The Winter Solstice – why it’s the true new year

Winter solsticeWinter Solstice is the day when light is reborn out of the darkness of winter. Our days start to become longer and lead us back to the beauty of spring and the warmth of summer, stretching towards their peak at the Summer Solstice.

Most ancient cultures celebrated this return of light and life with feasting, music, light and fire, and for many, it was the true beginning of the New Year.

It was so important to the pre-Celt ancients of Ireland that they spent over 30 years building a monument to the returning sun: Newgrange.

Older than Stonehenge and the pyramids of Giza, it was designed so that on the Winter Solstice, the rising sun shines directly along the long passage into the inner chamber and for 17 minutes illuminates the chamber floor and the symbols etched on the back wall.

What did the Ancients know that we don’t?

It’s hard for the modern mind to imagine spending 30 years building something to celebrate a three-day event. Yet, that’s how important the Winter Solstice was to the ancients.

There are still traditional cultures around the world today that believe that the ceremonies they conduct on a daily, monthly and yearly basis keep the earth spinning on its axis. I share their belief.

The sun has never missed a day of brightening planet earth, but do we want to take that for granted?

We would not be able to live without the sun — it brings warmth and light and allows growing things to flourish.

The time of the Winter Solstice is rich with meaning

Solstice ceremonies traditionally involve fire, which represents the sun, and an invitation to the sun to return to bring us warmth and light.

The Christmas trees and wreaths we use at this time of year represent a prayer for the return of the green.

The circular wreath represents the circle of life — everything returns and comes full circle.

Holiday lights represent the Solstice fires of old, celebrating the sun and inviting its return.

Let’s consciously turn on our lights, or light our fires, with a prayer for a return of the warm, sun-filled seasons of spring and summer, and celebrate the circle of life.

Winter Solstice is a time to go inside

Winter lends itself to introspection. The original Winter Solstice celebrations were 12 days long [hence, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”].

This is the time to take a break, and digest the events and lessons of the past year, before blossoming forth into the new.

Our failure to take down time in winter may be one reason we get colds and the flu this time of year!

A Solstice Celebration

The beginning of the New Year is an excellent time to set our intentions for the next year and leave behind what no longer serves us.

I have held Winter Solstice ceremonies for many years to celebrate this time of endings and new beginnings. Here’s what I include, in case you would like to have one of your own:

  • A drumming circle to celebrate life and all things we wish to honor
  • Two burning bowl ceremonies:
  • In the first we write down what we want to release from the past year so as to make room for the new.
  • For the second we write down what we want to invite in for the New Year and send that up as a prayer of gratitude and intention.
  • Then we share a pot -luck meal and celebrate our new beginnings.

And by the way: the Winter Solstice of 2012 was NOT the END…

There was much tumult in 2012 over the idea that 12/21/12 was the end of the Mayan calendar and perhaps the end of the world. And we’re still here.

What it did signify in the Mayan system was the end of one calendar and the start of a new calendar: the time of new beginnings.

This is what Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, said about December 21, 2012 in a speech to the United Nations on September 26, 2012:

“And I would like to say that according to the Mayan calendar the 21st of December is the end of the non-time and the beginning of time.

It is the end of the Macha and the beginning of the Pacha.

It is the end of selfishness & the beginning of brotherhood.

It is the end of individualism and the beginning of collectivism.

The end of hatred and the beginning of love.

The end of lies and the beginning of truth.

It is the end of sadness and the beginning of joy.

It is the end of division and the beginning of unity.”

Last year I asked us all to commit to renewing our lives to live in such a sacred manner during our next walk around the sun.

How did it go for you in the past year?

I invite you to recommit to living the principles of peace, love, truth, joy and unity in the coming year.

Wishing you a blessed holiday season!

If you celebrate the Solstice, please feel free to share about it in the comments section below.

[Note: this post first appeared December 19, 2012]


If you enjoyed this post I'd be thrilled if you'd click one of the buttons below:

Molly Larkin is the co-author of the international best-seller “The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman.” She is passionate about helping people live life to their fullest potential through her classes and blog at

"Get my FREE ebook on Daily Rituals for Sacred Living and weekly Ancient Wisdom blog posts.". I promise never, ever to sell your email address.

Give me FREE access to the NEW Meditation Mini-Course and weekly Ancient Wisdom posts. 


  1. Richard Schmelter

    Thank you, Molly, for this wonderful reminder to mankind.

    • Molly Larkin

      You are most welcome! 🙂

  2. Maia

    Thank you for this, Molly. I have a special place in the woods, one surrounded by tall cedars and close to a mature white pine which I see as the grandmother tree. At this time of year I arrange spruce boughs into the branches which mark its perimeter. There is a fire pit in the middle, and I like coming here to drum and/or play my flute. It’s my favourite spot to mark Solstice. Last year I made a prayer stick and left it there; a new one will join it on Sunday. I’ll incorporate the two burnings as well. May I send you photos of this place?

    • Molly Larkin

      Oh, that sounds so lovely! Yes, I would love to see the photos. Thank you.

  3. Joan

    Thank you for this lovely reminder about the solstice. Happy Holidays!

    • Molly Larkin

      You are most welcome. And Happy Holidays to you, too.

  4. Sally Wolfe

    I used to drum up the sun and create a sacred circle with stones but I’ve let it go by the wayside. Thank you for the inspiring reminder to connect with cycles and seasons of earth this solstice. My wish is to welcome the wisdom of the new year and let it dissolve the barriers of fear.

    • Molly Larkin

      Lovely sentiment. Thank you! And keep on drumming! 🙂

  5. I love what you say about the lights — I will look at them differently on my walk later this evening. It’s also the first time I have read what the President of Bolivia said about the Mayan calendar; I only wish such words weren’t so easily forgotten. I try to remember that what’s happening in the world are the pains of eventually transformation — the dark night, so to speak — but this year has been a tough one. I pray that we see more light in 2015.

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you, T.O. Yes, the world needs more light and its up to each and every one of us to be those bright points. That will lead the way to transformation. 🙂

  6. Anabelle

    A very timely reminder to reacquaint ourselves with the cycles of nature and our own personal endings and beginnings.

  7. an insightful piece. I learnt so much about the Winter Solstice that I didn’t know before. I love that it is a time of new beginnings and a time to retreat inside and meditate. Which I think is what I will do this last few days before Christmas. Thanks for a wonderful, eye-opening article.

    • Molly Larkin

      You are most welcome. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. And enjoy your retreat! 🙂

  8. Mary Jaksch | A-List Blogging

    I’ve never considered Solstice as an important celebration, but your explanation makes sense.

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you, Mary!

  9. Thank you Molly for the gentle reminder to honour the circle of life and sacred meaning of the Winter Solstice. Over recent years I have lost my connection to source. Well, not lost, just got into the busy mode of hustle and survival and forgot the power of prayer, ritual and community. Moving forward, your blog resonates with what I desire more to be and bring into my (conscious) life. Thank you.

    • Molly Larkin

      You’ve made my day with your comment, Ntathu. It’s so easy to get lost in the business of modern life, but also very easy to re-connect to earth energies to balance that out.

  10. trusch

    Thank you for the light you sent us with this message. Light and blessings to you.

    • Molly Larkin

      You are most welcome. Light and blessings to you, too.

  11. Audrey

    What a great idea to write down intentions to release from the past and new ones for the year to come! Thank you!

    • Molly Larkin

      You are most welcome. Good luck with it!

  12. Laszlo

    Thank you Molly and have a peaceful winter solstice season!
    László and Judit

    • Molly Larkin

      And to you both!

  13. Thomas Goodrich

    Thank you my dear sweet sister, for sharing the all your teachings and experience with us. Love and Oneness Thomas

    • Molly Larkin

      Solstice blessings to you, Thomas!

  14. Corey

    Thank you Molly, I enjoyed this post a lot. 🙂

    • Molly Larkin

      Glad to hear it. Thank you for commenting.

  15. AJ

    I live in South Africa and for the last few years have been celebrating southern hemisphere winter solstice 21-22 June as my new year and time for reflection and resolutions. It felt natural to me. I thought it might have been my european ancestry. My birthday is 21 December which is summer solstace here. I dont like the heat and buzz of that time of year. It was nice to read your post and realize there is method in my beliefs.

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you for writing, AJ. Glad it was helpful!

Add Your Comment

Make sure you share your opinion with us. Fields marked * are required. Any other information is optional and for your own pleasure. Your email address will be hidden and never published or used in any way.

Optional Details

If you like you can tell us your website URL and Twitter Username. We'll link your name to your web address and we'll add a twitter link to your comment. This is completely optional.