Practices From the Inside Out: Celebrating the Winter Solstice

Practices From the Inside Out: Celebrating the Winter Solstice December 21, 2021

Practices From the Inside Out: Celebrating the Winter Solstice

Celebrating the Winter Solstice

Many of us are afraid of darkness. We feel darkness growing darker and threatening to overwhelm us. Our darkest day each year is the Winter Solstice.

Some of us grow tired of searching for light on the darkest day. We give up and close our eyes, making our own darkness even darker.

Searching for light on our Winter Solstice is not simply about scanning the horizon looking for distant stars. The light we hope to find is not only a pinpoint on the edge of what we can see.

The light on our darkest day is spiritual life within us.

It can be a challenge for us to see the light we carry in ourselves. Some of us are so busy paying attention to the horizon we ignore or forget our own light. Darkness may overwhelm the light within us.

It is easier for dark days to overwhelm us, easier to feel discouraged and frustrated, when we become tired. We can lose sight of light on dark days and start to think there is no light there. It is easy for us to assume our light has abandoned us, never to return.

Our tiredness affects our ability to see light on the darkest days.

It is almost as if we forget what light looks like. We need to take time to catch our breath and remember what it is like to find light in the darkness. Ironically, closing our eyes can help us see light in the darkness.

We can experience our Winter Solstice as the day darkness finally swallows our light, or the day light begins to grow again.

How are we choosing to recognize and celebrate the Winter Solstice this year?

Where will we discover our light again in the darkness?

Finding Light on the Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice has had special meaning for me for my entire life. It has shaped my life and understanding since the day I was born. The first day of winter, December 22, is my birthday.

Daylight gradually melting into darkness each summer and fall reminds me we are moving closer to the Winter Solstice. During years which might be filled with struggles and challenges we still know the solstice is coming. As we reach a point when darkness seems ready to overwhelm us, we remember more light is c0ming.

Just when we might be giving up hope, when we might not make it to the end of the year, the Winter Solstice arrives for us.

As darkness threatens to overwhelm us, we are drawn into a time of magical days. In the short spread of just over a week we celebrate the Winter Solstice, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Some of us even celebrate a birthday!

The past two years have stretched and challenged us in unexpected ways. We have faced apocalyptic disease and death on a global scale. Some of us have experienced natural disasters including storms and floods, earthquakes and destructive fires.

It has been a struggle for us to continue taking one step after another. Some of us have lost people we love, and more of us will in the months ahead. There are days when we wonder whether this is all worthwhile. It seems it would be easier to simply give up and stay in bed.

We struggle to remember this is not the end. There is more light coming. The Winter Solstice reminds us darkness is not swallowing light, even if it feels like it is.

The light on our darkest days is spiritual life within us and the people around us.

Holding Tightly on the Winter Solstice

Some of us hold tightly onto the knot at the end of our rope, at the end of our hope. Our fingers are stiff and sore. Our arms shake from holding on so tightly for so long. Every fiber of who we believe we are is focused on not letting go.

We wait, seemingly beyond hope, for light in the darkness.

We are not be able to hold on much longer, even to save ourselves. There is only one thing remaining within our power. As the rope holding us safe begins slipping from our fingers, we pray.

Ours is not a prayer of fancy words or complicated ideas. We do not pray as we think we are supposed to, we pray as we need to pray. We pray beyond words, with whimpering, with screams. Our prayer gives voice to the fears terrorizing us, the pain putting us in agony. We pray as our hold fails and we feel ourselves falling.

As we pray and sob, and begin to fall, we start to glimpse light in the darkness.

Our prayer appears to light a candle in the darkness, but it is only part of the truth. We have been paying so much attention to holding on we have ignored the spiritual light within us. Have we been concentrating so much effort on the darkness we have ignored the light?

We begin to see light in new ways and realize we are not falling, but soaring.

Light on the Winter Solstice

Our light on the Winter Solstice is not the glimmer of a distant sun. Each of us becomes light in the darkness when we share the flame of one candle with ourselves and people around us.

We remember our experiences of finding light in the darkness and how it makes us feel. The memory takes shape within us and we shine our own light on our darkest day.

Light dances within us and we share the light with people around us. Darkness does not threaten to overwhelm us.

Rather than desperately seeking light in the vast expanse of darkness we recognize the light of spiritual life within us.

Light spreads to new parts of ourselves. We share the light we find with other people. Light grows in the darkness.

Spiritual life ignites light on the darkest day.

Where do we find light on the Winter Solstice?

How can we shine light in the dark of Winter Solstice?

[Image by storebukkebruse]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is and his email address is

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