, pies, or fresh fruit to celebrate the sun. (Like in the Sun Egg story.)
What items will you need to be physically comfortable in the location chosen for the walk? Gather them.
In the week leading up to the walk, to get everyone up to speed and excited about why solstice is a special and fun time to celebrate, read stories and myths about the winter solstice such as:
- The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World of the Winter Solstice by Carolyn McVickar Edwards
- Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson
- The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer
Or Summer Solstice:
- The Longest Day: Celebrating the Summer Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer
- The Summer Solstice: Celebrating the Journey of the Sun from May Day to Harvest by John Matthews
- Under Alaska’s Midnight Sun by Deb Vanasse
Start your walk just before dark so you can see the visible change from light to dark.
Feel free to move briskly and imagine channelling sun’s energy to fuel internal warmth.
As you walk, look for signs of seasonal change such as leaves fallen, stores of seeds, broken twigs, exposed nests in trees.
Also, look for the evergreen trees that stay green all winter. These held great significance historically for humans. They would create wreaths and decorate their homes with the evergreen branches (sound familiar?) as well as make vitamin C rich teas and tonics from them.
As you walk, talk about the things you love about the dark, about winter, about each other even!
Explore areas and discoveries that may look different at night than in the day. Shine your lights or lanterns up into the trees? Do you see anything unusual? how do the branches look illuminated against the dark sky?
Savoring the Moment
Gather in a spot everyone likes and make a circle of light. It’s particularly culturally significant to the season, and nice, if the area involves a lovely tree that can be incorporated into the ritual. (You can even incorporate ideas from the Tree Ceremony Activity into this if you like. See the Seeds to Sprout below for a link.)
If appropriate, you can bring candles, turn off any lanterns or flashlights, and light the candles at this time. Enjoy the flickering warmth of the candles, take a few deep breaths of the fresh cold air, and: sing a favorite song, share a discovery made on the walk, tell a story or recite a poem, and have a snack together (how about some candied citrus peels from Wonder Wednesday 87?), and even share a little handmade gift if you like. Then, one by one, make a wish aloud or silently and blow out the candles.
(Participants can prepare for the chosen activity in the weeks leading up while enjoying stories, histories, and science about solstice.)
Then to close, before you leave the gathering space, sprinkle bird seed on the ground for winter hungry birds and small mammals and if you like also place suet blocks up in the trees. Sprinkle it in a solstice star design, in a ring around a tree, or however you like!
Resume your walk back and if appropriate, collect a few small nature items to bring back home or school to place in a solstice collection bowl or decorate with.
Return home and have a party with sun themed treats and even some fun crafts. (Check out the 7 Ways to Celebrate Winter Solstice Post link below!)
For adolescents, this activity may be a bit of a harder sell, so let them use their phones to take photos of the event. Encourage them to get creative with lantern and candle light rather than using a flash. Then, let them create a slide show to music for everyone to watch and enjoy.
If they are in to cooking or baking, let the adolescents be in charge of planning and preparing the treats for the walk and for returning home.
What do you love most about the winter? Do you have any solstice rituals?
Share in the comments below!
Share pics from your solstice celebrations and traditions on Instagram #wingswormsandwonder
Seeds to Sprout:
Check out these links for more great ideas to incorporate into your solstice celebrations
Make Sorell Drink – a Caribbean favorite for the holidays time of year. A perfect treat with Citrus Glitter Cookies for when you return home (recipe by my fave chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz)