How to Plan a Winter Solstice Party

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The winter solstice, the longest night of the year, is a significant holiday within the pagan community, as well as other cultures. Many countries mark this day with rituals, celebrations, traditions, food, drink and prayer. If you want to have your own winter solstice party, you can make it as simple or elaborate as you want, and follow any religious, traditional or cultural guidelines that appeal to you.

  • Determine which culture or religion you want to model your party after. The ancient Romans marked the winter solstice at Saturnalia, where they honored Saturn, the god of sowing, by reversing the role of slaves and masters, exchanging gifts and lighting bonfires. The Greeks once honored the season as Lenaea, or the Festival of the Wild Women, where ladies left their homes for the mountains to drink and dance in honor of the wine god, Dionysus.

  • Choose your location. The warmth of your home is an ideal setting---especially if you have a fire place to burn a Yule log---for the party is to remind everyone that light and warmth will triumph against the dark. But a clearing or wooded area may be best if you are a Wiccan who prefers to perform rituals outdoors. Those who live by a prehistoric landmark, such as Stonehenge, could hold their party at the structure.

  • Pick your activities. For example, Western Slavs would light fires in graveyards to keep their deceased relatives warm and held meals in homage to the dead so they would not be hungry. You could follow the practice by setting a battery-operated candle at your loved ones' headstones and afterwards eating their favorite meal at a restaurant where your family often gathered. The Druids would toss items to the ground to signify what burdens they carried around all year long that had held them back, then light a candle and hang it facing east. Your party can rip up pictures of things that have troubled you, bury the scraps in the back yard and place a lit candle in the same direction.

  • Determine the dress code. Perhaps ask people to wear a symbol of their religion, such as a pendant with a design that reflects the three phases of the moon. You could also make it a masked party in tradition of the mummers in Newfoundland, who would go door to door in disguise and entertain each host as people tried to guess their identities.

  • Select your menu. A Wassail bowl, wine, water and ale are good bets. Appropriate appetizers that show the bounty of the harvest include spicy mixed nuts, a vegetable plate, wheat crackers, slices of roasted cinnamon apples and figs. The entrees should be based on hunted game, so think smoked salmon and venison, broiled flounder, and stuffed duck and goose. For desserts, almond cookies, pumpkin pie, Chinese moon cakes and a cheese plate make tasty finishers.

  • Make party favors. Oatmeal cookies cut in the shape of the moon and sun, and tucked in a small box, would be festive, as are sprigs of mistletoe wrapped around cinnamon sticks or such tree ornaments as round glass balls and bells.

  • Decide how you want to open and close the festivities. You could give a toast of mulled cider to greet everyone once all the guests arrive. Some say prayers for peace and prosperity, or in remembrance of loved ones who have passed on. Words of respect or thanks can also be said before everyone departs, or the party can join hands in a circle and speak their hopes and good wishes for the year to come.

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