December 2023 WATERritual

“Kindling the Light of Peace for Winter Solstice”

By Diann L. Neu and WATER staff

Watch a recording of the ritual here on YouTube.

Preparation: Have a candle and matches near.

Call to Gather
This is the season of Winter Solstice festivals in the Northern Hemisphere. On December 21 the night is longest and the day is shortest. Winter brings sweet darkness and calls the sun from the womb of night.

Virtually all cultures have their own ways of marking the Winter Solstice by using the symbol of light: lighting candles, placing candles or lights on a tree, burning a Yule log, or decorating houses with extra lights.

Many religious traditions mark the light breaking through the night: the Hindu Diwali on November 12; the Jewish Hanukkah, December 7–15; the Christian Advent, December 3–24 and Christmas on December 25; the Buddhist Bodhi Day on December 8; the Winter Solstice on December 21; the Chinese Dongzhi festival on December 22; and the African American Kwanzaa, December 26–January 1. Each beseeches the sun to return again, to awaken in us compassion and justice from generation to generation.

Tonight, we desperately awaken the light of peace.

Song:  “Light Is Returning” by C. Murphy, on Canticles of Light (Out Front Music © 1984)

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.

Meditation for Peace
Earth Mother is calling. Let us focus on the light of peace within us.
Light your candle and hold it.

Breathe in the light of peace.
Cup your right hand over the flame,
and draw the light of peace to your eyes three times.
Breathe in the light of peace.

Lighting Candles of Peace
From generation to generation, people honor the darkness and call light from the womb of night. We light five candles to welcome peace into the world.

The candle of the South:
I light our first candle, the candle of the South, to welcome peace in the Southern Hemisphere as they celebrate the Summer Solstice. We unite especially with those who have migrated to Mexico and face hostility at the U.S. border. May peace come now!

The candle of the East:
I light the candle of the East in solidarity with those in Asia and the Middle East, especially civilians in Gaza, Palestine, and Israel. May peace come now!

The candle of the North:
I light the candle of the North for those who are afraid of losing democracy, for immigrants, Muslims, Jews, communities of color, sexual and gender minorities, those who have experienced violence: gun violence, intimate partner violence, and sexual violence. May peace come now!

The candle of the West:
I light the candle of the West for those who experience the devastation of wildfires and flooding, for those who work for climate justice. May peace come now!

The candle of the Center:
I light the candle of the Center for all of us, for those who have died this season, and for those who will be born this Winter Solstice. Please put their names in the chat. May peace come now!

Blessing the Light of Peace
Let us bless these lights of peace.
Blessed are you, Holy One of Peace,
for you empower us to kindle flames of peace.

Let us warm our hands over this fire.
Cup your hands over the flame,
and draw the light of peace to your eyes three times.

Let us open our hands outward and send peace to those who need it now.

Spreading the Light
Let us spread this Winter Solstice light of peace far and wide.

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 elected leaders of every country,
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.

Song: “I Wish You Peace” sung by Caryl Mack 

I wish you peace when the cold winds blow
Warmed by the fire’s glow
I wish you comfort in the lonely time
And arms to hold you when you ache inside
I wish you hope when things are going bad
Kind words when times are sad
I wish you shelter from the raging wind
And cooling waters at the fever’s end

Chorus, repeat twice:
I wish you peace when times are hard
The light to guide you through the dark
And when the storms are high and your dreams are low
I wish you the strength to let love grow on
I wish you the strength to let love flow

I wish you the strength to let love grow on
I wish you the strength to let love go

Reflection | Sharing
How are light and peace returning to your life and to life around you?
How will you spread this light of peace?

Take Action
Let us put our prayers into action.

  • 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 or give service to a women’s shelter or food pantry in your area.

  • Sending Forth
    Close your eyes and feel the power of the darkness around you and within you.
    Call forth from within you your light, your creativity, and your healing powers.

    Filled with the power of this Winter Solstice,
    Let us go forth to be peace in the world.
    Let us include those who are left out, nourish those who are afraid, and eradicate
    the causes of their fears.
    Let us go forth and spread the good news of peace, dignity, and justice far and wide.
    May peace be the song in our hearts.

    Song: “Light One Candle” Peter, Paul, and Mary

    The song was written in 1982 by group member Peter Yarrow as a pacifist response to the 1982 Lebanon War, an intention was reflected in the lyrics “Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice justice and freedom demand, Light one candle for the wisdom to know when the peacemaker’s time is at hand.”

    Light one candle for the Maccabee children
    With thanks that their light didn’t die
    Light one candle for the pain they endured
    When their right to exist was denied
    Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
    Justice and freedom demand
    But light one candle for the wisdom to know
    When the peacemaker’s time is at hand

    Chorus, repeat twice:
    Don’t let the light go out!
    It’s lasted for so many years!
    Don’t let the light go out!
    Let it shine through our hope and our tears.

    Light one candle for the strength that we need
    To never become our own foe
    And light one candle for those who are suffering
    Pain we learned so long ago
    Light one candle for all we believe in
    That anger not tear us apart
    And light one candle to find us together
    With peace as the song in our hearts

    Chorus, repeat twice

    What is the memory that’s valued so highly
    That we keep it alive in that flame?
    What’s the commitment to those who have died
    That we cry out they’ve not died in vain?
    We have come this far always believing
    That justice would somehow prevail
    This is the burden, this is the promise
    This is why we will not fail!

    Chorus, repeat twice

    Don’t let the light go out!
    Don’t let the light go out!
    Don’t let the light go out!

    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.

    © 2023 Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), by Diann L. Neu,, and WATER staff