So the winter solstice is tonight (according to my calendar anyway), and I am preparing to celebrate it. I remember celebrating it back home and getting up early in the morning to witness the rising of the new sun. Which is a lovely way to begin, especially wrapped in a warm blanket and a hot cup of coffee in hand. So I may very well do that in the morning once again. It seems like too lovely of a thing to not continue doing.
While I observe the winter solstice, I will admit I don’t put alot of planning into it. Not like I do for the Poseideia or the Dionysia. I still place importance on it, but perhaps not quite as much as others do. Nor do I use the three day ritual that was invented for the occassion. But nor am I of the crowd that feels that celebrating on this day is an entirely modern innovation. I do agree that it is not a ritual that is attested to historically, and as of yet no one has found reference to a worship being conducted. But does this mean I think that nothing was done? No not at all. I look to the fact alone that the Hellenic calendar years began (according to a great article I read some time ago regarding ancient Greek calendar) either on the summer solstice like at Athens, at the spring equinox, at the autumn equinox such as at Delos, or at the winter solstice which I believe was celebrated in Rhodes (if I am remembering correctly) and possibly also at Sparta which either recognized the new year at the autumn equinox or the winter solstice. The point is that these four events are part of a calendric system that places importance on these particular solar occassions, and while we don’t have major solar festivals handed down to us regarding these events, nor do we seem to have a complete list and explanation of every ritual, minor or major, that was part of ancient life. Therefore it is quite possible that an observance was part of ancient life for the occassion, but whether it was treated of any great importance is unknown. It is quite possible that compared to the Rural Dionysia and the Poseideia, such an event was something of a minor annual ritual welcoming back the sun that may be have been carried out in the domestic household or local community (village/neighborhood etc) rather than expressed as a large gathering festival, and therefore was considered of little historical note. But these are merely my speculations on the matter. It just seems unlikely to me that a people who aligned their calendars to coincide with such occassions would have entirely ignored them altogether.
If I am remembering correctly and it was Rhodes that celebrated the new year at the winter solstice this would make a kind of sense considering that Rhodes was considered sacred to Helios specifically, and he was most honored. It would seem natural then that the appearance of the sun after the longest night (which admittedly would not be as pronounced as it is in the far north which is perhaps why in Hellas the solstice isn’t as pronounced as it is in the worship of the people of the far northern reaches), the new sun and the progressive lengthening of days would have been taken as important particularly at this island and therefore honored as their new year.
But regardless of historic speculation, most modern worshipers do include the winter solstice into their ritual lineup, whether they use the three day ritual written by Hector Lugo, or something of their own creation. For myself I have some hymns to read for honoring the winter solstice that will include honoring Apollon who is shedding light from afar in Hyperborea, Helios Eleutherios, Poseidon, Selene and a few other gods. And I will let the light burn at the candles on my altar in honor of the sun on this darkest night and hail Helios the Liberator. I have no special feast planned as I did for the Poseideia and I will for the Rural Dionysia. An offering of light and frankincense to the sun in the evening before, and a libation to him again when I watch the sun rise in the morning.