Chanukah is for family. Christmas is for my husband, DH. Yule is for friends and community. But the Solstice, that is for ME.
This year, all of the holidays/occasions seem to happen very closely upon one another, like the Fortuny pleats on a vintage gown. Two weeks ago, we attended a Jolfest/Blot/Wedding. Last weekend was my family Chanukah party/family reunion. This weekend will be Christmas. Each event requires planning, cleaning, cooking, gift collecting and wrapping (with the exception of the Jolfest/Blot/Wedding, which only required cooking and some planning). There is also the collecting of daughters from various cities and schools, and the accompanying readjustment to having more people in the house.
And then, tonight there is the Solstice. In inspiration, Solstice celebrations are close kin to the celebrations of the other holidays, but for me, the observation is very very different. Today, I will clean the fireplace hearth and lay the wood for a fire. At the base of the wood will be the chunk of charcoal saved from last Winters fire; after all, last years fire was successful in seeing us through to the return of the sun. I will also make sure that there is plentiful firewood on the porch to make it easier to keep the fire going all night. (This year, there is no snow on the ground, but things are awfully soggy.) At sunset, the fire will be lit. There will be a light dinner (already prepped!). DH will come home from work and have dinner. There will be Chanukah candles. And a quiet evening. And DH and daughter will go to bed.
I will stay up.
Solstice is the night that I tend the fire; I tend the hearth and the home and wait, in vigil for the return of the sun. It is a quiet night, just me and sometimes, the cat. I will read. I will meditate. I will scry in the fire and with my drop spindle. (I am not very good as spinning yarn, but I find it a remarkable aid to scrying.) I will, most likely, trance. I will eat and drink lightly, and in honor of those Deities Whom I honor. The night is long, and the house will get cold. Come dawn, I will go outside and raise a toast to the return of the light and the Spirits of this place. Then, I will come back inside, bank the fire, and get into bed, to get what sleep I can before the activities of the day begin.
In some Germanic traditions, the night of the Solstice is Mothers Night, sacred most specifically to Frigga. She, and her handmaidens will check each household to make sure that all household work for the year is finished, and to reward those industrious souls, and perhaps penalize those who have not finished. It is a very good thing that mothers are forgiving, because there is no way that I could ever be "finished," not when there are so many varied traditions to be honored. The Solstice is both my "pause" button and my "reset" button in a busy season, at the end of a cycle of time. The dark and the quiet and the fire feed me and my spirit, so that I can go back into the bright holiday observations with a lighter heart and without a sapping sense of martyrdom to the season. It allows me that time to contemplate the year that is ending, and the one about to begin.
On a related note, Deb, over at Charmed, I'm Sure, is running a program on transforming oneself over this limnal season. I am not participating, but that has no reflection on what I see as a quality idea-I simply came upon it late, and I already had my own ideas/plans in the works. While it has already started, there is still time to join in. You can find the link here: New Year, New You
(I will admit to a bit of amusement at the title she chose. "New Year, New You" was the catchphrase that I used to market personal training programs every December/January, when I ran a gym. If there is "egregoric" strength to a phrase, this one should do well for it's participants.)