Thirteen Days of Solstice ~ Rituals for the Whole Family
Looking for simple, earth-based activities to celebrate the Thirteen Days of Winter Solstice, (or Thirteen Days of Yule?) Katie Poe, of Laughing Coyote Yoga, and her family have the most whimsical family traditions to celebrate these dark days of winter, the return of the light, and the start of the New Year and this year, she's sharing them with us.
By Katie Poe
At our house we celebrate the 13 days of Solstice, a tradition loosely borrowed from our pagan ancestors. In an attempt to create a tradition that felt meaningful and festive to my family, I pieced together themes, rituals and offerings that I loved from Norse mythology, stories, family and friends, and organized them into twelve days of revelry!
On the eve of the Solstice, Day 1: We celebrate the darkness for all that it nurtures. Last year I gifted each of our children a beeswax candle and we ate by candlelight around our wood stove.
Day 2: Solstice! We celebrate the return of light with a party. In preparation, we bring in boughs of evergreen to entice the fairies to join us in our home for the days of festivities ahead, build a solstice fire where we will burn last year's Yule bundle. We also take a walk to collect everything we need to create a new one to decorate for the following year. Read more about how to make a real wood Yule log here. (Nothing against the cake ones, those are good too!) The highlight of the day (and this IS a big day) is gathering with friends and creating a solstice spiral for friends to walk.
Day 3: The Feast of Reflection. On day three, we prepare a large meal together and toast to abundance, our the accomplishments of the past year and we declare our aspirations for the year to come.
Day 4: Coyote Day!!! Our personal favorite. Coyote is a trickster and this is his day! The day of misrule, a “yes day” if you will. We dress up like coyotes and howl at the neighbors, play little tricks on each other, eat ice cream dinner under the table…you get the idea. (photo: Silas in Coyote spirit!)
Days 5 and 6: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the days my partner and I make room for our most beloved holiday traditions from our own childhoods, and bring our hearts close to family who are spread out across the country, and for those no longer with us as well.
Day 7: The day of health and warmth, is like a built in recovery day. Stay in your Jammies, enjoy warm drinks, read a book. This day is all about self care. You could include a sauna or a soak, or maybe an adventure to a hot spring. I often gift tea or some other wellness product on this day.
Day 8: Snow Day. Choose your own snow adventure! There are so many fun things to do in the snow! I love making snow caramel for the kids, or going on chilly outings to natural ice features with a warm thermos of joy.
Day 9: Today we celebrate nature spirits and furry friends. We make edible ornaments and spend the afternoon seeking out and decorating an outdoor tree with goodies for the birds and other critters. We also give our pets a little extra love, and this year I'm having photos of our pets framed for the family.
Day 10: We go wassailing (traditionally, a day to visit the orchards!) The day is filled with apples and harvested foods. It is customary to go out to the orchard and hang cider soaked toast in the trees for the birds and sing to the trees asking for a blessing on the next years harvest.
Day 11: Luck, wealth and prosperity. This is the day we get fancy. We all get dressed for a night on the town — whether we stay home or go out. In past years I’ve found “gold” gifts for the kids, like a gilded pinecone or a gold leaf ornament. Good luck tokens are also a nice touch.
Day 12: New Years Eve! One last hurrah! We put away Christmas things and redistribute our winter decorations, and the tree goes out to the fire ring to be torched at midnight. We bang pots and pans and make a bunch of noise around the house to chase away the last of the fairy folk.
The 13th day is the New Year and the day of cleansing, the beginning of a new cycle, marked by some form of ritual or ceremony.
What I love about our little family rituals is the freedom to innovate and play with what feels nurturing and celebratory each time the season rolls around. There is so much opportunity for learning and discovery, creativity and ownership. Even though it seems like a lot of work, I have found that the smallest moments for turning routine into ritual are enough to make the days feel special and fun.
Merry Yule to you and yours!