It’s almost winter and in most of North America, the frenzy of holiday shopping and travel has arrived. But besides the commercial chaos that can deplete us in the coming months, our natural instincts when the days grow darker are to become more quiet and introspective. The first day of winter—winter solstice, on December 21—celebrated as yule in Pagan traditions, has been a time for cultures throughout history to go inward, create meaningful rituals to nurture the soul and cultivate deeper relationships to friends and family. Here are some ideas to create your own rituals around the shortest day and longest night of the year.

1. Illuminate your shadow.

Reflect on your whole self, including the parts that you keep hidden from others. Ask yourself, What am I ready to let go of and leave in the dark? Bring it to light by journaling or opening up to loved ones in a sacred circle. “By inviting these unconscious, disowned parts into the conscious realm, we release the negative charge that wreaks havoc in our lives,” says spiritual counselor Abdi Assadi, author of Shadows on the Path.The power of this simple act of acknowledgment is profound,” he says. “It opens a door of communication between the conscious and unconscious mind.” Use a Book of Shadows Tarot deck to explore how unconscious beliefs and energies manifest on the material plane.

2. Create a yule altar with symbols of the season.

During the winter months, ancient cultures made offerings when the sun dipped below the horizon to ensure it would return each day. A yule altar is the place to honor the return of the sun. Light a golden, silver or yellow candle and reflect on your intentions. Create a shrine of objects found in nature such as pine cones or berries, and cleanse your space with sweetgrass or sage. Make a wreath of evergreen boughs representing the continuity of life. If you have a tree, this is a good time to add ornaments shaped like a sunburst or garlands of shimmering stars.

3. Build a sacred meditation space.

Find a comfortable meditation cushion and set in on top of or among winter-colored fabric such as: white, considered the color of purification; red, the color of passion and prosperity; blue, representing depth and stability; and green, representing harmony and fertility. Sit and watch the sun rise or set on December 21 and connect with everything around you.

4. Write in a journal.

Dedicate a journal to the winter solstice and make a list of loving wishes for friends, family, co-workers, perhaps the earth and all of living beings. Then write down intentions for the new year. In Richard Heinberg’s Celebrate the Solstice: Honoring the Earth’s Seasonal Rhythms through Festival and Ceremony, he writes that “wisdom consists in knowing one’s place in any given cycle, and what kinds of action (or restraint of action) are appropriate for that phase.”

5. Create a circle of candlelight.

Gather friends and family for a solstice celebration and light one large pillar candle inside a glass cloche to hold a golden crystal or pillar candle representing the sun to symbolize the power of oneness. Also light a candle for each guest and have them blow out their candle and offer gratitude to the warmth and light of the sun. Share some eggnog and cookies. When you’re finished, blow out the sun candle.

Here Are a Few More of Our Favorite Winter Solstice Offerings

White Spirit Feather with Rose Quartz Orb

Velvet Mini Journal (Blank)

Amethyst Pendulum with Gemstone Handle and 8″ Chain
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About the author

Justine Amodeo is a contributing editor to Bodhi Tree and the editor of Pacific Coast Magazine and Montagemagazine.com. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, and has been a student of Kashmir Shaivism and the Feminine Wisdom Tradition work of Nisha Bhairavi for many years.