The winter solstice occurs when the sun shines directly over the tropic of Capricorn, which is typically on either December 21st or the 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere. During the winter solstice, the earth receives less sunlight, and during the summer solstice, the earth receives more sunlight. As a consequence, the winter solstice signifies the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Winter solstice decorations are incorporated into celebrations of this special time of year in a variety of ways all around the world.
Seasonal Decorating Ideas
Winter solstice decorations lend a unique atmosphere to this very special time of the year. While many people associate commonly known Christmas decorations with a winter solstice celebration, there are also some very specific traditions and decorations associated with this winter holiday as well.
Holly and Ivy
The custom of incorporating holly and ivy sprigs as forms of decoration in the home has been used for several centuries, although many people are unfamiliar with this tradition. Holly and ivy hold great significance for this time of the year. Since they are both evergreens, they symbolize the eternal wakefulness of the earth year round. In addition, the holly and the ivy offer masculine and feminine elements to the celebration; the sharp leaves of the holly represent the male and the entwining vines of the ivy represent the female. In addition, the powerful red berries of the holly represent sexuality.
Many families use holly and ivy as decorations, and these can be placed in the home in arrangements, as fireplace mantel drapes, or even as additional Christmas tree decorations. Since holly berries can be toxic (although not typically fatal), it's best to avoid bringing the real plant into your home, particularly if young children and animals will be present during the holidays.
The mistletoe is a much more common symbol of the winter solstice and is often associated with the stealing of a kiss when couples stand underneath its hanging leaves. The mistletoe, just like the ivy, represents the feminine elements of gentleness and power during the winter solstice. While the mistletoe has long been associated with romance, the real version of this plant should be avoided as well. While some people believe that only the mistletoe's berries are poisonous, all parts of this particular plant are considered toxic.
Tradition holds that a Yule log brings good luck to the household in which it is burned. Many people believed that the act of burning a Yule log in a home would protect that house from the elements of nature. In addition, the belief that even a Yule log's ashes held good fortune inspired many to sprinkle ashes into wells to maintain a good water supply and to sprinkle ashes in orchards and fields to ensure an ample harvest.
Today, Yule logs are used as winter solstice decorations, and while many people burn their logs, others only decorate them. Common decorative supplies used to transform a common log into a beautiful Yule log include:
- Evergreen sprigs
- Fabric-covered wire
Children and adults alike can enjoy creating a festive decoration out of a simple, clean log. For anyone who wants to burn the log, the addition of apple cider or apple juice before burning yields an aromatic fragrance to the room.
Decorate and Celebrate
The celebration of the winter solstice is a joyful time of the year in which friends and family celebrate the gifts of Christmas with the loveliness of the winter season. Let your decorations enhance that celebration.