A Winter Solstice Writing Ritual to Honor the Darkness and Celebrate the Light

In the Northern hemisphere, the winter solstice denotes the shortest day and longest night of the year, a portal of deep and fertile darkness before we turn towards the growing light that will eventually blossom into spring and summer.

The solstice is a chance to pause and honor the darkness before celebrating the return of the light.

Since time immemorial, it has been recognized as a time of sacred and potent stillness. And there is something ancient, natural, and innate about tuning into that stillness, if we give ourselves the chance.

However, our lives are often inundated with a year-round rhythm of busyness, productivity, and “hustle,” not to mention artificial lights that keep our nervous systems in a constant state of stimulation. Within this modern lifestyle, many of us have become uncomfortable and unfamiliar with the dark.

We tend to want to shy away from the darkness, keep it at bay, and move as quickly as possible through the winter season back into the light and energy of summer. We look ahead, set our sights on new goals and achievements, and get to work on our New Year’s resolutions without ever pausing to fully honor where we’ve been.

But the darkness is just as vital as the light, the winter just as essential as the summer, and moments of stillness just as valuable as the bright exuberance of action. Without one polarity we would not have—let alone appreciate—the other.

And without pausing to receive and digest where we’ve been, are we really prepared to step forward towards new life?

If we look to the wisdom of Ayurveda, it repeatedly reminds us to turn to nature and attune our lives to its rhythms. The winter solstice is an opportunity to take this lesson to heart.

What would it feel like to pause, turn towards the darkness, and offer a deep bow of gratitude to the many gifts it gives?

After all, the darkness of the womb is where new life is born. The darkness of the soil is where new seeds germinate and begin to sprout. The darkness of night is where we receive the replenishment of deep sleep, rest, and dreams.

Winter Solstice Writing Ritual

The following winter solstice writing ritual offers a practical way to honor the darkness and celebrate the returning light. It can be as short and simple as a 15-minute journal entry, or you can give yourself a few hours to dive deep. Feel free to make it your own, trust your intuition, and adjust the steps in any way that feels right to you.

1. Prepare Your Space

Before you begin, take some time to prepare your space and set the mood. This will make the ritual more enjoyable. It will also help your system to slowly and gradually unwind into a more relaxed state of being.

Make a point to create uninterrupted time and space that is just for you.

Or if you prefer, you can gather a few friends and do this ritual together. It is a beautiful thing to share!

Either way, shut your doors, turn off your phones, and set whatever boundaries you need to with your family and loved ones so you can drop in and be present.

Here are a few tips to set up for a ritual that feels intentional, meaningful, and full of pleasure:

  • Clean up your space so you’re not distracted by messy clutter or to-do lists.
  • Dim the lights and light candles to honor the dark winter and the returning light.
  • Make yourself a warm mug of tea and some tasty snacks so you feel nourished and cozy.

2. Journal and Reflect

Once you’re settled in, it’s time to begin writing. Keep in mind that the point of this exercise is not to produce good writing! Rather, it is to trigger your memories and put down on paper anything that wants to be digested or expressed. These steps are just a guide—let your pen fly and trust whatever comes up.

Honor the Darkness

First, take a moment to look back over the year that’s passed. You can move backwards in your mind starting with December then moving to November, October, and so on. Or you can start with January and work your way forward chronologically. It may be helpful to have your calendar nearby to trigger your memory.

For each month, jot down any major events, changes, or transitions. These may include things like relationships beginning or ending, career changes or promotions, creative projects or ideas, family gatherings, births, deaths, travel, changes in your health, and so on.

Some of the most important moments of your year may not have been seen or known by others.

Think about what was happening internally as well as externally and write down anything that feels important. What things were you thinking about? How were you feeling? What were you inspired by? What moved you? What did you struggle with?

Most likely, there will be both light and dark spots as you look back and reflect. You may notice memories you’d rather not think about or relive. You may feel a range of emotions. 

Remember, a big part of this ritual is about honoring the darkness, including the most difficult and challenging moments of your year. So when these memories surface, take a moment to honor them without judgement.

As you write, consider answering these questions:

  • What lessons did I learn from my challenges?
  • When and how did I find opportunities to grow?
  • What made me stronger, softer, or kinder this year?
  • Can I conjure a sense of awe for the mystery of life—even the parts that don't make sense?

Celebrate the Light

As you move through your memories, give just as much love and attention to the beauty, abundance, and times of light that the past year presented. Try to recall major celebrations, good news received, accomplishments, goals that were met, time with friends, delicious meals, or any other memories that evoke a sense of joy, pleasure, and love.

You may notice there were times that you felt both grief and joy, pleasure and pain, loneliness and love.

This is the way of life. It includes a full range of experiences and emotions—both light and dark—which sometimes exist side by side.

Write down anything that feels important to you, anything you want to remember, and any new insights you may have. Let your heart be filled up as you remember the moments of beauty that have touched your life.

Dream Big

If you would like, you can take the ritual one step further by looking ahead and dreaming into the future. This last step is all about generating a feeling of joy and inspiration as you look forward towards the year ahead.

Ask yourself, if money and time and other people’s opinions weren’t a factor, what would you like to create in the year ahead? What would you like to do? Who would you like to be? How would you like to feel?

Free yourself of all limitations and let your heart and mind run wild.

Imagine the biggest blessings possible. Write down as much as you can, no matter how crazy it may seem.

Remember, this practice is about dreaming big and connecting to the energy of inspiration. It is not about taking action or making anything happen. Simply let yourself feel the energy of excitement, inspiration, and desire. Trust that this energy will help carry where you are meant to be.

3. Give thanks

When you feel complete, wrap up your ritual by giving thanks for all that you’ve experienced in the past year. Include the dark and challenging times as well as all the bright, beautiful, and easeful times.

Give thanks for all the lessons you’ve learned, the ways you’ve grown, and the love you’ve shared.

Offer gratitude as well for the limitless and unknown possibilities that lie ahead of you, and all the unknown blessings that are already heading your way.

You can write down your gratitude on paper or simply say prayers of thanks within your own heart. If you did write something down, you may choose to (safely) burn your paper, fold it up and plant it in your garden, or place it on your altar.

Before you move back into your day, take a moment to honor yourself for having the bravery to slow down and be with the darkness of winter. By taking time to digest and integrate what has come, you’ve made space for even more beauty to enter your life as you step forward into the year ahead.