Celebrating Winter

Posted Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In addition to celebrating Christmas, my family carves out a little time each December to mark the Winter Solstice, the first day of winter. Many years – like this one – the Solstice falls on my son’s birthday, so we celebrate it the day before or after. This year, the Winter Solstice is Thursday, Dec. 22.

The first day of winter is the shortest day of the year. Gradually, until the Summer Solstice in June, the days will get longer and longer. Ancient peoples celebrated this time of year because they knew the light was returning. It gave them hope for the spring.

We find inspiration in the changing of the seasons throughout the year. After the chill and growing dark of fall, we look forward to the return of the warmth and green of spring, even though there’s a lot of winter yet to pass. Celebrating Solstice keeps our family in tune with the natural patterns of the Earth.

Here are some of the ways we mark Solstice in our home. There are lots of ways to get kids involved.

Feeding the Birds. There’s little for birds to eat in the suburbs during the cold winter months, so we set out bird feeders. This year, we’re using pinecones collected throughout the year and covering them with peanut butter and birdseed. They’re hanging in the tree in front of our house.

Sharing with Others. We also make it a point to share with others, and the past several years, we’ve done this on Solstice by taking some of our holiday cookies to our neighbors. It’s fun to visit with them and see their trees, and we get to know the people in our neighborhood.

Look for Winter. If the weather cooperates, we like to walk around the neighborhood with our son and look for signs on winter: bare trees, snow, winter birds and animals, etc. It’s also a fun time to check out the decorations on our neighbors’ houses.

Decorations. A Yule log is the centerpiece of our Christmastime table. We light it before dinner and talk about the good and bad things that happened in the past year and the goals we have for the new year. Regrets from the past year are burned in a burning bowl. Our son is about to turn 4, and last year, he was able to participate in this part of the day with us by talking about what he thinks are the blessings in his life.

Special Food. Much of what we eat on Solstice is inspired by the sun. The past several years, we’ve ordered pizza for lunch – it’s round like the sun! For dinner, I cook the same thing every year. We’re vegetarian, so the main dish is a Quorn roast in an orange-garlic juice marinade (recipe below), but the original recipe calls for using the marinade on turkey. I serve a winter salad of spinach, oranges, dried cranberries, and walnuts with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing, and we enjoy cookies for dessert. I also like to make mulled wine (Gluvein) or cider.

After dinner, we each get to open one small gift, usually something associated with light or winter.

Orange-Garlic Marinade
(Modified from The Wicca Cookbook)

1c orange juice
1/4c butter, melted
3-4 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper

Combine ingredients, and pour over meat substitute or meat. Use a brush to baste occasionally.

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