In our busy world of work schedules, deadlines, community, family, and other assorted responsibilities, Winternights does not hold the same meaning as it did to our ancestors. In ancient times this was an uncertain time of fear and concern. Would their food supply carry them through the winter months ? How would their livestock fair when the brutal winter months ravaging cold came down upon them ? ( Smaller animals were usually brought into the longhouses during the winter months ) One of their biggest fears, and something we do not think much about today, was the fear of disease, and worst of all plague. We may not be able to fully understand the fear and trepidation that they felt, but we must honor them for their bravery, resilience, and perseverance, in a much more difficult and dangerous age.
I don't feel that there is a true date for the Winternights ritual. I literally just feel it in the air.... and in my bones. For me this generally falls just before, or after Halloween. This year it has been made a little easier by the fact that they say this upcoming weekend the Northeast may see its first snow of the season. Even if it turns out to be only a few flurries I think it will mark the correct time to hold the Winternights ritual and feast.
To celebrate the feast, that must take place after the ritual, I make sure to put out a rich assortment of fruits, nuts, vegetables,and grains. These represent, of course, the bounty of the harvest this year. I try to get as much fresh foods as possible, but it is not as easy as it is for the spring and summer festivals. I also try to have an assortment of meats to represent our ancestors life sustaining livestock, and also to honor the upcoming " Wild Hunt ". The Celts would place an extra plate for their ancestors on the table, and I like to do the same. The Celts did this during what they called the Samhain festival.
I posted one of my rituals a while back, but I do not feel comfortable doing this, and will not do it again. To honor the Alfar, Gods and Goddesses, Disir, and your ancestors, simply reach into your heart for the right words to honor them. I think you will be quite surprised, and pleased, how nice your true feelings can sound when you express your love for them directly from the deepest recesses of your heart !
May you all have a wonderful Winternight's festival, and a terrific winter season. May the Gods and Goddesses bless you this day and every day to come !
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !