The winter solstice, also known as the shortest day and longest night in the year, will occur this Wednesday, December 21, when the East Coast will see only nine hours and 15 minutes of daylight. But don't bust out the electric blanket and make unbreakable plans with your Netflix account just yet. This is actually a very spiritually significant day, according to nature-based faiths.
The winter solstice, sometimes celebrated as Yule in Pagan and Wiccan traditions, marks the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Even though it's one of the oldest holiday celebrations, the rituals around it have remained the same: Spend time with your family, observe the changes in nature, and reflect on what's happened in the past year (and what a year it's been).
Seeress and shaman Deborah Hanekamp of Mama Medicine tells Refinery29 that this is the time of year that "nature itself is inviting us to really accept ourselves, so we can grow and cleanse and prepare for personal growth." Think of the winter solstice as a chance to make a New Year's resolution without the (arguably self-imposed) high stakes of an actual New Year's resolution. You can even use it as an opportunity to perform an early cleansing ritual.
We spoke more with Hanekamp about the best ways to celebrate the solstice, even if you've never given it a try yourself. This year just might be the right time to start a personal solstice practice.
Click through to find the solstice celebration that's right for you.