The Rough Nights

An almost forgotten tradition

The rough nights (from German "Rauhnächte") or twelve nights is an ancient tradition based on the old Germani and Celts. Back in those times the days from Dec. 25th till Jan. 6th (or sometimes the days from the winter solstice on Dec. 21st tilll Jan. 2nd) were called the days between the years. It was the time when the moon year was already over (which has 354 days) but the sun year not yet (which has 365 days). It was a time to celebrate, tell stories of the past but also dream of the future. Going with the rhythm of nature its no surprise that this was also a time to reflect and go within. In the middle of winter the old germans and celts had little to do aside from celebrating the slow return of the sunlight and with it life itself. All they could do was reflect what worked in the last year and what didn't and plan what they wanted to do better in the new year.

And it was also said that the veil between the worlds is thin in these days. It was the time of shadows, souls and ghosts emerged from the underworld, demons hunted for lost souls in the dark, Odin himself was on his wild hunt... No wonder that people stayed inside their houses and put up a candle in the window to keep away evil spirits. Or extensively smoked their homes to release old energies. There are several traditions still known in Europe (so far as I know mostly German speaking areas). They differ from region to region as they were often just passed from generation to generation. Some regions still don't wash their clothes in those days because it was forbidden to hang them out to dry. Especially white clothes where said to get the attention of evil spirits and bring harm to the owners.

But a thin veil also meant that people could connect easier with their ancestors, guides or angels. It was a time for fortune-telling and a remnant of this can still be found in the lead-pouring on New Years Eve where people try to find out what the new year will bring for them. It was a time to release old things and dream new dreams. So nowadays it is a very good time to vision your future with vision boards, journaling or affirmations.

Here are some rituals that are sometimes still done by people:


One very well known part is that each day of the rough nights represents a month of the next year. For example: what you dream in the night of Dec. 25th could be sign of what will happen in January, Dec. 26th might show you what happens in February. But it is not just dreams, everything that happens during the day or what you feel or focus on can be a sign of what might happen during the coresponding month. People can also draw oracle or tarot cards to see, what the month might bring. It is good to take notes so you still remember what happened months later (especially for dreams it is wise to put a notebook and pen on your bedside table and note everything you remember after waking).

Burning wishes

This is also widely known although the wishes differ between 12 and 13. You can also do a list of things you want to release (like outdated beliefs, limiting thoughts, everything that doesen't serve you) and a list of dreams you want to manifest in the next year (it is best to write them positive as if you already have them). Write them on a piece of paper and mix them so each night you can pull from a container one thing you want to release and from another container a wish you want to manifest. Don't open them, just burn them over a candle and let yourself be filled with gratitude that your dreams will be taken care of (or what you want to release).

Now to the part of 12 vs. 13 wishes: We only have 12 nights so if we do 13 wishes, one will be left. And this one we can open after the rough nights. This dream is on our own list to fulfill. So be careful what you wish for ;-)

Sometimes this ritual is also done by pulling the wishes each night and noting the corresponding month on it. After the rough nights you can open them and note down which of your dreams will be highlighted in which month. I actually prefer to burn them because this means I won't start to "wait" for them to be fulfilled.


A way to celebrate those nights is to start your preparations on the winter solstive. Make sure to release any old grunges you have with others as far as you can, to return any item you borrowed so you can be as free as possible. This time is meant to go inside and the more you can release old things, the better you can concentrate on yourself. Concentrate on being present and calm. Clean your rooms (and yourself if you like) with smoke to release all old energies, you can also open the windows to literally get them blown away. It is also advisable to stop doing anything that just eats your time (like binge watching, scrolling through social media,...).

You can also take the time from the winter solstice to the first rough night to reflect, journal and make a list of what you want to release or what you want to incorporate into your life. Or put up a small altar on which you burn your wishes later. A beautiful idea is also to put up a golden candle to strengthen the light and a black one to honour the shadows within us all.

The rough nights

On the rough nights beginn your day ceremonial with eating well. You can also put up a dish for the ancients to show your gratitude towards them for bringing you their wisdom. You can also do holy baths or showers to clean yourself from old energies and ritally oil or cream yourself. This is calming and helps you get into the present moment. To connect with yourself and your guides.

When you sit down in the evening and light your candle to burn your wishes, take some time to meditate and become still. Take your time, maybe you receive messages from your ancestors or guides. You can also take your tarot or oracle cards and pull a card.


Edit: There is one blog post in English that I found: The Origin of the Rough Nights

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