Celebrating Winter Solstice

Each year, as autumn gives way to the chill of winter, we see less and less of the sun. The hours of nightly darkness grow steadily longer until we reach the Winter Solstice. This is the tipping point; the longest night of the year. Each day after the Winter Solstice will give us just a bit more light as our planetary path brings us closer to our sun's life-giving warmth.

Nearly as far back as as we know, people have celebrated the Winter Solstice, often with evergreen boughs, feasting and light. For many, the time has also evolved as a period of reflection. It is a good time to take stock of the things we truly need in life (e.g. the sun) and put more petty matters into perspective.

In our house, we have a Winter Solstice tradition that is based on the idea of annual reflection. To start, we are each given three sheets of paper. A large bowl is placed in the middle of the table, along with a set of colored pencils. Each piece of paper has a special purpose. The first two are for reflecting on the past year; the third is for looking toward the future.

On the first piece of paper, we each draw a picture of something we accomplished during the past year. It can be a small thing or something large. It can be one thing or several. The drawings don't have to be perfect, they just have to represent our accomplishments. (Ours tend to be funny stick figures and guessing what they are is half of the fun!)

When we are all finished drawing, we take turns showing our pictures and describing our proud moments. Everyone listens and congratulates the others. Sometimes the discussion leads to remembering a few more accomplishments we had forgotten.

The second piece of paper is for letting go. Everyone thinks back over the past year, then we all write down something that made us feel bad about ourselves. Maybe it was mistake we made, or something we regret doing or saying. Maybe we're having trouble letting go of a hurtful comment from someone else.

With this second piece of paper, everyone has an option to talk about the thing that bothered them or keep it private. We generally prefer to think about it quietly, but anyone who wants to talk about it is allowed, and encouraged. When we are ready, it's time to let go. (This is the kids favorite part!)

We all tear our second papers into tiny pieces and toss them into the bowl in the center of the table. The shredded bits are then thrown in the trash--Although this year, we've graduated to burning the papers (carefully, outside, in a proper metal bowl).

The third piece of paper is for looking forward. This time, we all draw a picture of something we would like to do in the next year. It can be a goal or just something we are looking forward to, like a vacation or special event. When we're finished, we go around the table showing our plans for the future.

By the time we are finished, we are each left with images of pride in our past actions and hope for the future. We have also thought about past hurts and together let them go.

Our Winter Solstice celebration doesn't involve presents or piles of candy (though it does usually happen between dinner and dessert!), but it's a fun tradition we can share together.

While it's tempting to bring out last year's pictures, we never do. Through the course of the year priorities shift and new goals arise. And that's okay. Our Winter Solstice drawings aren't about accountability; they are about reflecting on our lives and sharing a few moments of pride and hope.

Have a Happy Winter Solstice!

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