Ana’s Advent Calendar, Day 21: Winter Solstice (and elf stories!)


I hope you like elephants because Ruth Shulman, the queen of elephants, is hosting today’s Winter Solstice celebration! Or, for our friends south of the hemisphere, Summer Solstice.

Don’t forget that you have until midnight tonight to write your own naughty elf story. Read yesterday’s entries and add your own! If you haven’t commented yet for yesterday, you can still get on-time credit. Hop to it! And don’t you dare write me into the story, you naughty miscreants! I shall tell Mrs. Claus, and she will make you sorry. Though I’m not sure Laurel’s going to fare much better after inventing strip dreidel.

Also, remember that our big birthday bash is coming up on the 23rd. If you have a December birthday or know someone with a December birthday, come prepared to join in the fun.

Elf stories! March!

The Winter Solstice: Welcoming the Return of the Light


Sunday, December 21 marks the Winter Solstice in the Northern hemisphere. For pagans it’s an ancient holiday, in some places also called Yule, celebrated in many ways by many cultures but all for the same reason: the days become longer and the harsh winters begin to melt into temperate spring and fertile summer.


In my own tradition, we celebrate that shortest day of the year with the most light. Candles glow on every surface. The Yule tree is a tiny cosmos of every colored light. We surround ourselves with friends and family, the people who provide the light in our lives. If Yule is about anything, it’s about More Light!


We prepare a feast (of course!). Winter can be a time that feels the least abundant of all seasons; we want to perhaps hoard food against the deep chill. Our least modern inner-selves want to curl up into ourselves and save the inner light and heat for ourselves. Yule can get us out of ourselves. Feasting reminds us that the cycle of warmth and cold, light and dark, is eternal. We remember that spring will come. And while we wait, we can eat heartily and toast each other in the warmth of bonfires and love on the day of least light.


Another part of the solstice in my tradition is to welcome the birth of the God. Naturally, in some cultures, this also represents the return of the sun. Sol Invictus, the unconquerable light, appears in many of the religious stories from around the world. Indeed, Gods born on the solstice are often referred to as the Sun God or The Light of the World.


The importance of light around the darkest time of the year was an important event for the most ancient cultures. The Greeks and Romans had their festivals (Haloea and Saturnalia respectively) where celebrants lit huge bonfires. They also reveled in the surrounding darkness, celebrating the eventual fertility of spring.


Today we have scientific proof that light affects mood and health. A mid-winter celebration of light seems fitting, if only to curb the seasonal blues. But it’s not just light in the scientific sense: friends make us light up inside. Light can come from smiles, hugs, laughter, giving gifts, sharing meals. Within ourselves, we each have a Sol Invictus that shines us through the short dark days and carries us into spring.


Good Yule to you all!

And don’t forget to write your naughty elf story! Check out the ones posted already and scold the naughty writers for me.

63 thoughts on “Ana’s Advent Calendar, Day 21: Winter Solstice (and elf stories!)

  1. Holla Dean says:

    Good Yule to you and everyone. Yes, light does affect our moods. I live in Phoenix and during the summer I keep my house dark with the drapes and blinds closed tight to keep the heat out and air conditioning bill as low as possible. Once the weather cools off in late October, I love that I can have my house light and bright again.


  2. ruthshulman says:

    Phew, Phoenix! I lived there for years; now I live about an hour away from Tucson, up at an elevation. So cold this morning, but the sunrise was pretty. Good Yule to you and your family. 😀


  3. Leigh Smith says:

    Love reading all the differoent traditions. The only tradition I have is to jump up and down because it starts getting lighter every day from now on. Okay, okay, so it’s only a minute or so but it’s happening.

    We’re about 20 mi. northwest of Phoenix and it’s been 41 degrees every morning this week.. Brrrr, maybe not cold for those of you in colder climes but it’s cold for me.

    Happy Yule to all.


  4. Shannon Love says:

    I know what you mean about light and moods. I work in a pharmacy and it’s small enough that I see people go through these mood changes through the year.
    Candles are my favorite decoration. To have an entire celebration in candlelight sounds so warm and beautiful.
    “But it’s not just light in the scientific sense: friends make us light up inside. Light can come from smiles, hugs, laughter, giving gifts, sharing meals” Amen, Sista!!!
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful celebration. And I totally intend to incorporate some of your description into my family’s celebration this year. I think this is just the warm touch it needed.


  5. Joelle Casteel says:

    Happy Yule 🙂 Does my SFA-babbling about Mira, Hana, and Nurse Trinity count as a story? Or do I truly need to add elves? 😀


    • Joelle Casteel says:

      heh Ruth, which for some reason my clumsy fingers wanted to make ruther. and goodness only knows how I managed to ask you rather than Ana :). I do love the snerkle too 😀 Elephants are good… IdK, i could try… elephants and elves. However I have the sad duty of going to support my step-daughter at her mother’s visitation today. Of all the rotten things, she lost her mother to cancer on the 17th, before her mother’s birthday, before Christmas.


  6. P.T. Wyant says:

    Joyous Yule to you and yours, Ruth!

    The actual moment of solstice is 6:03 pm my time today (I’m in Pennsylvania) so sunrise will be a touch earlier tomorrow morning, which (at least as far as my logic could work out) made last night Longest Night. I wanted to stay up and greet the dawn but I have to go to work today and they sort of frown on nurses falling asleep in the middle of med pass.

    Last year I stayed up, though, and had a truly magical moment at dawn. The chorus of Damh the Bard’s “On Midwinter’s Day” had been going through my mind all night. Part of it is “All over the world a chorus of voice will sing for the rising sun on Mid-Winter’s Day.” At sunrise I heard crows calling out, greeting the dawn — a chorus of voices indeed!


    • ruthshulman says:

      Happy Yule in return to you and yours, PT. Thank you for being a nurse. It’s not the world’s easiest job, and it’s so necessary… and sadly, not always appreciated. Nurses can bring a lot of their own Light, so good on you! 🙂

      I’ll have to look up Damh the Bard. That song sounds perfect, and I really happy you were Blessed by the crow chorus last year. I hope this year brings you more blessings.


  7. sassytwatter says:

    Love naughty elf stories but I have my own little midget maligning it impossible to think let alone wrote but I have one thing…..the darkest day of the year is dec 13 st Lucia day? Unless swedes have been lying to me just to add an extra day to drink and eat!


  8. ruthshulman says:

    Hi Sassytwatter! I’m not certain about St. Lucia Day; Solstice is generally about having the *longest* night. Darkness, especially further up north near Scandinavia might be a whole separate issue. Hrmmm… Research moment in my future. 😀

    Thank you for popping in and hello to your little one, too.


  9. laurellasky says:

    I have been a good girl for most of my life. The light allowed me to be naughty and to stretch my imagination. I wish Ana, Kate and everyone else a day full of light and a new year the health, happiness and peace. Big hugs and love.😍


  10. pieclown says:

    Happy Yule to you Miss Ruth and all your little pachyderms. I an the middle of the USA. Even with more light, it will not warm up until late Feb. I would say Jan is one of the coldest months we have. A few years back we got a heavy snow in Nov and it did not melt all gone until almost April. Well good Yule to you and Merry Christmas to all and Happy Hanukkah to others and Everyone. Happy New Year. OH, I did finish my story. I did hold back, truly I did.


    • ruthshulman says:

      Happy Yule to you as well, Miss Pieclown. You make me smile every time I see your little photo icon! Our winter here has been fairly dry but COLD! I have a friend who says, “Remind me how you live in a desert, again.” *snerkle*

      Thank you for dropping by today, and my pachyderm friends wish you a Merry, Happy, and Joyous. 😀


  11. Amy says:

    Great post! Thank you for sharing your Yule traditions and your celebration with light. I think that’s one of the things I like best about this time of year–so many things to celebrate, and everyone does it in their own way. Happy Yule to you!


    • ruthshulman says:

      Awww, Amy, thank YOU. I’ve really been enjoying being the “hostess” today. It really is like a big party with new friends! That’s a great Light in itself, so it adds to my celebration. *Yay!* 🙂


  12. JC says:

    Thank you for sharing this post. I had no idea that it was winter solstice. My dad had a Yule party several years ago but I had to idea what it was about. I am happy to hear that the days will be getting longer.


    • ruthshulman says:

      JC, I am glad you enjoyed my post! One of the great things I like to share about being Pagan is being tuned in to the natural world and the cycles. Our earth and its inhabitants are a great Gift we share with each other. More Light! 😀


  13. catrouble says:

    Good yule to you Ruth. Thank you for sharing your lovely traditions.

    I fight low vitamin D levels so really feel the difference when we have too many overcast and dreary days. I will turn on every light in the house as well as light candles. I’ve also found that simmering orange peel with cinnamon will help lift my spirit. Oh yes, I do have to take megadoses of vitamin D just to keep my levels right above ‘dangerously low’.

    I do agree that friends and knowledge are another form of light that do help lift our spirits. Wishing you a loving, light-filled year.

    Hugs and Blessings…


    • ruthshulman says:

      Happy Yule to you too, Cat. Thank you for your good wishes, and return them many-fold to you. With your issue, light is never something you take for granted, the way we do sometimes. May you always have enough Light, in whatever form it takes. (((hugs))) to you!


  14. Renee says:

    Happy Yule to you Ruth. Enjoyed learning something new. It is interesting how similar the many stories from different cultures and times really are. I truly understand about light and health. My daughter is bipolar and suffers from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It causes serious bouts of depression in the winter months. Unfortunately, she insists on living in the north where the sun hides behind gray skies for months at a time. She struggles every winter due to the loss of light. I live in the bright sunny south so it does not affect me much. Blessings. R.


    • ruthshulman says:

      Renee, thank you, and happy Yule to you as well. Please send some good energy from me to your daughter. SAD is a terrible thing; it really can feel like the world is against you. We need the light and the LIGHT too.


  15. Laura says:

    Happy Yule to you and yours. Since the age of 5 my daughter was going to be a doctor. When my hubby was diagnosed with stage 4 rectal cancer she changed her mind and now is applying to nursing schools here in Chicago. His nurses were extraordinary. So, thank you so much for being a nurse. They are underpaide, overworked and the most caring people I have ever seen.


  16. ruthshulman says:

    I want to thank everyone who dropped in with Yule wishes. This has been a truly awesome experience, sharing my Solstice with all of you. Now, the sun is lowering in the sky and we will soon enter (some of you already have entered) the longest night of the year. On the other side of this night, the light returns. I wish nothing but Light and Love on each of you. Especially Ana, who turned her Advent Calendar over to a Pagan for this day. 😀 You are a Star, Ana, and thank you for shining so brightly for all of us.

    Off to light some candles!


  17. lara estes says:

    Well I always knew the story, but I have my own thoughts on this day. However happy Yule to everyone and thank you for sharing this Ana.


  18. Sarah says:

    Happy Yule, thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. Sometimes the light we see, feel and need must come from within us, so the darkness recedes. Sometimes we must be the light, and other times we need someone else to shine for us. Blessings.


    • ruthshulman says:

      Thanks, Long Bean… I know that Stonehenge attracts a lot of different Pagan “flavors” and someday it would be fun to see the Solstice from there. It’s on my wish list. Happy Holidays to you!


  19. thelongbean says:

    Happy Solstice.

    You may be interested to know that in some places in the UK they still celebrate the solstice. One such place is Stonehenge where a small group have celedbrated the winter solstice in the past.


  20. michellewillms2013 says:

    I’ve long thought I might have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), since my depression seems to worsen in the winter months, but since the bad weather also affects my diseases, that could also be the problem…six of one, half a dozen of the other, as my grandfather always used to say. 🙂


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