Your Guide To The Winter Solstice And How It Can Benefit You

The shortest day of the year for those in the Northern hemisphere is the winter solstice, which typically falls on December 21. This long, dark night invites us to slow down and go quietly within. Humans have long celebrated the solstice's symbolism of rebirth and a connection with nature. Over 5,000 years ago, two monuments, Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland, were built in honor of the solstice and the return of the light (via Discovery).


There's not much more natural than the inclination to hibernate like a bear during the cold, snowy winter months. So, it's a bit puzzling that we're pressured to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the modern holiday season, overextending and overspending. But if we can dodge the societal norm to go, go, go and instead settle into the magic of the winter solstice, which could really be considered the antithesis of consumerist holidays, there are endless benefits to be reaped through winter solstice rituals.

Set clear intentions for the coming year

The winter solstice is a time of looking ahead and manifesting the future your heart desires. Focus on releasing the past year and becoming new as the sunlight returns. Writing down your manifestations is thought to bring them into being quicker and the act of ritual can help solidify plans in our minds. These intentions can be small or big.


"Set an intention of what you would like to focus on during the solstice, then write your intention down and turn it into a sigil, which you'll carve into a candle," witch and energy healer Majorie Gatson of The Punk Priestess tells Bustle. "As you focus on the year ahead, your intention is burning in the background, casting that energy out into the universe. Once the spell candle is burned, pay homage to the magic that was just manifested by meditating and envisioning the new future you're trying to create." With practices like this, the next year is bound to be even better than the previous one.

Create an altar to nature

Spiritual altars are visual representations of what we hold dear, what we're grateful for, and what we wish to honor. The winter solstice is a time to reconnect with nature in a way we aren't always able. Unplug and walk outside with a basket to collect nature's gifts: pinecones, stones, juniper, or anything else that catches your eye. Place these in a sacred spot along with crystals, gold or yellow candles, herbs, and symbols of the sun (oranges, a salt lamp, or artwork). Light sage or sweetgrass to cleanse the energy around your altar.


You can also choose to add offerings that symbolize what you wish to have more of in the coming year. This could mean a few coins for financial abundance, mistletoe for romance, or perhaps feathers for freedom and possibility. After your altar is complete, light the candles and meditate on what you've gathered. Use visualization to imagine yourself living the reality you've created at your altar.

Take note of the Astrology of winter solstice

December 21 marks the first day of Capricorn season, which is all about pioneering your way and self-discipline. It's almost like there's a reason it lines up with New Year's resolutions, right? Capricorn is a cardinal sign and is known as the father of the zodiac. There are benefits to be reaped when getting in touch with your divine masculine energy, and now is the time to do it. Don't become overly ambitious, though. Focus on one goal at a time and accomplish it thoroughly with heart.


"Capricorn is all about being proactive and disciplined, so during the winter solstice, you may feel compelled to embrace these qualities," witch and energy healer Majorie Gatson of The Punk Priestess tells Bustle. Capricorn is also an earth sign, so this is the perfect opportunity to, you guessed it, connect with the earth. Get out in the mountains, walk your favorite trail, and honor the earth in whichever manner feels most natural to you.

Go on a nature walk with friends

Planning a nature hike on the winter solstice with your beloved friends and family is a beautiful way to honor the return of the light. If you have children — or even if you don't — making winter solstice lanterns with mason jars, sun and moon tissue paper cut-outs, and mod podge is the perfect way to light your solstice walk (via Mother Magazine). And while we're in the crafting realm, putting together some edible outdoor ornaments for the animals is another meaningful way to celebrate this December 21. Cranberry and popcorn garlands, birdseed ornaments, or peanut butter pine cones are all sure to be hits with the kids and the creatures.


An added benefit of the long winter solstice night is that you can enjoy a candle-lit hike when the sun sets in the late afternoon and still get the kids to sleep at their regular bedtime. Creating an outdoor sensory scavenger hike for your little ones is another great way to get them in touch — literally — with nature on the winter solstice.

Prepare food and drink to celebrate

As we've established, this pagan holiday is all about honoring the earth, so when it comes to nourishing our bodies, meals centered around winter nutrients like berries and root vegetables align just right. Carrot soup, warm brussels sprouts, homemade bread: there are a lot of avenues to take here. What's more, according to King Arthur Baking, a round shortbread cake was made on the winter solstice in honor of the sun by Scotsmen in ancient times. Who would turn that down?


Warming drinks are also particularly appropriate for winter solstice, especially as a post-nature hike treat. Wassail is a traditional winter solstice drink made of apple cider, orange juice, pineapple juice, cinnamon sticks, brown sugar, and cloves simmered over the stove together, all culminating in something healing (via Mother Magazine). The winter solstice is another feather in the cap of this ancient tradition, and as you experience rebirth in celebration of the returning light, eating, drinking, and being merry with those you love most is sure to brighten the heart even more.