Winter Solstice Lore and Ritual

The Winter Solstice Sabbat occurs on or about December 21st, when the Sun is at 1° Capricorn.  It marks the midway point of the dark part of the year. On the very next day we begin to see an increase in light, which is why we celebrate the rebirth of the Sun on the Winter Solstice. Both Wiccan myth cycles, the Oak and Holly Kings and the Dying and Reborn God, develop dramatically on this Sabbat. This celebration is made more powerful from the additional energy available from other celebrations, such as Christmas and Hanukkah. For many Wiccans, the Winter Solstice Sabbat marks the beginning of a week-long family celebration which includes Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

In the myth of the Oak and Holly Kings, the two gods meet again for another battle. During the Summer Solstice, the Holly King, God of the Waning Year, defeated the Oak King, God of the Waxing Year. When they meet on the longest night of the year, the outcome is reversed—the Oak King defeats the Holly King.

In the myth of the Dying and Reborn God, it is this night that the Goddess gives birth to Her son. She represents Life-in-Death, a reminder that, although most of Nature appears to be dead, it is only waiting for the right time to burst into life again.

Beyond the Wiccan celebration, many other cultures have myths associated with this time of year, general in a Dying and Reborn God cycle. Major examples of this include Christ, whose birth was not fixed in December until 273 C.E. (source); Tammuz; and Osiris (although his festival may have been celebrated in November). The general theme is that of the continuation of fertility. Just as the god appeared dead but rose again, so shall the dead seeming grain fields.

To me, the Winter Solstice is both a celebration of the rebirth of the God (and, hence, the return of the Sun), and a celebration of family. It is one of the few times during the year that I get to see some members of my family. I also make a point of sending out Christmas cards to nearly everyone in my address book, letting them know that I think of them even if we haven’t spoken in ages.

Most of my celebrations during this time of year take place after the Winter Solstice since my family is Christian. I see the Winter Solstice, the day with the longest night, being the perfect time to slow down and reflect on the season. The shopping is done, as is the decorating and wrapping. It is the quiet, fallow time before the hectic days surrounding Christmas arrive. It is a time to recognize how blessed I am to have a family to spend time with, money to spend on gifts, and a home to decorate.

I think, perhaps, if the night was not long and quiet it would not feel the same. There is something about the dark and cold that makes one want to be inside, and puts one in a reflective mood. But the promise of the returning Sun, like the upcoming celebrations, carries with it a reminder of how vibrant life can be.


Items Required

  • usual working tools (these are up to the individual)
  • candle in holder for each participant (be sure the candles can sit safely on the ground)
  • evergreens, poinsettias
  • one special Christmas ornament for each participant, kept in a basket
  • Christmas tree (a large decorated one is fine, as is a small, undecorated one)

Decorate your ritual space and altar with evergreens and poinsettias. The Christmas tree may be decorated or not, whichever makes more sense. If it is large, it may not fit comfortably within the Circle. Do your best to accommodate it. At the start of the ritual, do not turn on the Christmas tree lights. The only light should be your altar candles. When ready, perform your Circle casting.

The High Priestess says the following:

The Sun hides in the darkness; the night is cold and long. The Lord is in the underworld, and the Goddess is alone.

The High Priest says:

Rejoice, for the Lord is returning! The Goddess is giving birth, and it is a Son!

All: Rejoice! Blessed be!

High Priestess: Let us light our candles to celebrate the rebirth of the Sun.

All participants now light their candles. It would be best for the High Priest to first light his candle from the candle representing the Lord on the Altar and then light the candles of all other participants. The lights on the Christmas tree should be turned on now, as well.

High Priest: The Lord has returned! The Sun grows in strength daily, mirroring the love of the Lord and Lady. Together They will return the cold Earth to life.

All: Rejoice! Blessed be!

High Priestess: Let us ask for blessings from the lovely Goddess and Her Lord.

The High Priestess now takes up the basket of ornaments, removes her’s and passes it around the circle, ending with the High Priest.

High Priestess: Hold your ornament close, and ask the Lord and Lady for a blessing. It may be for yourself, for another, or for the world in general. Place your wishes within the ornament. When you are ready, step forward and place your ornament on the tree. Speak your blessing out loud if you wish.

Allow time for each participant to hang their ornament on the tree.

High Priest: Although this night is cold and dark, as we close this Circle we know that the Lord and Lady again rest in each other’s arms and light is returning to the world.

Close the Circle, and have a joyful, light-filled Cakes and Ales. You may want to consider having a gift exchange and/or a pot luck dinner.