Winter is a season when you can burn your candles at both ends of the day, and for many peoples, candle lighting is an important tradition of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other world holidays during this time. December truly is the month for a celebration of light, for its days are the darkest, with the winter solstice (which usually falls on December 21 or 22) being the shortest day of the year. Solstice is reckoned as the official beginning of winter, though it is often referred to as "Midwinter" (just as summer solstice is called Midsummer). At this time, the sun is at its lowest point in the sky, and it rises and sets at its southernmost points. After the solstice, the days will grow longer as the changing angle of the Sun gives us better quality of light. Ancient peoples may have experienced great anxiety, wondering whether the Sun would actually reach this turning point, or if the world would recede into endless darkness. Hence, many solstice rituals featured such themes as the slumber of the earth, the rebirth of the Sun, the need to shelter the spirits of Nature, and the battles between the forces of light and darkness. The reappearance of the Sun was met with great rejoicing.
If you customarily light a candle for the nights of December, you can make a ceremony of it by saying:
The seasons have made their circle,
and I light this candle
to celebrate the Sun's renewal.
As people everywhere illuminate
these long midwinter nights,
so may we all find hope and comfort
in the ever-returning light.
Let the traditions of the holiday season inspire your choice of candles. Traditional Yuletide colors are red, white, green, and gold; popular scents are pine, spruce, balsam fir, bayberry, myrrh, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. You might enjoy using a Christmas tree-shaped candle, or other seasonal candles.
Excerpted from By Candlelight, by Janina Renée