Running a Secular Solstice

So. You want to run a Secular Solstice. You’ve got a great secular community – maybe a large group, maybe just a few friends and family. Regardless, you want to be able to share a sense of awe and wonder. You want a holiday that feels sacred, yet rooted in a reason-based worldview.

How do you get started?

In the longterm, ritual evolves. It travels from family to family, culture to culture, adapting to fit the needs of particular communities. But it’s helpful to have a concrete vision of what a Secular Solstice *can* look like, to use as a springboard.

This is a step-by-step tutorial on putting together a Solstice event.

An Arc of Light and Darkness

To be clear, there’s plenty of valid ways to celebrate a “Secular Solstice” (that is say, a Solstice  that is secular). A family dinner. A wine and cheese cocktail party.

But there’s a quality that the Brighter Than Today Solstice has, which makes it particularly compelling, which few non-religious events have: the emotional arc.


It begins light, enthusiastic and joyful. It transitions into somber contemplation. Candles are gradually extinguished, until a single candle remains. Someone tells a personal, vulnerable story about the hardships they or the community have faced. The story ends by finding good reasons to hope, to keep trying, even in the face of absolute darkness.

Then the lights are reignited. You sing together about the world humanity has built together, and the future you will help create.

The Solstices I’ve run typically take 2 hours. They’re about 75% music and 25% stories/speeches/readings. This isn’t strictly necessary. The most important part is the Light-Darkness-Light arc, and there are different ways you could accomplish that. Some people don’t care about music as much, and prefer more storytelling, or like to experiment with other group activities. That’s fine.

This tutorial will emphasize music, but the goal is to undertake a journey together, to confront the most difficult truths you face without resorting to comforting lies. And to come out the other side stronger and excited to be human.

Here’s an outline of the sections to come:

  1. Material Components: Things you need to run a Solstice
  2. The Arc Breakdown
  3. Selecting Music (Coming… I’d like to say soon. Let’s just say “someday”. A lot of the more essential bits are covered in the Arc Breakdown.)
  4. Symbolic Food (Also coming “someday.” Basically, I think it’d be great for smaller groups to have a Solstice framed around a multi-course meal, where first course is things hunter-gatherers could eat, such as nuts and berries. Second course is things like bread that early agricultural people would eat. The later courses could have deliberately modern food that wasn’t possible until the 20th century)