Winter Solstice

Note: Refer to arrangements announced for each Celebration.

Solstice Blessings!

Thanks to Marta for sharing her blessing in 2018.....

May the Sun always shine in your heart and upon your path.
May it warm your face when you feel cold and alone.
And may it always, always nurture your hope.
May you be blessed by light in even the darkest hours.

Winter Greetings! Nollaig shona do gach duine!

In Fourknocks 2016 Susan reminded us that our celebration was on Sunday 18th, and in Ancient Rome Saturnalia started on 17th up to 23rd December, with fun and frolics and exchanging presents, and they also celebrated the renewal of light at the Solstice, birth of the unconquerable sun (Dies Natalis Solis Invicti).

We also remembered the traditional gods and goddesses:

Santa Claus who shares characteristics with - the Holly King, Celtic God of the dying year; Father Ice, a Russian winter God; Odin, Scandinavian all father who rides on an 8 legged horse; Great Mother, who gave birth to the sun child; Ops who is the Roman goddess of plenty, wife of Saturn; Holda, the earth goddess of good fortune.

At Winter Solstice we are in the midst of dark Samhain and we are aware of the surrounding darkness.

The year seems at its most oppressive.

But into this darkness the light is re-born. We gather to welcome the light into our hearts and to grow with it towards the fullness of Summer Solstice.

Sometimes it is cold and often it snows... in 2010 there were 30 days of snow... snow and ice lasted from the middle of December to the middle of January. Kilkenny recorded -16 degrees and Mayo dropped to -17 degrees C.

And what do you do in a BIG freeze? ... Go down to the Holy Well at Tara and make snow angels, of course!

Several times we have held a winter solstice get-together at Newgrange

Thanks to Bernadette for this picture of the passageway into the chamber and to others for their comments - to be found in the archived website.

from 20 December 2015 - Without Darkness there can be no Light

The circle was then closed and a very powerful energy was felt when the final sentences were spoken in Irish, the native language of Ireland, as a tribute to our ancestors who celebrated the Winter Solstice thousands of years before us. They left us a message back then, a message which was received loud and clear all these millennia later as the Light of the Rising Sun illuminated the chamber at Newgrange:

"Do not despair in the dark, for without the dark, there can be no light. For as sure as night follows day, as sure as the river flows to the sea, as sure as the cycle of birth, death and rebirth continues, the darkness will be banished by the Light."

from 20/21 December 2011 - Silently Observant

At Newgrange the morning sunrise shines through the spirit window/roof box and enters the inner chamber, originally illuminating the tri spiral in the back alcove. This narrow golden honey coloured beam of light is focused and appears in the chamber in a magical way that a privileged few witness every year. We feel that the light would have shone onto the ashes of the departed and acted like a sort of cosmic portal for the souls of the ancestors.

... Martin and Anne sent these messages in 2018... Nollaig Shona Dhuit. Nollaig Shona Dhaoibh (Happy Christmas) ... Beannachtai an Grianstad do gach duinne go léir (Happy Winter Solstice) ... Athbhliain faoi mhaise dhuit (Happy New Year)


In this video you will meet Dagda, share in the sunrise at Newgrange and snow on the Hill of Tara, see Tara Celebrations' past events and enjoy decorations and delights of the Season.

Nativity Play

At one Monday meditation in An Tobar we wrote and celebrated the birth of Christ energy within us all.

Angel – friendly, welcoming each at the front door - 'greetings', 'there is good news'. Offers each arrival an angel card which carries positive word.

Innkeeper –miserable, grumpy, at room entrance door - all are rejected. 'go away', 'no room in the Inn'

Hillside watchers –all gather in Library, waiting – centre table with angel, animals. Reading from gospel and carol 'while shepherds watched their flocks by night'.

The Call – mobile phone rings – it is a message – 'good news of great joy' - come to the stable – pick up the angel from the table and all process back to the 'Inn'.

Innkeeper has changed demeanor - opens door reverentially – all enter dark room with wrapped babe surrounded by candles.

Silent meditation to angelic music.

3 Kings – circle the room three times, then describe the gifts they carry;

'We bring gold to honour Him as King, and to yield to the purification process of the fiery trials.

We bring frankincense to worship Him even in the midst of our brokenness.

We bring myrrh to recognise that He has identified with us in our pain and sorrow.'

All participate in a healing circle. Close.

Ceremony co-created around Rebirth of Light and Hope 2009

light fire,
– first entrance gateway via holly & oak - second entrance gateway via frankincense smudge and light
– introduction explaining solstice season, and intention for gatherings
– cardinal directions starting in the west – north, east, south and centre
– old Yule Log, coloured flames, drumming, rattling, movement
– gathering presents: “I gift the gift of ___ to the group”
– incantations of thanks over fire and walking 3 times around the fire
– receiving presents: “on behalf of the group I accept the gift of ___”
– jingle bells to rattle and sing carols
– elements – stones & water blessing
– open heart contributions – sharing christmas cards – wassail drink – close directions – food!

The elements blessing

Another enjoyable experience on a cold night.
The intention is to perform a blessing on each other in accordance with the seasonal energies.
A bowl of water, from a holy well, is heated by stones from the fire, combining those two elements.
The bowl is passed from one to another. As it is handed over to the person next to you, you wish them a short, meaningful heart felt blessing.... something along the lines of wishing them....

“a warm Winter, peace, comfort and joy”.

Deer Mother

And to get you into the mood for the seasonal traditions and celebrations this is a wonderful video about the ancient stories and modern celebrations around the Deer Mother, who takes flight at Winter Solstice.

Since the early Neolithic she was a venerated Spiritual figure......

Rejoice! Gaudete!We open the door to our hearts today
and welcome in the warmth and light,
we wrap ourselves in the clear bright
beams raining down from the old currant bun.
We are content in a simple obvious pun,
the Son of God, the God of the Sun.

Thanks to Anne N for these photos of the sunrise 21st December 2019.

(yes that is the moon in the first one, and a flying crow in the second - but can you spot the flock of birds)

Thanks to old european culture.blogspot for their insights into winter solstice

The traditional masked characters dancing in the room are all symbols of death and resurrection of nature...

Winter was in Continental Europe seen as the time of death. The nature died at the beginning of winter, when the sun went to the land of the dead...The nature got resurrected at the end of winter when the sun returned from the land of the dead...

While in the land of the dead, sun had a lot of time to chat with the dead. And, Slavs believed, it was the dead ancestors which were remembered by the living, that "put the good word in for the living" and were the source of the prosperity of their descendants...

Winter Solstice Celebration, by the Latvian painter Evalds Dajevskis, Acrylic, 1989...

Cahokia Mounds

There are ancient monuments around the world that were built to honour the Winter Solstice and other astronomical events. Stonehenge in England is the most famous. And Newgrange in Ireland is another site. Cahokia Mounds is the largest archaeological site in the United States and marks the ancient city of the sophisticated Native American culture called The Mississippians. There, a magnificent city existed between 600-1400 A.D. The site contains 120 earthwork mounds and a circle of posts called “Woodhenge,” that mark the winter and summer solstices and the two equinoxes. Other such ancient Native sites exist in other areas of North America, such as The Great Serpent Mound in Peebles, Ohio, where a huge snake effigy marks the Winter Solstice. The serpent’s head aligns with the Spring Solstice and the tails points to the sunrise of the Winter Solstice.

from Notes from the Frontier

The Winter Solstice for the Hopi

The Soyal Ceremony begins on the shortest day of the year, and symbolizes the second phase of Creation at the Dawn of Life. Its prayers and rituals implement a plan of life for the coming year, ceremonially turning back the sun toward its summer path. The longest ceremony on the ceremonial cycle, lasting up to 16 days, sacred rituals are performed in underground chambers called kivas. Many ceremonies involve dancing and singing; the kachinas may even bring gifts to the children. At Soyal time elders pass down stories to children, teaching pivotal lessons like respecting others. The Hopi, The Peaceful Ones (Hopitu Shinumu), believe everything that will occur during the year is arranged at Soyal.

from Wilder Utopia - Hopi Kachinas dance

Pinterest Board - Click here for more information on festivals, places and all things Winter Solstice.

And for a compilation of experiences over the years with different sections on places, seasonal characters, activities, an idea for a ceremony, festive food and drink, and much more visit our Issuu page - Tara Celebration's Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice Celebration Reports

Goodbye Darkness, Hello Light - Celebrating the Simplicity & Splendour of Life - Alignment on Hope - Free Spirited - Answering the Call - all themes for Solstice past get-togethers

Advent Candles

Pat lit the 5 weekly Advent Candles in 2020. Read the diary as he shared the energies of the 4 Sundays and the last 5th one. A very Happy Christmas to One and All. Have a lovely time wherever you are and whatever you are doing.


The events of Yule are generally said to have centred on Midwinter and feasting, drinking, and sacrifice (blót) were involved.

BBC Radio 4 broadcast - Open Country - Winter Solstice at Newgrange 2016

The energy of the land is what draws me really. Because I think that this place is so special and it has been for so many thousands of years. The fact that our ancestors knew about this place. They held gatherings here.

Building the Energies to Winter Solstice

During December Bernadette Mac drew a card everyday.... and I kid you not... Winter Solstice she drew the very appropriate A New Dawn. Read more here...

Dowth - Place of Darkness

Dowth (Dubthach or dark house) is the place of death, the setting winter solstice sun shining into the chamber of Dowth South every year.

Newgrange and Winter Solstice

In the south east, the sky over Red Mountain brightens, yet a linear grey cloud clings to the hill and teases the waiting crowd.

Tara at Christmas

Many gather here at the turning of the year to share in the 'return' of the sun.