“We’re going to the farm to cut down our tree!” my toddler happily declared as we drove to the garden shop.
“No, sweetie, remember – we aren’t cutting down any trees. You already got to do that with Dad & Brother! We are picking out a living tree, in a pot, to take home and care for. It’s our Solstice Tree,” I calmly explained for the tenth time.
Solstice feels so right to me. Over the past few years, I’ve been making it more and more my own distinct holiday – away and apart from Christmas – and it’s becoming my favorite. A time to honor the earth, to celebrate light, and to enjoy the turning-inward of winter.
The first year we celebrated this way, I made a wintery feast and turned off all the lights in our home. Earlier, I had gone into the woods and helped some fairies string presents from trees for the children to find. As night fell, I lit my fire fans and led a firelit walk through the woods to light the way for the kids to discover their gifts. We walked home, enjoyed dinner by candlelight, and opened our magical gifts (things like crystals and tarot cards!).
Yesterday evening, my three-year-old picked out a European Blue in a sturdy pot. He also found purple, red, and white tapered candles for our altar, and a woven wooden star for the top of the tree. We added an unadorned, fragrant fir wreath to our order and went on our merry way.
At home, we strung a couple lights and some necklaces around the tree, tied a bow to the wreath, and made our Solstice Altar. It feels so good to see a living piece of earth here in this place of honor. Each drink of water we share with it is a moment of presence.
Solstice in this way is a series of offerings. We honor the Goddesses, the lessons of the earth, the brilliance of natural light (and the light within) . . . we think of kindnesses and snowfall instead of presents and shopping.
“But Mama! I want Santa to bring me a talking robot!” – a grouchy toddler realization mid-reverie.
“Jasper – dude,” I said in my most frank tone, “that’s between you and Santa.
“Solstice isn’t about presents, or Santa, or Christmas. It’s about honoring and appreciating the earth. It’s about peace and compassion, love and light.”
He paused, then asked, “But then when does Santa come?”
“Good question,” I smiled. “Solstice is on December twenty-first, the longest night of the year before the light returns. That’s the night we take our fire-walk and open gifts from the fairies. Then, on the twenty-fifth, a couple days later, Christmas happens.”
“Oooh!” he squealed, “I like Solstice, mama!”
Me, too, kid.