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Let’s Celebrate the Light!

December 2020, posted by Emma

Monday 21st December heralds Yule, or the Winter Solstice, a festival celebrated in different forms across the Northern Hemisphere since ancient times. It's when we honour the darkness of the longest night and welcome the return of the sun. Traditionally, it's a time of symbolism, power and reflection, a chance to bid farewell to the old and welcome in the new.

The sun-returning rituals celebrated by different peoples and cultures throughout the years have featured variations, but also many similarities, several of which are reflected in Christmas celebrations today. The Ancient Romans held the seven-day festival of Saturnalia, which marked the rebirth of the year. Romans decorated their homes with greenery, candles and exchanged gifts. Ancient Norsemen, who highly revered the sun, held mid-winter celebrations involving lighting bonfires, storytelling and drinking sweet ale. Here in Britain the Winter Solstice was celebrated long before Christianity came to our shores. Celts, led by their Druid Priests, lit logs to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and to bring luck for the coming year.

The authors of the Goddess and Green Man (2020) explain that Winter Solstice is the start of a new year, when we acknowledge that all beginnings emerge from darkness. They remind us this is the time when the light starts to return to the earth. No matter what your spiritual beliefs may be this surely resonates with us all, at the end of a year dominated by numerous restrictions. So this Winter Solstice, we invite you to celebrate with essential oils and aromatics which honour these ancient traditions. Let’s welcome back the light!

A spice from India

Firstly, we honour the ancient Norse traditions and let Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) light your internal bonfire. Originating in India, this spice has been used in cooking and for medicinal uses since ancient times. A classic winter aromatic, ginger is renowned for its warming qualities. It is a classic essential oil to add to blends for winter coughs and colds. It can be very useful in preparations for arthritic conditions aggravated by the cold. It has been used throughout the ages as a digestive aid and gently inhaling its essential oil can bring effective relief from nausea. Gabriel Mojay describes it as a warming and invigorating Yang tonic (1996). Thus it supports our get-up-and-go energy, which is so often depleted at this time of year. If you are feeling at a low ebb then ginger is definitely an essential oil to reach for.

From our Greek Ancestors

Next, we give a reverent nod to the Ancient Roman’s tradition of decorating homes with evergreen branches, something we continue to embrace at this time of year. Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) is an evergreen Mediterranean tree, famed for living an exceptionally long life. The essential oil is indicated for a range of physical ailments, including varicose veins, menstrual system regulation and troublesome coughs. A suggestion by Fischer-Rizzi will resonate with how many people are feeling right now, that cypress “strengthens an overburdened nervous system” (cited in Bataglia, 2003, p.192).

The Ancient Greeks revered cypress trees as symbols of grief – you can still spot them growing in old graveyards across Britain and mainland Europe. The world has experienced unprecedented levels of grief this year, not just for lost loved ones, but for life as we used to know it. Emotionally, Cypress is an oil of transition and can support us through difficult changes.

A Meditarenean Must

Our final Yule celebration oil is lemon, the essential oil of lightness! Slightly sour, cooling, uplifting and widely loved, this citrus fruit has been a stalwart of culinary, medicinal and perfumery cupboards for centuries. Used at least since Roman times, it made its debut in Europe around the Middle Ages. Amongst its many therapeutic uses, it is great for helping ward off winter bugs and colds. Mentally, it has an almost unrivalled power to focus and mind, uplift the spirit and bring a smile to even the most deflated faces. It is the perfect essential oil for celebrating the return of the light.

These essential oils may not typically be associated with the festive season, but this year has been far from usual in almost every way. So join us as we harness the power of this essential oil trio, to bid farewell to the dark times and welcome back the light.

If you’re having a Winter Solstice fire, why not mix a few drops of our celebration oils with some water in a spray bottle (preferably a glass one), shake well and lightly spray around the base of the flames. If you’ve got a large stone or brick you could even let it heat at the base of the fire and drip on the oils. Take care not to touch the hot stone or flames with your fingers though! Or use it as a room spray (take care not to spray it on your bare skin or near your eyes). Our suggested ratios are 4 drops each of cypress and lemon with 2 of ginger. Why not also try our Yellow essential oil blend of Ginger, Sweet Orange, Bergamot and Benzoin essential oils: lightness, joy & warmth in a bottle!

Everyone at Materia Aromatica wishes you a very happy Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Year.

Emma Charlton

• Bataglia S (2003) The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy (second edition), Brisbane: The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy
• BBC (2006) Winter Solstice, accessed 02/12/20, available from
• Goddess and the Green Man (2020), Yule/Winter Solstice December 21st, accessed 02/12/20, available from
• Davis P (1988) Aromatherapy an A-Z, Saffron Weldon: Daniel
• Mojay G (1996) Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit (1996) London: Gaia Books Limited
• Wigington P (2019) Learn Religions, accessed 02/12/20, available from