The Longest Night: How Our Family Celebrates Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

‘Tis the season of holiday celebrations for those of all religions, faiths, and spiritual beliefs. This month, so many important holidays are celebrated, from Hanukkah to Christmas, and the sacred Pagan holiday of the Winter Solstice, or the longest night of the year. This day also kicks off the time of year known as Yule.

In our family, we teach Mia to respect and appreciate the beliefs of everyone, and try to ensure and she is exposed to enough to forge her own path and choose the belief system that resonates the most with her. Many of the practices and perspectives we that really hit home for us coincide with Pagan beliefs, and one of these is the winter solstice, which celebrates the phases of the moon and the changes of the seasons as part of their roots in the divinity of Nature.

I learned about these ceremonies and traditions from my wife, so I asked her to take the reins on this one and give you all a rundown of how we celebrated the Winter Solstice last night. I hope you enjoy!

Solstice Tree

One of the traditions in pagan Solstice celebrations is the solstice tree.  Pagans believed that trees carried all of the ancient wisdom in the world, so they’re sacred on their own without anything added from us. It makes sense though, can you think of much in this world that’s older than some of the gorgeous trees you see?

Pagans decorate solstice trees with fruits and other foods that will help to sustain animals through the winter.  Because everything is connected in the Pagans’ world, and the core rule upon which the whole practice is built is “harm no one”, Pagans believe it to be just as important to help sustain life in the wild as they do to help to sustain life at home and in their families.  One practice is to attach prayers, or intentions, to the food with the belief that as the animals eat it and travel, the prayers get incorporated into the wheel of life (the whole concept of connection again).

How to make prayer bundles.

So last night, we used corn meal to make prayer bundles.  As we made each bundle, we attached a prayer or intention to it.  We then tied them all together (connection and just prettier decoration ;)).  Then each of our family members stood at a cardinal direction around our solstice tree holding a portion of the long strand of prayer bundles.  The cardinal directions are important to Pagans, because each one represents one of the elements.  The elements are incorporated into almost every tradition and ritual in Paganism.

Prayer bundles

How we make prayer bundles.

North represents the Earth (often signified by the color green).  South represents Fire (red).  East represents Air (yellow).  West represents Water (blue), and Center represents the Spirit (White).  For us in our ritual, the tree is at the center because not only are trees sacred to us, but our prayers are now there, which we believe are divine.  We said a prayer.  Sometimes we say one out loud, and sometimes we all say individual silent ones.  Last night we sort of said silent ones.  And we each laid our parts of the prayer bundle strand on the tree.

Mia started a cool part of the tradition last night by asking to sing a song once the prayers were on the tree!  I’m hoping that sticks!

How our family celebrates solstice.

The last thing we do is put peanut butter all over the tree, which is really just to make sure the animals are attracted to it throughout the season, so they know where to look for the sustenance.

Throughout the winter, we watch various animals visit the tree and take things away from it, and hopefully enjoy the nutrients they need.  At the Spring Equinox,  we burn whatever is left of our tree with gratitude so that any of the prayers or intentions that didn’t get incorporated into the universe can enter the air and be carried away that way.  Pagans believe that we are our own destiny makers, so putting energy, prayers, intentions out into the universe attracts back what we want.  The practice of the prayer bundles and solstice tree is simply the physical act of putting our energy into the universe to create the life we want.

Many Pagan groups burn fires through the whole night of solstice to signify light even in the longest night, and drink mead and tell stories.  Solstice is a celebration of death (letting go, shedding negativity, etc), rebirth, and always incorporates family time. We had a special family member join us last night for our Solstice celebration, and it meant so much for her to share this special time with us.


Do any of your celebrate Winter Solstice or Yule? I’d love to hear what your traditions are!

As always, thanks so much for reading and being part of our lives!


Beth Ann

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