Honoring the Darkness and Welcoming the Light

“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

For the Northern Hemisphere, Winter Solstice (Dec 21) marks Nature’s darkest time and its eventual return to light. One way to embody making peace with the darkness is to create your own Winter Solstice ritual. The ritual I did with my family was truly one of my most memorable moments together this winter.

Simply sitting together in the dark with just candlelight felt like a starry night around the campfire sharing with each other our fears and also ways we find the courage to face them. Our particular ritual borrowed pieces from many different ones I found online and then we added in some of our own special touches. Basic guidelines: make it personal, simple and sacred.

Steps for Creating a Winter Solstice Ritual

Set the space – Lay out a blanket or sheet (red velvet, or silver & gold, or dark navy; or a printed picnic sheet will do). Place a winter themed centerpiece. Surround the center with candles. Some have arranged the candles in spiral formation. We lit five pillar candles- one for each of the four directions: North, South, East, West, and one in the center to symbolize Divine unity. Shut the lights off in the space.

Include sound – Incorporate song, chant or bells in your ritual. We each took a turn striking the singing bowl to mark the beginning and ended singing “This little light of mine.” Bells are particularly associated with the season and can be useful in ringing out the old and ringing in the new.

Share and sit – Share with each other what associations and feelings come up around darkness and dark times. We took turns passing a silver stone (“talking stone”). Whoever held the stone spoke while others listened. Then spend some quiet time (1-5 minutes) sitting in silence and observe the breath and thoughts in the darkness.

What lessons can the dark teach me? What can we bring to light out of the darkness? What fears come up? What hopes?

Pay attention to Light. Lead each other through the “Be The Candle Meditation”– Gaze softly at a candle. Notice the color of the candle, how the flame flickers, the light that shines from it. Close your eyes. Can you still see the candle behind your closed eyes using your imagination? Imagine that with every breath in and out the flame on your candle glows brighter and wider. Picture that light coming from the center of your heart and connecting with other’s hearts around you as if you were all candles working together to bring light into a dark room. Stay with this image for 5 more breaths, you tending to your light & connecting with others. When you slowly open your eyes, allow the light of the room to come to you. How can you be like a candle and bring light to places that are dark?

This simple practice is a great way to get calm and centered with your kids; it’s a beautiful reminder of the inner light within them.

Younger kids version: Place palms together at the heart. Imagine a candle glowing brightly within. Breathe in for a count of 3, and out for count of 3. Each breath makes the light brighter. “Spread” the light from your heart out into the world by stretching arms up and out like a circle around you. Sing this song while doing so:

This little light o’mine

I’m gonna let it shine 3x

Let it shine, let it shine, let it SHINE!

Conclude with a hug and promise to stand by each other in dark times and have everyone write down each other’s wishes for the New Year to be read in spring when the light returns (Spring Equinox – usually around March 21-22). If it feels true to you, say the following words together, or make up your own dedication:

The Light will return.

I embrace the dark. It is part of me.

Know the light. It is my truth.

It is better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness.
– Chinese proverb

What traditions or rituals do you and your family observe around wintertime? I’d love to hear from you and please share any new ideas or additions to the ritual above. Happy Hibernating.

Other resources:

Ritual, ideas & celebrations-

Winter Solstice Ritual- Laura Thompson Brady


Post Categories

Recent Posts


January 1, 2023

In a Movement and Mindfulness™ certification course, our trainer, Leah Kalish, MA, taught us about “being in the Vertical versus Horizontal.” She was speaking to the idea of self-care. That it behooves every teacher or parent or caregiver to make taking care of oneself a priority, even before attending to our children. Just like those oxygen masks in airplanes!

Read More