The least this is true for the Northern hemisphere of our planet. Everything you will read here is from a Northern hemisphere perspective. A separate post about Southern hemisphere differences will come shortly.
Although the Christian holiday of Christmas was overlain on Yule and the Winter Solstice thousands of years ago and shares some ancient aspects of of the ancient observance, from an astrological perspective they are separate.
Christmas falls on the 25th day of December of each year.
The Winter Solstice occurs when the Sun goes into the sign of Capricorn. So the moment the Sun reaches 0 degrees Capricorn, the exact of the Winter Solstice is reached.
AT LEAST THIS IS TRUE IN THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE.
Differences between the Northern and Southern hemispheres will be addressed fully in later posts. But for now please understand the cycles of light operate in the same order for the whole planet. Since seasons in the Southern hemisphere appear to be “opposite” those in the northern hemisphere, the signs of the zodiac are mirrored as opposite signs. But since everything keys off of light, the cycle remains the same in both hemispheres.
Light is the determinant.
The day of the year the Winter Solstice falls is the darkest day of the year. Not metaphorically, but in terms of the amount of light that reaches the Earth. At least the amount of light that reaches the Northern Hemisphere of the Earth.
The Winter Solstice has the shortest period of daylight and the longest period of darkness of any day of the year.
At the Winter Solstice, we have reached the height, or the depth, of Winter, depending on how you look at it. This is the apex of darkness and the dearth of light in the natural world.
After six months of steadily decreasing light and increasing darkness, the earth has come to the moment of it greatest darkness.
It is important to understand that when we talk about increasing light and decreasing light in the natural world, we are not referring to good and evil or even happiness and sadness. We are dealing solely with natural ebb and tide of energy, life force, and innate power.
Animals and plants both feel light intensely even if most modern humans do not. That’s why many plants go dormant in the dark months and grow vigorously in the months of great light. They don’t need a calendar because they are attuned to the light.
In the ancient world the darkest night of the year was considered a holy time.
The darkness night of the year was seen as a natural time of Divinely-supported reflection and introspection. A time of quietude. A time of prayer and meditation. But also a time for us to huddle together around a live and roaring fire with those we love. A time to both honor and defy the dead of winter.
The Winter Solstice is the time we acknowledge the contemplate light through inner eyes. And it is a time we learn to strengthen our consciously ability to BRING LIGHT to the darkest dark.
The time of the Winter Solstice reminds we can.
It reminds us our eyes can grow to see in a new way. You might say the Winter Solstice teaches us to grow new eyes, inner eyes that see clearly even through darkness.
The Winter Solstice is given to us as a gift to enhance self-reliance and our reliance on those nearest and dearest to us. It is a time of clan, family, heart bonds, and a time to nurture them as well as ourselves.
Over the eons there have been many rich traditions surrounding the Winter Solstice. But the similarities outweigh the differences. All acknowledge and embrace the darkness as key to Inner Light.
The Hermit is part of Winter Solstice teachings. The Hermit reminds us that we can ascend to great heights despite solitude and what others see as darkness and our own small light can be a beacon of light the world.
All of these things are aspects of the Winter Solstice that we can attune ourselves to.
This is a time of rich meditative power and insight.
Collectively this is a time to remember, Light always follows Darkness.
In the same way that the Sun may set, it also always rises. Darkness comes but the Light is never far away. And no matter how Dark Dark may be, Light will soon replace it.
In the old Celtic traditions most observations embrace an exoteric tradition of a huge bonfire and lots of food. But more esoteric observations have been part of the solstice for eons as well, depending on the specific culture. Irish traditions, Scottish traditions, Welsch traditions, Bretagne traditions…local variations were common.
But the astrological meaning of the time was expressed always, simply in varying ways.
In quieter, more personal observations, even today most choose to meditate on the internal meaning of the time. This means taking stock by honestly and dispassionately, looking at where we stand right now and honestly expressing where we want to go from here.
Silently. Or orally. Alone. Or in a group. Your choice.
The more we connect with the gradually increasing light, the more we notice it, the more we begin to feel it. The more we attune ourselves to these subtle changes of light, the more the power of light pulses and increases consciousness.
The Winter Solstice is a natural pause for reflection and meditation in preparation for conscious and intentional steps from here moving forward to the goal.
A Higher Power may direct you to your goal in midnight point whispers at the Winter Solstice. It is a ripe time for these whispers.
Or your own Inner Light may help you clear the debris and doubt from your Path.
Your traditions and beliefs are yours. But whatever your personal beliefs are, the natural midnight point pause of the Winter Solstice is a holy time for gaining insight and clarity for coming increase of energy, power, and increasing light.
Exact timing of your observance is up to you. But the closer to the actual moment of the exact, the stronger the time’s energy.
You may not live somewhere that on open fire outdoors is smart or even possible. But a candle indoors can serve the same purpose. FIRE, natural fire, has elemental value at this time. Use it and feel it. Internalize it.
And be sure to hold the intent of the fire as sacred, whether silently or orally.
This is part of the conscious bringing of light to darkness.
To insure continuous fire late into the night, a large Yule log was traditionally added to give as much fuel as possible so the fire could continue to burn all the way through the night. It often was considered a good omen if the fire was still vigorously burning the next morning.
In some of ancient traditions at least one designated person stayed awake and alert tending the Yule fire all night.
To be the Yule log guardian was an honor. And a side-benefit was that staying up all night with the Yule fire gave magnificent opportunity for an extended meditation with no distractions. Many beautiful whispers are bestowed on the Keeper of the Yule Log.
Certainly, in our modern cities and in a time of climate change and draught, safety and common sense must be employed. But there are many ways to create a safe Yule log burn. Create one that fits your circumstance.