The Winter Solstice
The winter solstice is when the earth’s tilt is at the maximum point away from the sun and marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. It is traditionally called Yuletide. This year in the northern hemisphere it is on Thursday 21st December. It is the moment between, the point between death and rebirth, all that hidden potential. Life will start to draw upwards again from this point forward so this ancient celebration is a celebration of the birth of new life. The past, the future and the present in this moment…free from time…warm your cockles for the coming year and give thanks for the riches past: A great opportunity to connect as a family, community and celebrate each other’s company!
At the winter solstice or Christmas we naturally and subconsciously embrace herbs and spices in mulled wine, pomades, wreaths, even bringing whole trees into our houses; great medicine for the soul: All these sensory delights, protecting and nourishing us.
Making wreaths is a delightfully creative way to connect with nature over the winter, the wreath represents the circle of life and the turning of the seasons. The evergreens utilised in wreath making represent life, green even in the depths of winter.
What you’ll need: snippers, gardening gloves and a lovely open-topped basket
Go out into the wilds; woods, or canal, or park and just see what you find…
You will see what still growing, still looking vibrant after the onslaught of early winter. Pine, ivy, holly (of course, you might need your gloves for this one!), is there any mistletoe within reach? Because they are still thriving in these conditions, collecting some of the fresh sprigs and bringing them into our homes adds a sense of vibrancy to our lives.
Willow to create the circle
We use a willow whip coiled around itself as the base to attach the beautiful evergreens with garden twine or wire. We generally start with the pine, then bind and weave the ivy into it and finish with the holly décor. You can add any berries or bits and bobs that you find still out in colour to add your own flare to the creation.
This archetypal Christmas tree is fantastic providing beautifully scented lush foliage for the wreaths. Supports medicinally to keep us strong and protected from disease with all its strong resinous aroma, full of antimicrobial essential oils. Large bone fires of pine were traditionally lit to welcome back or draw up the sunshine.
Our common Ivy, Hedera helix is not the poison ivy of the Americas. It is generally used externally or for magical purposes but it is said that a handful of the bruised leaves gently boiled in wine some of its intoxication will be removed. It was revered as the poets crown in days gone by.
Ivy flowers during the long winter months and is important source of pollen for the bees. It is thus known to promote fertility and is recommended to be carried by women wanting to conceive. Ivy also represents fidelity and is still used today in hand fastenings to bind folk together in matrimony.
The holly king rules the earth from the summer solstice (mid-summer) to the winter solstice (midwinter). He shares the yearly power with his nemesis and twin, the Oak king. They battle for the goddess each year and the defeated god retires for the following 6 months to nurse his wounds. The holly king is robust and jolly but fiercely protective and honouring the holly at this time could represent courage and protection in the coming months.
Holly moves things, its leaves have been used as a diaphoretic, which means it helps you to sweat and as a diuretic. It’s great for helping things to shift at what can be a sluggish time of year. It’s a perfect solstice herb to invite into our homes.
Thanks Mother Nature
Take home what you find, giving thanks to the trees for providing and make a wreath (an old coat hanger bent out and some garden twine will do the trick), or place some on your mantelpiece or nature table. Left over seeds from autumn, sweet chestnuts, interesting stones and especially any foliage you find will add to your solstice nature area and you can add to it as the days go on.
Light a candle nearby and write down all the things you’ve enjoyed about the last year, the kids can tell you, or write it themselves and then talk about what you’d like to happen next year. Place some protective holly around these thanks and dreams. You can leave this there until you remove your seasonal decorations. I like to burn the wish list at this point to send it out there but if that’s not possible the kids can tear it up into really small bits before it goes in the bin.
When nature can seem so foreboding with freezing temperatures and deep snow, spending time outdoors can be so rewarding and bringing home a harvest of green delights even more so.