December 2022 WATERritual:
Bringing the Light of Wisdom for Winter Solstice

By Diann L. Neu with the WATER Community

Watch the December 2022 WATERritual.

Preparation: Have candles and lights near.

Welcome and Call to Gather

Welcome to this Winter Solstice celebration, “Bringing the Light of Wisdom.” Tonight is the eve of the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. It is time to savor the darkness and beckon the light to return. This is the longest night and the shortest day of the year.

At the end of this stressful year, the promise of solstice holds hope. Out of loss and grief come comfort and compassion. Winter invites a long journey inward to draw on natural resources and strengths.

This is the season of Winter Solstice ceremonies worldwide. Virtually all cultures have their own ways of marking the Winter Solstice by using the symbol of light to enliven spirits, invite reflection, and welcome back the light. They light candles, place candles or lights on a tree, burn a Yule log, or decorate houses with extra lights.

Many religious traditions mark the light breaking through the night. In 2022 the Hindu Diwali was October 24; the Jewish Hanukkah is December 18-26; the Christian Advent is November 27–24 and Christmas on December 25; the Buddhist Bodhi Day falls on December 8; the Winter Solstice is tomorrow December 21; the Chinese Dongzhi festival is on December 21; and the African American Kwanzaa is December 26–January 1. Each ceremony beseeches the sun to return again, to awaken in us compassion and justice.

Our celebration tonight focuses on women’s gifts of wisdom. Women know how to give birth, Dar la luce, or to give the light as they say in Spanish. Women have a special insight into life’s mysteries, giving birth to children, ideas, artistic spaces, friendships, and more.

Song: “Light Is Returning” by C. Murphy, on Canticles of Light (Out Front Music © 1984)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXb4-aUIfTM. Used with permission.

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, circling in her path around the sun,
Earth Mother is calling—Her children home.

Lighting Winter Solstice Candles

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

(Light the candle of the South) We light our first candle, the candle of the South, to honor those in the Southern Hemisphere – Australia, Antarctica, New Zealand, Chili, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, and South Africa – as they celebrate this summer solstice. We unite especially with those who are facing economic hardship, poverty, and violence, and have migrated to Mexico and face hostility at the U.S. border.

(Light the candle of the East) We light the candle of the East in solidarity with the women in Iran, in Afghanistan, and in other countries, where fighting for their rights can put them in great danger.

(Light the candle of the North) We light the candle of the North in solidarity with those who live in fear of war and terror, especially the people in the Ukraine, who have suffered under the consequences of war for a long time now.
(Light the candle of the West) We light the candle of the West for those who experience the devastating wildfires and flooding.

(Light the candle of the Center) We light the Center candle for those who have died this season. I invite you to write in the chat the name of someone who has died that you want to remember on this night. Naming.

Winter Solstice Poems

Let’s listen to poems about the ‘Winter Solstice.

Tausende von Kerzen kann man am Licht einer Kerze anzünden, ohne dass ihr Licht schwächer wird. Freude nimmt nicht ab, wenn sie geteilt wird.
            Translation: Thousands of candles be lit from one candle without dimming. Joy does not diminish when it is shared.
–Siddhartha Gautama Buddha (The Buddha is a wandering ascetic and religious teacher who lived in South Asia during 6th or 5th century BCE)

Oh Sun, source of light, love and power in the universe
Whose radiance illuminates the whole Earth,
Illuminate also our hearts that they, too, may do your work.
–Sanskrit prayer for peace

I arise from the rest with movements swift
As the beat of a raven’s wings
I arise
To meet the day
Wa-wa.
My face is turned from the dark of night
To gaze at the dawn of day,
Now whitening in the sky.
— Iglulik Inuit blessing

O Dayspring, Splendor of the Eternal Light, Sun of Justice,
come and enlighten us,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
–O Oriens Antiphon for December 21, Winter Solstice

 

“All Is Light” ©2022 Marsie Silvestro

Filigreed Light

filters in us

all kinds of revelations.

It fractures the darkness,

kaleidoscopes it’s unfolding

allowing us to discover the fertile soil

of our expanding soul,

cultivated through pain

and pushing through.

Light can be blinding

making us cringe and cry

closing us off

from embracing the warmth

of its Yes to living differently,

to face a truth

that invites us

to rise from the shadows

onto a new

and sparkling translucent path.

Light is a Magician

throwing wisdom’s stars

into our heart,

reminding us

we have all we need

to receive and perceive,

all is Light
in us.

Song video: “I Am Light” by India Arie

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ism8dBjxKvc&ab_channel=IndiaArieVEVO

 

Reflection | Sharing

Let us take time in small groups to reflect on these questions:

What did you hear in these songs and poems that inspires you to be light? How will you spread this light?

When you get into a group, introduce yourself by sharing your name and where you are living. Then share your reflections.

Blessing and Spreading Winter Solstice Light

Let us bless this Winter Solstice light and spread it far and wide. Hold your candle, receive the light, and send it to those who need light tonight.

To friends who share joys and sorrows, the light of friendship to you.

To the people living in war-torn countries, the light of peace to you.

To people with cancer, and those who are sick, the light of healing to you.

To families divided by differences, the light of reconciliation to you.

To children of every race, family, and country, the light of love to you.

To people in despair, the light of hope to you.

To those who are without homes, the light of shelter to you.

To those who are hungry, the light of food to you.

To those who have no job, the light of remunerative work to you.

To those who are dying, the light of a peaceful death to you.

To children being born this day, the light of life and health to you.

To those who experience discrimination in any form, the light of justice to you.

To the government leaders, the light of vision and truth for the global community to you.

To women who experience violence from war, rape, and religion, the light of safety and restitution to you.

To young children growing up today, the light of equality to you.

 

Take Action

Let us put our prayers into action.

. Light a candle every day for a week and send light into the world.

. Participate in a Festival of Light tradition that is other than your own.

. Read a book to a child about a Winter Solstice tradition.

. Donate to a women’s shelter or volunteer at a food pantry in your area.

Sending Forth

Close your eyes, savor the darkness, and beckon the light to return – within you and around you.

Filled with the promise of this solstice season,
Let us dedicate ourselves to remaining hopeful even in the midst of loss and grief from this stressful year.

Let us go forth to enjoy the treasures of being together with loved ones over the holidays.

Let us include those who are left out, nourish those who are afraid, and work to wipe away the causes of their fears.

Let us go forth to be light and spread the light of equality, dignity, and justice far and wide.

Song: “This Little Light of Mine,” Odetta
https://www.youtube.com/watch?coralv=J2kDsqGeoLU&ab_channel=EileenMLakaAdamfulgence

 

Learn More from These Resources

Conrad, Heather. Lights of Winter: Winter Celebrations Around the World. Berkeley, CA: Lightport Books, 2013.

Edwards, Carolyn McVickar. The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for Winter Solstice. New York: Marlowe & Company, 2000.

Pfeffer, Wendy. The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice. New York: Dalton Children’s Books, 2003.

© 2022 WATER, Women‘s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, adapted from Stirring WATERS: Feminist Liturgies for Justice by Diann L. Neu