Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Winter Solstice ~ Light and Rebirth
This year, today to be precise, the world saw something it has not seen since the year 1703, a lunar Eclipse with the December full moon, at the winter solstice. This got me thinking about solstice, Christmas, Celtic traditions and pagan rites, and how they have all blended over time to create our modern celebration of Christmas. (I am currently writing a book with a moon theme, and reading about Celtic faeries and wiccan traditions, so it was fresh in my brain.) It also got me thinking about light and rebirth, and how all things and beings eventually emerge from the darkness.
Solstice means standing- still-sun. It is the time when your hemisphere is leaning farthest from the sun, the daylight is the shortest, and the sun is at it's lowest arc in the sky. In the Celtic tradition it was not one of the major celebrations, but it was revered none the less. We associate holly with Christmas because the Celts believed it to be of supernatural powers because it was neither bush or tree. The Celtic druids regarded mistletoe as sacred and hung it in doorways for good luck also. Kissing under the mistletoe was a pledge of friendship. You still may not see mistletoe in church's today because of it's association with the Celtic pagan beliefs. Many of our Christmas traditions seem to come from these pagan rites of the Winter Solstice. The Romans decorated with laurel and evergreen to celebrate their holiday of Saturnalia. The Scandinavians Yule festival was to bring light to the darkest time of the Solstice and is now associated with the "Yule log" the long burning log covered with holly and greens. In the third century various dates were associated with Christmas from December to April. No one was exactly sure of the date of the birth of Jesus, but most think it would be equivalent to our fall. In 350 AD December 25Th was adopted in Rome and most of Christianity as the date of Christmas, to coincide with the pagan Winter Solstice celebrations and quiet possibly make it easier to convert people to Christianity if they could bring their winter traditions with them.
In New England today winter is a time to return to our homes and a slower way of life. With darkness descending earlier in our days, we may sleep more. Not unlike the hibernation of animals. Hot chocolate, warm soups,roaring fires all bring families together. In the past when we were a agricultural society, the warmer months were a time of hard work and little rest. Makes sense that the Winter Solstice was a time to return to the hearth and reconnect during long dark winter nights.Another key reason of why Christmas is celebrated during this time.
There is also the theme of when it's darkest the light begins to return. Christmas lights, yule logs, bonfires, candles, all the solstice traditions we still use help ward off the dark and bring in the light. Just like the birth of Jesus brought light to the world. As the days slowly lengthen after the Winter Solstice, hope returns and light begins to get stronger. The New Year is a time of rebirth and a time to start new. A fresh turn, like fresh winter snow just waiting for the first small footprints of a rabbit. A new pallet waiting for the future to be written. Light and darkness are intimately interconnected, you can not have one without the other. One can not appreciate the calm after the storm, or the sunrise, without having experienced the dark that precedes it. New Years resolutions are made at this time.
I am going to try and foster a return to the values of the past. Shut off the television a little more and and bring out the games and hot coco. Bring the spirit of Winter Solstice into my home. Light a candle in the darkness and watch the flame grow and spread it's light. Just like a positive attitude can spread through your heart and your family. I have spent too much time this past year feeling sorry for myself and dwelling on what's wrong. Instead of trying to make it right. I have been feeling depressed the last couple of days. Feeling like I will never have the love I am searching for. (Reading too many paranormal love stories I guess.) But I also feel like I can't roll over and except what I have. Fulfilment is such a tough thing to chase after. So I will use this night, this Winter Solstice, to reflect and meditate on what I do have. And foster love in my own heart. Go and get out the mistletoe and holly, and give thanks for the light.
Hopefully I didn't get too many facts wrong in this, if I did, sorry. Just my take on things