Although it's the day with the longest period of darkness, I like to think that this is the best time to let go of the darkness and shadows. Light a candle when the sun has set to mark the winter solstice. From now until June 21st, we'll see a little more sunlight every day. Every year, I find this encouraging.
For many of us, the last few years or so have been troubling in one way or another. Personally, I welcome any opportunity to shake those troubles off. Today holds one of those opportunities. The winter solstice marks the astrological beginning of winter at 10:59 am EST, but holds the promise of spring. It's a big deal day.
Don't just take my word for this, earthlings (in the northern hemisphere) have been celebrating this moment of the year for eons. Most of us are familiar with Stonehenge, the prehistoric site in Wiltshire, England, designed to exactly align with the sunset on the winter solstice (and the sunrise of the summer solstice). But Newgrange, in Ireland's Boyne Valley, pre-dating Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza, is designed specifically to capture 17 minutes of sunrise on the winter solstice. The temple of Karnak in the Luxor valley aligns with the winter solstice, and some of the Nazca Lines in Peru converge at exactly the place on the horizon where the sun sets on this same day.
I don't know what was going on in these places once they were built and while they were actively used (and neither does anyone else in 2021) but each took such an effort to construct that I can't imagine there wasn't some sort of extraordinary event at each of these locations on what we now date the 21st of December.
That being said, we know for sure that there were plenty of ancient festivities related to the winter solstice. The Roman Saturnalia (which morphed into Christmas), St. Lucia's Day (which was incorporated into pre-Christian Norse festivals), Yule, Dong Zhi in China and other Asian countries, Shab-e Yalda for Iranians, Shalako for the Native American Zuni, Soyal for the Hopi. Alas, we have to imagine how Celtic cultures celebrated.
If those are not enough links to keep you busy, here's Astronomy for a Change's quick snapshot of this day, this year, and timeanddate's straight ahead explanation.
Although my personal celebration is subdued, this is my high holy day. It reminds me that the darkest hour is just before dawn and helps keep me connected to the earth, our seasons, and the star we revolve around.
This is a time to let go of what's been keeping you dim and to set intentions to give energy and attention to what makes you shine brightly. Be still. Make a wreath with found pieces of plants or do something to honor nature. Smile and light a candle to signify your siding with the light. Set an intention for something that comes naturally to you that might help bring more light to your world in the year ahead.
Whatever you do, remember that we have been celebrating this moment on earth for a very long time. Bow to the sun, raise your heart, be grateful to be alive. This life is a gift.
You are not alone. Everyone who has ever celebrated this moment on earth throughout time is with you.
Peace, love and hope to you all.
Are you celebrating the Winter Solstice? If so, let me know your plans in the comments below.