There are so many things to celebrate in December. The top of most people’s lists are Christmas and New Year’s. Have you wondered what it was like to celebrate Christmas years ago? The traditions of Christmas are so much more than decorating, feasting and gift giving. If we can a moment to step back from the traditions of commercial Christmas and give ourselves the opportunity to reflect on old traditions, we will see its much more about reflections, being grateful, celebrating the bounties of the years and celebrating the year to come. This year I want to spend more time with the old traditions and less time on the commercial traditions. So, let's take a quick peek at the Winter Solstice and some herbs that are represented this time of year and I'll throw in my family’s favorite cookie recipe.
What a beautiful time of year. Here in the Northern Hemisphere the air is crisp, the moon is bright and the once lush trees are covered in a blanket of snow. There is a certain peacefulness that comes from looking out on a wintery night and seeing the moonlight shinning upon the bare forests and sparkling on the icy snow-covered forest floor. During this time, we reflect on the past months, how the harvest was, how the weather was and what we have to be grateful for. The Winter Solstice is a great time for self-reflection, for it may be the end of something but it is also the birth of something new. This is the opportunity we have to ask ourselves three questions. What did I learn? What did I teach? And what am I choosing to bring with me? Think about these questions and ask yourself, what will you bring in the new year from this last year? Will you bring your struggles or your successes? This is the perfect time to set up your goals and dreams. What will you manifest for yourself next year? Remember the Winter Solstice is about future planning and the rebirth of Sun. The Earth is coming out of darker times so we celebrate the return of the Sun and a positive year to come.
When I think Winter Solstice and Christmas there are definitely some herbs that pop into my head. Pine and Peppermint are two of them. Pine probable first and foremost because of the tradition of the Christmas tree (We had Pine trees growing up for Christmas trees). The Pine tree has so many uses, lets dive into a few of them.
-Pine Needles can be harvested throughout the year and are most often used as a tea. They are high in Vitamin C and are a mild expectorant. Pine needs have been used in flavoring butter and other dishes. They are a carminative making them good for digestion issues as well.
-Pine Resin has analgesic properties, making it good for all sorts of aches and pains. I primarily use it in a headache salve.
-Pine Pollen is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a whole body tonic. It has also been used to support the immune system and brain health.
-Pine Bark is most used in a tincture form and shows to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Like many plants that are ok to use topically, adverse effects are possible with misuse internally.
Peppermint, what can I say about peppermint... this is my most used herb in tea blends, my go to for headaches in combination with pine. The herb has so many great benefits.
-Peppermint can be cooling and warming depending on dose or amount used.
-Peppermint can aid in digestion and has been used in some formulas for IBS.
-Peppermint is good for clearing sinus congestion
-Peppermint is also antiviral, antibacterial and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Peppermint oil can cause skin irritation and should never be applied “neat” on the skin and should not be used in the bath.
While this is just a very quick rundown of Pine and Peppermint and how they have been used, I recommend doing your own research on these wonderful plants.
Other Winter Solstice time herbs are Rosemary and Sage. They are often used in cooking the feast for our Solstice celebration. For decorations, Ivy and Mistletoe take the stage here.
What are some scents that you can bring into your home to celebrate the Winter Solstice? Well, there are plenty. As an incense, there are Cedar, Cinnamon, Clove, Frankincense, Myrrh, Peppermint, Pine and Orange. Oranges with cloves pressed into them are not only beautiful decorations but can be boiled in water on the stove as aromatherapy for the entire house.
And now for the cookies!!
Winter Solstice Cookies
2 ¾ C Flour
½ tsp Sea Salt
1 C Butter (at room temperature)
¾ C While Sugar
2 Lemons zested and squeezed
1 tsp Vanilla
4 Egg Yolks
1 tsp Vanilla
2 Lemons Juiced
1 ¼ C Icing Sugar
Sanding Sugar or Sprinkles (optional)
In a medium bowl whisk together flour and salt.
In a large bowl cream butter and sugar together. Once creamed at the juice and zest of 2 lemons, vanilla and one egg yolk at a time and mix until combined well.
Add flour mixture to butter mixture and combined well.
Form 2 logs with the cookie dough to desired size of cookie (I usually do about 2 inches) and refrigerate at least one hour or until firm.
Preheat oven to 350°
Slice cookies to desired thickness (¼ inch or so) and place 1 inch apart on baking sheet
Bake for 14-16 mins until they just start to brown (keep an eye on them, every oven is different)
Once baked, remove from pan onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
Prepare Icing by adding vanilla and the juice of 2 lemons to a bowl. Add enough icing sugar to make your icing fluid but not runny.
Drizzle tops with icing and sprinkle sanding sugar or sprinkles on top (if desired, silver, while, clear sprinkles look great)