Our Winter Solstice Celebration

by Valerie White

My family enjoys a Solstice ritual which welcomes the returning sun into our home. It depends on a day which is at least only partly cloudy. The closer to noon you do this, the easier it is.

With a Fresnel lens (ours is more than a foot across, made of lightweight plastic), we focus the rays of the sun onto a pile of fine kindling on a fire-resistant surface. This focusing can be done outdoors, in a place protected from wind, or inside through a window. Wear dark sunglasses and do not permit anyone to stare at the very bright spot of light.

Shortly, the kindling will begin to smolder. You may have to experiment with different substances to find one which kindles easily . . . we've tried various kinds of paper, cotton wool, oil-soaked paper, pine needles and so forth and found the best for us was paper towel soaked in olive oil (low flash point).

As soon as you have actual flame, light a candle and carry it carefully indoors! We use that candle to light a pre-laid fire in the fireplace and oil lamps and other candles all around the living and dining areas. One year, we lit a charcoal grill from our sun-fire and roasted a turkey outside. And of course we've toasted marshmallows over the sun-kindled fire in the fireplace. (That's the kids' favorite part!)

After the fire is well established, we then use the lens to focus light on a small piece of wood, which smolders but does not catch fire. We write the year, and if the light lasts, we write "Happy" and "Solstice" on other pieces. If we don't manage that, we use last year's. Then we prop up Happy Solstice 2005 on the front steps.