December 2016 WATERritual
A Blue Winter Solstice

By Diann L. Neu, Mallory Naake, and Hannah Dorfman


Listen to the audio of our December 2016 WATERritual here.

Preparation: Set your ritual space with five unlit blue candles (four in a circle with one in the center), matches, cider, and stollen (or your favorite holiday bread). Have ready the song “Light Is Returning” by C. Murphy, on Canticles of Light.


Welcome to this celebration of the Winter Solstice. This is the longest night and shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. And the shortest night and longest day in the Southern Hemisphere. Solstice, from the Latin sol meaning sun and statum to stand still, reflects what happens during the first days of winter when the sun seems to pause at dawn for several minutes as it passes across the sky before it begins to double back.

Virtually all cultures have their own ways of marking the Winter Solstice using the imagery of light: lighting candles, placing candles or lights on a tree, burning a Yule log, decorating houses with extra lights. Many religious traditions mark light breaking through the night: Diwali, October 20-28; Advent, November 27-December 24; Winter Solstice, December 21; Hanukkah, December 24-January 1; Kwanzaa, December 26-January 1; Bodhi Day, January 17.

Each effort beseeches the sun to return again, to awaken in us compassion and justice.

This Winter Solstice night many of us are still blue after the elections, so we are celebrating a Blue Winter Solstice. The darkness, dormancy and silent beauty of winter offer time for another vision. Mysteries lie in darkness.

Winter invites a long journey inward to draw on natural resources and strength. The starkness of the environment can bring clarity. We participate with Earth in the sacred cycle: death preparing for rebirth, emptying to make space for the new. We rest and hibernate. We ponder and dream, as darkness turns into new life.

Let us savor darkness for a few minutes. In the quiet of darkness, let us reflect on the phrase “a blue winter solstice.” (Reflection)


Share with us your name, your location, and a phrase of what you think of when you hear “a blue winter solstice.” (Sharing)

Song: “Light Is Returning” by C. Murphy on Canticles of Light © 1997

Light is returning, even though this is the darkest hour.
No one can hold – back the dawn.
Let’s keep it burning, Let’s keep the light of hope alive.
Make safe our journey – through the storm.
One planet is turning – circles on her path around the sun.
Earth Mother is calling – her children home.

Reading: Excerpts from “Make it a blue Advent this year” by Diana Butler Bass, the Washington Post, online November 25, 2016, print December 3, 2016

“Blue candles…that’s what I feel like this year. Not penitent. Not joyful. Just blue.

“Yes, I am blue. Judging from conversations with friends, reading social media and following the news, I know I am not alone. No matter how one voted in the recent election, it is obvious that happiness was a big loser in recent months — with therapists, psychologists and clergy reporting high levels of “Trump-related stress,” especially among women and minorities, including symptoms of depression, sleeplessness, anxiety and isolation.

“In recent weeks, I have been yelled at, threatened and ridiculed, had property defaced, been unfriended and blocked on social media. A neighbor witnessed a hate crime. Another friend arrived at church on a Sunday morning to malicious graffiti sprayed across the building. At first, I was angry. But now, I am just sad: blue, really blue.

“Many people were dreading divided tables at Thanksgiving. Many more, I suspect, are finding it difficult to contemplate making merry at Christmas. ‘I’m just not in the mood,’ a friend confessed to me last week, ‘Haven’t bought a single gift. I want to skip the whole holiday thing altogether.’

“A blue Advent. That sounds about right.

“Advent should not be a mini-Lent…Advent is of a different spiritual hue: It is a time of waiting, of expectation, of hope in the darkness. The blue candles symbolize the color of the sky right before dawn, that time when the deepest dark is just infused with hints of light.

“Blue holds the promise that the sun will rise, and that even after the bleakest, coldest, longest night, the light will break forth, as the new day arrives.

“Blue may be the color of sadness, but blue is also the color of hope.

“Many faiths and religious traditions have sacred days or times of waiting, of anticipation, of the expectation of enlightenment — that light breaks through the night. Diwali, Bodhi Day, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Advent. And those sorts of holy days are celebrated when darkness surrounds, when all seems lost. When we hurt and think we have been abandoned, when all promises seem broken. When we light candles against the night, trusting and believing that a greater light will arise. When a single flame becomes a conflagration of compassion and justice.

“Advent recognizes a profound spiritual truth — that we need not fear the dark. Instead, wait there. Under that blue cope of heaven, alert for the signs of dawn. Watch. For you cannot rush the night. But you can light some candles. Sing some songs. Recite poetry. Say prayers.

“Trust that waiting is active — making ready for what comes next. When the sun rises, there is much work to do.”

Lighting Winter Solstice Candles

Generation to generation people honor the darkness and call light from the womb of night. Tonight we light five candles to welcome compassion and justice into the world.

Candle of the South: We light our first candle, the candle of the South, to honor those in South America, Africa, and Australia as they celebrate the Summer Solstice.

Candle of the East: We light the candle of the East in solidarity with those in Asia and the Middle East, especially mothers and children in Aleppo, Syria who are in fear and trembling, dying in the streets.

Candle of the North: We light the candle of the North for those who are afraid, for immigrants, Muslims, Jews, communities of color, sexual and gender minorities, all of us gathered tonight.

Candle of the West: We light the candle of the West for the indigenous women who fight for their sacred spaces and the right for their voices to be heard. We light this candle in solidarity with our sisters and brothers at Standing Rock who have shown grace, courage, and resilience in the face of violence.

Center Candle: We light the Center candle for those who have died this season. We invite you to name them. (Naming)

Song: “Light Is Returning” by C. Murphy on Canticles of Light © 1997


How is a blue winter solstice empowering you right now? How is light returning in your life? How will you spread this light?

Blessing Stollen

Come, put your hands on this bread, this stollen, and remember the work of women, people on the margins, communities of color that spread light through the world.

Blessed be this bread and blessed be those who do the daily work… child care workers, homemakers, domestic workers, lawyers… doctors, healers, secretaries, teachers… scientists, engineers, philosophers, social workers… writers, artists, musicians, florists… farmers, gardeners, theologians, therapists… (Name others)

Blessed are you, Holy One of Light, for giving us this bread of our labors, symbol of our daily work. Bless us as we share it on this Winter Solstice night. (She breaks the bread and invites others to do the same.)

Blessing Cider

Come, raise your cup of cider and remember the work of women, people on the margins, communities of color that spread light through the world.

Blessed be this fruit of the vine and blessed be those who are energized through their work… friends who laugh with us and warm us like seasoned drink… daughters and sons, nieces and nephews, students, colleagues who share their creativity… women whose muscle and mind move our world… women whose sweat and toil bring liberation and equality… for teachers and professors, not just those who teach us in the classroom but those who teach us in life, who are so important for our formation… (Name others)

Blessed are you, Holy One of Light, for this drink of our labors, symbol of daily work. Bless us as we share it on this Winter Solstice night. Raise your glass and toast the Winter Solstice. (Toasting)

A Winter Blessing

Let us call forth winter from the stories and reflections we have heard. Choose a word or phrase from this evening’s ritual that you will add to our invocation as we go around the circle, welcoming winter.

All: Come, winter come

First person: Bless us with the light of _________.

All: Come, winter come

Second person: Bless us with the light of _________.


[Participants said: Bless us with the light of hope… compassion… women… strength… tenacity… resilience… laughter… love… joy… community… peace… confidence… faith… safe travels… and more.]

Sending Forth

Gathered in the blue of this Winter Solstice night, let us form a circle. Close your eyes and feel the power of the darkness around us and within us. Call forth from within you your light, your creativity, and your healing powers.

Filled with the power of this Winter Solstice,

Let us dedicate ourselves to remaining steadfast under oppression.

Let us enjoy the treasures of being together.

Let us call forth feminist religious voices worldwide.

Let us include those who are left out, nourish those who are afraid, and eradicate

the causes of their fears.

And let us go forth and spread the good news of equality, dignity, and justice far and wide.

Song: “Silent Night,” adapted by S. Jean Hughes, Synapses, Chicago IL, 1994

Silent night, holy night, all’s not calm. All’s not bright.

Round the world there is weeping and fright.

Hunger and wars will claim victims tonight.

Where is heavenly peace? Where is heavenly peace?

Silent night, holy night, All’s not calm. All’s not right.

Homeless are left in the streets every night.

Left in the cold so they’ll be out of sight.

Where is heavenly peace? Where is heavenly peace?

Silent night, holy night, How to share calm? How to share light?

One among many and not being first

Each with a beauty enriching the earth,

This brings heavenly peace. This brings heavenly peace.

(Close with sharing hugs of peace.)

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© 2016 Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER). Planned by Diann L. Neu, Mallory Naake, and Hannah Dorfman