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Pagan Holidays - Winter Solstice

Updated on August 28, 2016
PatriciaJoy profile image

Previous Pagan editor at BellaOnline. I love sharing articles on spiritual topics.

The winter solstice is the time of light re-entering the world.
The winter solstice is the time of light re-entering the world. | Source

Welcome the Light Back into the World

Pagans will soon be celebrating their own winter holiday that stems from ancient rites honoring the birth of light into the world.

Winter solstice, also known as Midwinter, occurs once between December 20th to 23rd each year in the Northern Hemisphere when this part of the earth is at its farthest distance from the sun. It is at this point we begin the trek back to the sun. This is the time of the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

Do you celebrate the winter solstice?

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"Winter stars have lent their brightness

To this candle in the dark;

May my heart be ever questing

For the source of spirit's spark."

~ Caitlin Matthews from Celtic Devotional: Daily Prayers and Blessings

Isis and Horus
Isis and Horus | Source

Rebirth of the Sun

Because of this return of sunlight, ancient peoples considered this time the ending of the darkness and coming of the light. From this belief sprang myths surrounding the birth of various sun gods from around the globe. It also brought forth death and rebirth stories in different cultures including the myth of the Egyptian gods Isis, Osiris, and Horus.

Osiris had been killed by his brother Set who wanted his throne. Isis, Queen of Heaven and Osiris's sister and wife, was able to bring him back to life briefly with the use of magic. She then became pregnant by Osiris with their child Horus.

Horus was believed to actually be Osiris reborn or resurrected, thus supporting the death/rebirth theme of the story. Statues from ancient Egypt of Isis feeding the baby Horus are reminiscent of art depicting Mary and Jesus created centuries later. Some people believe that the story of Christ's birth has roots in these earlier myths.

Celebrations arose from the belief of the rebirth of the sun god. Festivals took place in Egypt with feasts, fires and decorations to represent the sun. This idea spread to other areas around the globe over the centuries. In fact, many of the traditions we have today such as decorating with evergreens and other plants encouraging the emergence of the sun came from these older festivals.

Not all celebrations honored the male aspect only however. Many sun goddesses were honored, especially those whose sphere of influence was seen as the home and hearth.

Is Christmas Pagan?

It's clear some Christmas traditions are Pagan in origin. But is the date? Ceisiwr Serith, author of A Book of Pagan Prayer, takes a hard look at the theory that Christians stole this feast day from the ancient Mithraic religion in his excellent essay on the topic here.

Ways to Celebrate

Pagans who also practice magic will incorporate the energy of this time of year into their work. It is an especially effective time to do magic where the focus is to end a old way of living or thinking and begin a new way. This can be as simple as lighting a candle and doing a personal reflection on those habits or ideas that you wish to be brought out of the darkness and into the light. Even the popular New Year's resolution can be done in a magical way.

Whether you are actively involved in group ritual revolving around the solstice and/or honoring the gods of your tradition or a solitary Pagan making a private offering at your own fireplace, you are part of a long tradition of welcoming the light back into the world.

Create a Magical Garland Tradition

When I was a kid, during the holiday season, we would make colorful construction paper garlands and hang them near the Christmas tree. We started on December 1st and made 25 paper links joined together with glue. Each link represented a day until Christmas

Every day my brother and I would excitedly tear off a link knowing that we were that much closer to hearing Santa's sleigh bells. You can adapt this into a magical garland.

Make the chain links for the number of days you prefer, i.e. days until the solstice. Cut links 2 inches wide x 8-1/2 inches long from standard size pieces of paper. You change this up to a flag garland instead or any other form you want it to take. Have each member of the family write a prayer or wish on the links before joining them with dots of glue or paste. Say a short blessing as you tear off each link daily confirming that your wishes are coming true. Burn them in the fireplace or a cauldron if you want to add a more magical touch.


Yule Tree Ornaments

Pagans have reclaimed the Yule tree as part of their heritage since the practice of bringing evergreens into the home in the winter has its origins in pre-Christian times. Homemade dough ornaments for the tree are always popular with children. Here is a simple recipe:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup water

Blend together until a dough forms and roll out on a flour-covered surface until about 1/4 inch thick. Use cookie cutters or form your own shapes for the ornaments. Put a hole for a hanger at the top of each ornament with a straw or toothpick. Bake at 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius) for approximately two hours. Let them cool completely and decorate them with poster or acrylic paints if you wish. You can either spray a varnish on them or brush on Mod Podge or slightly watered down glue to help preserve them. Thread a piece of ribbon through the hole, tie it and they are ready to be hung on the tree.

Mulled Wine Recipe

Don't forget yourself and your partner while rushing about with the family. Why not make a date with each other and have a warm glass of mulled wine or cider to unwind and make a little holiday cheer of your own? Just stir the following ingredients together and simmer (don't boil) in a crock pot or saucepan and enjoy a bit of quiet time together:

  • 1 bottle of red wine (dry or sweet depending on your taste)
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1/4 cup white or brown sugar
  • 2 slices of orange
  • Add other spices to taste such as nutmeg, ginger, and vanilla bean.


Farrar, Stewart and Janet. A Witches' Bible: The Complete Witches' Handbook, Phoenix Publishing, 1996.

© 2009 PatriciaJoy

Have a Happy Solstice. - Feel free to leave feedback and comments here.

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    • Celticep profile image

      Celticep 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing, too late this time, but must read up more about the tradition in readiness for next year!

    • KandDMarketing profile image

      KandDMarketing 4 years ago

      Wonderful! Thank you.

    • PatriciaJoy profile image

      PatriciaJoy 5 years ago from Michigan

      @waldenthreenet:, thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. In this lens, I'm using the term pagan to mean neo-pagan. These are people who bring elements of pre-christian beliefs into their spiritual practice. It's a loaded word and to be honest, there are many definitions depending on who you talk to. Some say it means those people who don't practice an Abrahamic faith. I no longer use the term to describe myself though.

    • waldenthreenet profile image

      waldenthreenet 5 years ago

      I think "pagan" means pre-christian. Not sure. I come from a different cultural background of spiritual India. This word is not used in Indian culture. But your lens is most interesting. Also, congrad on your 100 lense trophy. I just got mine yesterday. Hope our path crosses in future. Thanks.

    • profile image

      Ezeena 5 years ago

      Hi, I've loved the winter solstice for years. Don't consider myself a pagan, but it feels right to me to mark the turning from ever shorter days to the days lengthening. I like to light candles and maybe make some wishes for the coming year. I remember doing this with kids once, and they wanted their candles not to be blown out, so they were placed in the bathtub, where they could burn for hours and hours and go out naturally some time during the night. Thanks for this hub.

    • Richardryder profile image

      Risteard O'Marcahain 5 years ago from Wales

      I think its great that people should link their lives to the movements of the sun that gives us warmth and light and life itself - peace at solstice

    • MoonShrine profile image

      MoonShrine 6 years ago

      Happy Solstice!

    • LadyJasmine LM profile image

      LadyJasmine LM 6 years ago

      This is a great page! I like your comments about garland traditions. I have one of my own. As a Pagan who has lived in New Orleans, I weave mardis gras beads together and use them for garland. I also hang some of the parade throwsI've caught as ornaments, especially those from Parades with names like "Bacchus" "Muses" "Hermes" and "Thoth" , :D. For me it's a way of focusing some of the idea of light and love and blessings returning more and more to a city that still needs healing.