"Winter inspires both joy and woe," according to The Old Farmer's Almanac. We fully cosign with this statement: This season may bring parties and merriment, but it's also stressful. We often find ourselves burning the candle at both ends while trying to find gifts for everyone on our list and finish extra work before going on vacation.
Another reason it may be stressful? The days are shorter, and therefore gloomier. But after the winter solstice — the shortest day of the year, meaning we'll experience the least sunlight in 24 hours — they'll get longer again.
What, exactly, is the winter solstice? Solstices happen because the earth gradually moves around the sun and is tilted on its axis. In the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs when the sun is at its southernmost location in the sky. If you're in the southern hemisphere, the summer and winter solstices are reversed.
Traditionally, the winter solstice — sometimes called Yule in Pagan and Wiccan traditions — has marked a time of spiritual rebirth and coming together with community, which is why we see many cultures and religions celebrating holidays around this time.
This is the time of year when "nature itself is inviting us to really accept ourselves, so we can grow and cleanse and prepare for personal growth," seeress and shaman Deborah Hanekamp of Mama Medicine told Refinery29.
Hanekamp suggested a few ways to observe the solstice: Make sure you have plenty of natural light (or candles at night), try to go screen-free to avoid distractions, don't drink too much, gather with friends for a meal, and, above all, do some self-reflection. It's a time to illuminate your "shadow self," she said, and ask yourself: "What are you ready to let go of and leave behind, to essentially let die or leave in the dark? Are there parts of your hidden self that need to be given a voice?"