January, 17, 2014

How to Celebrate Winter Solstice in Style

Photo courtesy of Mint Love Social Club featuring BBJ Linen’s Aspen Linen

The days keep getting colder and shorter, and if you’re like me, you’re starting to miss seeing the sun past the late afternoon. Of course, shorter days aren’t all bad—in fact, the shortest day of the year can also be one of the most festive!

For thousands of years, people have celebrated winter solstice and the promise for the future it brings. Its traditions are even said to have influenced modern Christmas celebrations, so even if you’ve never commemorated the solstice before, you’re probably familiar with some of its hallmarks.

This year, solstice falls on Saturday the 21st, which makes it the perfect opportunity to celebrate the season with family and friends. If you want to do the holiday right, I have a few ideas that I think “yule” really love! (And no more bad puns. Promise.)

Light Up the Night

People have been celebrating winter solstice since long before string lights—heck, since long before the light bulb. And when you’re celebrating the longest night of the year, that means things can be a little dark from the get-go.

Well, I say embrace it. Traditional solstice values include taking stock of our blessings, showing thanks for what we have, and resolving to maintain a sense of balance with nature and humanity—not too shabby, right? The perfect way to embrace that tranquility and to honor this holiday’s history of thousands of years is to stick to all-natural lighting.

Try lighting your party with candles, and plenty of them. Don’t worry about using the expensive ones made to smell like grandma’s fresh-baked cookies, either—utility is the most important thing. If you’re looking for a way to make your natural lighting more efficient, decorate with mirrors and shimmery tablecloth linen. By reflecting candlelight wherever possible, you make the room glow—keep your blinds open, too, so you can enjoy the reflection of the moon on the snowfall outside.

Find Inspiration in Nature

Ever wonder why red and green are traditional Christmas colors? You have the solstice to thank for that!

Solstice traditionally celebrates, among other things, the perseverance of nature through cold weather and lean times. The foliage that survives winter’s chill—like green pine trees and red holly berries—became holiday icons as a result.

Does that mean you should deck out your party in all-red-and-green tablecloth linen? Of course not! But it does mean that you can find some serious inspiration in nature. For example, use a neutral tablecloth linen, but for your centerpiece, fill a bowl with colorful elements of nature, like pine cones, sprigs of pine and bright, shiny red apples. You can even embellish it with cinnamon sticks for a natural fragrance that suits your wintery theme.

Even the animals of winter have a traditional place in solstice celebrations, from Odin’s eight-legged horse to the gentle deer, foxes and rabbits that explore the snowy landscape. While I don’t personally recommend turning your party into a petting zoo, decorating with small ornaments in the shapes of winter animals adds a cute, traditional touch.

Remember the Wassail!

Of course, no party—solstice or otherwise—is complete without the right refreshments on your table. While eggnog is a holiday mainstay, I recommend spicing things up with a bowl of wassail, too.

Wassail is a traditional hot beverage served around and on solstice, and while it’s evolved quite a bit over the years, most modern recipes are a variation on hot, boozy cider. Typically flavored with wintery fruits and spices like cranberries, cloves, orange and cinnamon, this is the perfect alternative for toddy-lovers and the eggnog-averse alike. Since this is a batch drink, though, make sure that you cover your serving station with tablecloth linen, just in case someone lets the ladle drop—hey, it happens to the best of us.

So now you’re on the right track to honoring the shortest day of the year in style! By celebrating nature, each other, and a bright future, you and your guests can make this solstice the start of a new holiday tradition.