(By the time this is posted, it will be the day of the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere. I held off on writing it, however, until the night before. Editor’s prerogative!)

As the earth travels around the sun on its oval orbit, the seasons change depending on the closeness to the sun and the tilt. As a result of the oval orbit, the days and nights fluctuate in length. The days of the longest night or day are the solstices (winter and summer respectively) and the days mid-way in between when the day and night are of equal length are called equinoxes (spring and autumn). Thus, the night leading up to the Winter Solstice is the longest night of the entire year.

It has been my habit for a number of years to follow a modern variation of the old Irish tradition of keeping a fire burning through the long night; by lighting a candle and keeping vigil over it all night long–sunset to sunrise–to ensure that it stays lit for the entirety. Staying up all night is not easy for someone who is accustomed to being awake during the day, so it can be difficult and exhausting not going to bed until sunrise. This will also be my first year doing so with my new husband, as we start new traditions together.

For me, this is a way to recognize and appreciate the season changing, and be thankful for the return of the light (we’re finally going to start having longer days again!). It also serves as a moment of peace and introspection, without the busyness and family obligations of Christmas, etc. Some years I meditate, some years I clean. I might paint my nails or other small self-care practices. Whatever I end up doing, it’s a night just for me. Well, for me and my husband now.

A pot of black tea is a definite necessity: The later the night gets, the more I will need the caffeine. My pretty tetsubin (though technically mine is a tetsu kyusu, with an enamel lining) on its iron chafing dish–which you can see with the lit Solstice candle in the picture above–is perfect. Hot tea to sip on all night! I might even make a second pot, depending on how quickly we go through this one. We have a simple lychee-flavored black tea, since it’s easy and flavorful, and my hubby isn’t as interested in delicate teas.

It is my wish that anyone who is stressed and worried and hurried about the holidays can take even a brief moment of peace, sip a cup of tea, and reflect on the season’s change with gratitude. Bright blessings of the Solstice be upon you! Welcome the return of the light! And enjoy that tea.