Making Magic This Winter Solstice
If you are one of the many who is already adorning your house with pine cuttings and the holly or cranberries, mistletoe, pinecones and chestnuts then you are one of the many who love to bring the olde time magic of the winter solstice into your lives! It is no wonder that a key ingredient for experiencing a magical winter solstice is to remember the seemingly endless bounty of nature by decorating our homes with the enticing greens and reds during the starkest time of year.
By adding sprigs of evergreen and holly to your mantle, railings and tabletops, you are setting a magical and heartwarming atmosphere while also honoring the spirit of the Holly King, a pre-cursor to Santa Claus. Sinter Klaas was once his name and he came with his magical horse bearing gifts of food and clothing to those children in need.
Surely winter draws upon our sensibilities as we notice more distinctly the haves and the have nots. A season of giving is not coincidentally corresponding with winter. In the Buddhist tradition, beginning Bodhi Day, Buddhists meditated and practiced acts of kindness towards other beings for 30 days. And did you know that the hanging of jeweled or shiny balls on a tree brought indoors was practiced on Bodhi day? The Buddhists also hung strings of beads on a Fichus or Peepal tree to represent the connection of all things.
Cut snowflakes in paper, coat them with glue and glitter and pieces of mirror and foils and hang them in sunny windows to cause reflections and glints of light to enter during the cold winter. This is reflecting the sun’s light into your home which is believed to bring good cheer and fortune!
Some European families would make moon cookies and coat them with confectioner’s sugar. They are made from ground almonds, butter and flour and shaped into crescent moons and baked. These would be eaten with jelly on midwinter night and some left out for Sinter Klaas’ magical flying horse. This bit of magic is shared in many old religions. Leaving offerings on the mantle for loved ones was common in many traditions!
The Romans practiced a period of celebration, giving and playfulness in the mid-winter called Saturnalia, aptly named after one of their gods. Saturn, the mythological all father figure represented time and a time of peace and prosperity, although these attributes were not his most famous and came later, in more modern interpretations, leading to all out party going in December! Families decorate their homes with palm fronds, cut herbs and branches. Small objects representing their gods were hung from trees outside. Parties with games are thrown. Inviting others into to your home, feeding them and bestowing gifts was considered a compliment towards those in attendance and recognized as philanthropy, honoring Saturn himself. Maybe our act of hosting holiday parties to our loved ones and staff is a ripple of an Old Italian tradition.
A Magical Mid-Winter
There are three magical customs stemming from old European and Germanic tribes that have not just withstood time but have left an indelible mark on modern winter holiday practices. The hanging of wreaths, decorating with evergreen and kissing under the mistletoe are all magical acts. These symbols represent the wheel of the year (wreath), the god himself, everlasting and unending (evergreen), and the Goddess as procreation through love (Mistletoe). The wreath is hung to represent the cycle of life and the Yule log is burned and pine boughs brought inside to represent the coming of the god, as we have reached our shortest day of the year, Midwinter. Mistletoe was hung as a representative of the feminine and rebirth, as well as a ward against evil. So important! So kissing under the mistletoe was believed to gain favor from your loved one and ensure fertility!
There are many beautiful ways to experience a truly magical winter solstice. Simply by going into the woods, looking for offerings from the natural world, giving thanks and adorning our homes with these perfect ornaments we can bring true holiday cheer without spending a paycheck!
With every act of decorating a tree, cutting a sprig of pine, searching for fallen nuts and leaves, cutting a snowflake, we can find magic and beauty by understanding our perceptions of what these actions represent. Living a magical life and having a magical winter solstice is easy to grasp when we become ever conscious of the simple acts, why they are important and therefore, why they are repeated every year. We have made it half way through the winter, there is great hope and cheer! And now, every day gets a bit longer and warmer as we approach midsummer, and begin the cycle again.
Happy Holidays! ~ Kim Anderberg, for Kheops International
The Old Magic of Christmas, By Linda Raedisch
Yule: Rituals, Recipes & Lore, By Susan Pesznecker
The Art of Happiness, The Dalai Lama