Living Arts Weekly: Celebrating Sunwait

November 6, 2022

Festivals are universally-shared celebrations of life, and they are as diverse as the people of our beautiful planet. In celebration of the festival traditions that bring us together, we would like to share with you the experiences of several of our LifeWays family this year, all from different walks of life and spiritual traditions. Today, we are featuring an article from our friend Bridgette Sloane, a mama from the Rose Rock School in Norman, Oklahoma. She writes about her family’s unique advent tradition that gives nod to her Northern European roots, while also befitting any spiritual path.

Sunwait is a beautifully reverent way our family acknowledges the passing of weeks leading up to Winter Solstice, and creates anticipation and excitement for Yule. This advent activity is not tied to any particular religion, therefore specifics can be tailored to support any or none. The activity could be as easy as lighting a candle each week and acknowledging the passing of time or as complex as you desire.

To prepare, I gather six candles and a holder of my choice, and place them where they will live for the next six weeks. Some years it’s in the middle of the dining room table, other years, a shelf or an end table; as long as it’s a safe spot to have an open flame, it’s good to go. The candles and holders can be any shape or size. Even battery-powered candles can be used if real flame is not your thing. There are endless ways to enjoy this activity, and all are valid.

Beginning five weeks prior to December 21, one candle is lit each week and allowed to burn while time is taken to enjoy the flame and contemplate the meaning of the shortening days and the eventual return of the sun.

My husband, Jesse, is a woodworker and crafted a lovely wooden holder for the beeswax chime candles I enjoy using. Each candle takes approximately 2 hours total, so I allow them to burn around 20 minutes each week. The goal is to have all six candles burning on Dec 21 in a lovely stair-stepped row, drawing all the weeks’ blessings to culminate on the Solstice, while we feast and celebrate Yule with friends and family. On solstice night, the candles will begin going out every 20 minutes with the final candle extinguishing itself around 2 hours, which is about how long we feast and have company over.

Candleglow in general gives a warm feeling to any space, but during this time of year, it’s especially welcoming and festive. Your candles may be larger or smaller so don’t feel confined to these parameters… just do whatever feels right.

Our family, embracing Nordic tradition, assigns each candle with one of the first six runes of the FUTHARK, the runic writing system used by early Germanic peoples. Each rune carries an energy and thoughtform. People have created poems and imagery to accompany each week, but I typically light the candle and say whatever blessing comes to me in the moment. Feel free to use my words, other well-known poems, or create your own. I also found a wonderful artist who created a free and relevant coloring page. Our six-year-old, Scarlette, appreciates any opportunity to create art (plus, you’re never too old for coloring.)  Speaking of our six-year-old, she has asked for battery powered candles she can “light” each week as well, so this year we will also have six small battery powered tealights. 

Brief meanings of the first six runes:

Fehu – wealth, abundance

Uruz – strength, primal creative power

Thurisaz – shielding defense, protection

Ansuz – wisdom, connection to creation, ancestors 

Raidho – journey, path of travel, wheel

Kanaz – torch, creative inspiration    

For 2022, we will begin Sunwait November 16th.

November 16th, at sundown, I’ll light the first candle (and invite Scarlette to switch on the first tealight) and say something like: 

On this first Sunwait night

I light Fehu so bright

Bring us abundance in all form

To this home, safe and warm

Wealth aplenty we can share

With those we hold dear

We await the coming light

On this first Sunwait night

And so it is

Then we will pause silently and watch the flame flicker and dance. After brief contemplation, we’ll partake in activities preparing the home for Yule. Decorating, coloring, or simply enjoying each other for this brief moment each week, help our home become evermore festive. I’ll allow the candle to burn about a sixth of the way down (20 minutes or so), because next week I will light both the first and second candle, drawing in the blessings of the first week, and allowing both to burn approximately a sixth (another 20 minutes.)

The following Wednesday, November 23, I will light the first and second candles (and invite Scarlette to switch on the first and second tealight) saying:

On this second Sunwait night

I light Uruz so bright

Bring us strength to endure

With hearts light and pure

With love we create

For the light we now await

And so it is

Wednesday, November 30, I will light the first, second, and third candles (and invite Scarlette to switch on the first, second, and third tealight) saying:

On this third Sunwait night

I light Thurisaz so bright

Like flowers grow their thorns

To protect and adorn

Shield us from harm and from cold

As we await the sun so bold

And so it is

Wednesday, December 7, I will light the first, second, third, and fourth candles (and invite Scarlette to switch on the first, second, third, and fourth tealight) saying:

On this fourth Sunwait night

I light Ansuz so bright

Love of those who came before

Are the reason we adore

Bring us wisdom from the passed

So we may grow to peace at last

And so it is

Wednesday, December 14, I will light the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth candles (and invite Scarlette to switch on the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth tealight) saying:

On this fifth Sunwait night

I light Raidho so bright

May the paths we take

Be safe and smooth

Drawing us ever closer

To what we’re here to do

And so it is

Wednesday, December 21, I will light all the candles (and invite Scarlette to switch on all the tealights) saying:

On this sixth Sunwait Night

I light Kanaz so bright

Light the fire inside us all

To know our worth and hear the call

To be our best in all we do

We are the light if we so choose

And so it is

Sunwait is all about recognizing the nights growing longer and days growing shorter, and knowing the days will eventually be longer again. Thank you for sharing your time to learn a little about our family tradition. However you choose to acknowledge this time of year, may you find hope, love, and joy in all you do. And so it is.  

~Bridgette Slone