Returning: The Winter Solstice is here!

I wrote the following to read at a winter solstice party yesterday…..I thought I would share it.  Solstice time is as good a time as any to take note……

The sky remains grey, black of night giving way to the unfolding morning. At 7:20 the morning is well underway, the day moves forward but the morning light reminds me to pause, let the morning unfold.  Embrace the day. This is our solstice day.  Tonight at 11:19 pm on December 21, it’s the official solstice time in Asheville.

Today we’re close to the sun but we lean away…..tilting at 23.4 degrees off center, travelling along the imaginary Tropic of Capricorn.  Those below that line embrace a day of maximum sunlight, their solstice parties likely have an outdoor feel!

Today I have 1 second less of sunlight relative to yesterday, tomorrow I’ll have 2 additional seconds relative to today.   And the next day, 3 additional seconds.  What will I do with my additional daylight?  When will I actually notice that my 6:30 am coffee is not in the early morning darkness? I hope I’m so awake and alive that I am tuned into the smallest of change.

In the days ahead the sun appears to stand still in the sky, as the return journey across the equator, northward begins.  Interesting fact:  The word solstice “derives from the Latin scientific term solstitium, containing sol, which means “sun” and the past participle stem of sistere, meaning to make stand”.

Sunlight will continue to grow as we journey around the sun.  Short days, as we think of them, grow longer as sunlight returns.  We hardly notice the precious seconds of sunlight in the coming weeks..  By mid-Jan we are earning back 1 minute per day….by mid Feb we have 2 minutes per day.  Then, we accelerate, a consistent turnover of 2 and a quarter minutes per day throughout March before we begin an April slow down edging towards the next summer solstice in June. To be clear, the days are not any longer. We still have 24 hours to rush through while doing some stuff and avoiding other stuff……but we do have more light with which to operate!

The patterns, the consistency, the natural rhythms.  We all live and feel it with great anticipation.  I wonder…..of what importance has the solstice been to others……after all, the sun has been around a long time, no?

The importance of solstice dates in great civilizations is well known. To some ancient cultures, the winter solstice was considered a time of death and rebirth, with solstice celebrations held to welcome the beginning of longer days.  I seem to recall that mysteries of Stonehenge are aligned to the solstice.

Surely the Romans and Greeks messed around on solstices………as it happens, the Romans celebrated something called REVERSALS at the midwinter festival of Saturnalia

“This began as a festival to honor the agricultural god Saturn, was held to commemorate the dedication of his temple in 497 BCE. It quickly became a time of widespread revelry and debauchery in which societal roles were overturned, with masters serving their slaves and servants being allowed to insult their masters. Mask-wearing and play-acting were also part of Saturnalia’s reversals, with each household electing a King of Misrule. Saturnalia was gradually replaced by Christmas throughout the Roman Empire, but many of its customs survive as Christmas traditions.”

Sounds like a time of great roman partying!!!  Leave it to a Roman celebration to end up as debauchery……

With so little sun and so much night time in darkness surely there have been concerns about dark Spirits on dark nights, around the mysterious Solstice.

Indeed……

“The Iranian festival of Yalda is celebrated on the longest night of the year. In pre-Islamic times, it heralded the birth of Mithra, the ancient sun god, and his triumph over darkness. Zoroastrian lore holds that evil spirits wander the Earth and the forces of the destructive spirit Ahriman are strongest on this long night. People are encouraged to stay up most of the night in the company of one another, eating, talking, and sharing poetry and stories, in order to avoid any brushes with dark entities. Beliefs about the presence of evil on the longest night are also echoed in Celtic and Germanic folklore”

For those interested, I found this information at:    https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/72659/10-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-winter-solstice

I was taught to cite my sources…..though admittedly I likely haven’t cited it correctly.

Anyway, while the summer solstice seems to get all the good publicity, with the good times that all summer vacations bring….………we should gratefully celebrate and appreciate, as we are this evening, this natural phenomena, the winter solstice.  While I do not feel the need to stay up most of the solstice night in order to avoid brushes with dark entities, I celebrate and mark this moment where the sun stands low in the sky, seemingly frozen, with gratitude and humbled gratefulness for my good fortune.  I celebrate with optimism for the next year…, especially for November 2020, and with excitement for a new decade….and with deep  personal reflection from the last one.  Grateful for family, friends, health (including my much improved (since retiring) jump shot), and of most importance, a strong marriage. I, for one, will seek to take closer note of, and pay more attention to, the incremental growth in sunlight that will grace my life in the coming days, weeks, and months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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