Yesterday, December 22nd, was the Winter Solstice. The solstices, which happen twice each year in Summer and Winter, are days that mark a seasonal change in the length of daylight hours. The Winter Solstice, also referred to as Midwinter or Alban Arthan (“Light of Winter”), marks the longest night of the year, and from that day moving forward towards Spring the days will slowly become longer.
Although it falls within the month of December, the Winter Solstice is celebrated by many pagan, Celtic, neo-spiritualist, and East Asian religions as a Holiday of rebirth and renewal, signifying the coming Spring and the return of light and abundance. It is also celebrated at different times throughout the month, with several festivals occurring closer to New Years Eve. For many ancient religions, this meant celebratory gatherings or festivals at which group rituals were often held. As with other important seasonally and astrologically influenced holidays, this often included ritual piercing or modification of the body in other ways.
Today one of the most common themes in many Solstice celebrations is paying worship or homage to the sun, including any gods or goddesses associated with it. In modern celebrations, just as in centuries past, observances generally include the drinking of beer or mead, the use of oranges for food and decoration, exchanging of gifts, feasts involving candy and game birds, the wearing of flowers and sun emblems, and alternatively getting pierced or tattooed among groups of friends and doing yoga or performing prayers outdoors at sunrise.
For a modern Midwinter celebration, getting piercings or tattoos with friends has become fairly popular, especially since this is the time of year when many people who live in colder climates get cabin fever. The event can even be turned into a party, where cookies, candy, and gift exchanging occur. Just remember to have plenty of aftercare products on hand!