Native American Winter Solstice Celebration

No matter what our spiritual beliefs, or what part of the world we live, we all share the turning of the sun on the solstices. Winter Solstice on December 21 is the shortest day of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. After the Winter Solstice, each day becomes longer until the longest day of the year arrives around June 21st.

Honoring the solstice is something lost to most of us, and it feels deeply meaningful, in a mystical sort of way, to choose to make a glimmer of connection. Here is a winter solstice rite observed by many Native American tribes. It is a ritual that honors your ancestors, belief system, and a way of offering prayer and gratitude:

Prayer sticks are made by everyone in a family for four days before the solstice. On the day named as the solstice, the prayer sticks are planted-at least one by each person-in small holes dug by the head of the household. Each prayer stick is named for an ancestor or deity.

Traditional prayer sticks are usually:

Made out of cedar and are forked;
Are equivalent to the measurement from the maker’s elbow to the tips of their fingers;
Are taken from a tree that the maker feels connected to.
Tobacco is offered to the largest tree of the same species in the area and permission is asked to take a part of its relative.
The bark can be stripped.
The bark can be carved on the stick.
One feather should be added to the prayer stick; traditionally this is a wild turkey feather.
A bit of tobacco is placed in a red cloth and tied onto one of the forks.
Fur or bone from an animal that the maker wishes to honor is tied onto the stick.
Metal or stones should not be tied to the stick.
It is also customary to say prayers silently as one makes the prayer stick.

From Celebrating the Great Mother, by Cait Johnson and Maura D. Shaw.

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Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Ruth R.
Ruth R.2 years ago

Thank You. I sure was thankful to be able to say that the day-light part of the days are getting longer, and I do not live so far north, so it was a good day this year.

Winn Adams
Winn Adams2 years ago


Valerie R.
Valerie R.2 years ago

The solstice celebration is the real roots of the Christmas holiday.

Silvia Gonzalez
Silvia Gonzalez2 years ago


Elsie Hovav
Elsie Hovav3 years ago

How wise and beautiful.

Frans Badenhorst
Frans Badenhorst3 years ago

good info, I didn't know...

Nancy P.
Nancy P.3 years ago

Beautiful...and even if you didn't have a prayer stick you could still honor the winter solstice; and mother earth and all the inhabitants.....

Victoria S.
Victoria S.3 years ago

Very interresting, I'd love to make one, but where would I find Cedar... :-(

peggy p.
peggy p.3 years ago

thank you cait, for your wisdom and love of sharing