Solstice - A Festival For Everyone
No matter where you are on Earth, no matter what your political views or religion, your gender or your economic status, you are influenced by the changing of the seasons. Specifically, the solstice, which occurs twice each year, between December the 20th and 23rd, and June 20th and 22nd. Our brains are able to measure the lengthening and shortening of the days, making necessary changes to metabolic function to match the needs of the season. That's why we're usually more hungry in winter, when we need extra energy stores to stay warm.
If, like me, you are living in the southern hemisphere, you are approaching the summer solstice. The days stretch to their longest point, as the sun reaches its peak for the year. We are experiencing more active hours each day than we did during the dark of the winter.
If you are living in the northern hemisphere, you are approaching the winter solstice. The nights grow long, the sun having waned to its lowest point in the sky. The number of active, daylight hours are fewer.
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- Is the seasonal energy where you are, rising (summer), or falling (winter)?
- Are you more comfortable with summer solstice? Or winter solstice?
- Is it easier to get things done at a certain time of year?
- How can you plan your year around your peaking/waning solar energies?
- Broadly speaking, in winter we make our plans and requests; and in summer we give thanks and enjoy our harvest. How you experience each solstice will depend on your own personality, culture and even environment. Some people naturally peak in winter. I call them 'winter babies,' (you know who you are).
- Summer foods banquet: The most obvious way to celebrate the season is to procure some seasonal foods and create a feast. I think of summer berries, apples and tomatoes.
- Honour the year: This is the perfect ceremony to accompany your summer banquet. Grab some friends and take turns talking about your happy events and accomplishments for the year. If you prefer to dine solo, then use a journal or drawing pad.
- Start a new project: If this is your peak energy time of year, then start a new project. Especially things you may have been planning all year. Now is the time.
- Preserve bulk quantities of fresh food: A great way to attune to the cycles of nature, even if you aren't exactly living in the midst of it, is to cook with the seasons. Buying fresh seasonal food and preserving it can be surprisingly easy and rewarding. Preserved zucchinis, capsicums and tomatoes made into pasta sauce are a staple of mine. I also enjoy preserving things like apricots, plums, peaches, pears, apples and cucumber. Pesto is also a favourite of mine. I cook for one, so learning how to preserve foods has helped me to prevent waste. Especially of fruit and things like cucumber, which don't keep for long.
- Winter banquet: Again, food is at the top of the list. This is because people have always gathered to eat whenever there's anything to celebrate. Although modern supermarkets have made most foods available all year round, it's still good to learn about what's in season. You'll find it fresher, with a lighter carbon footprint. Aligning yourself to nature's cycles can be enriching at a primal level. If you've made preserves at summer's peak, then it's a good time to enjoy them. I much prefer preserved apples in winter, than powdery out-of-season supermarket apples.
- Relinquishing: During the winter season I like to think about what excess baggage might be weighing me down. This might mean releasing excess stuff, clothing or ways of thinking and being. There are practical reasons for clearing out the old in winter. When the weather warms us into action again, it makes spring cleaning that much easier. And clearing the cupboards of last year's preserves makes way for the next round.
- Planning the next growth cycle: For me, winter is for planning. When the cold Melbourne weather slows me down and I'm less inclined to go outside, it can feel like I'm wasting time and being lazy. But things are still happening on an inner level. The seeds of the next growth cycle are maturing in the dark. I like to scrawl half-baked plans into cheap exercise books. By the time my energy quickens again in spring, I've already laid the groundwork for multiple projects, some of which take off. Although my major writing projects tend to slow down a little in winter, I still consume books. It's a great excuse to be on the couch under a blanket.