It’s just about dark here in New Hampshire as I write these words. We are beginning the longest night of the year, today is the winter solstice. I’ve always found it fascinating the number of cultures that have stories and festivals that center around this time of year in the coming return of the light.
To me it is extremely significant in the focus in our culture on holidays celebrating light at this time of the year. In my little corner of the world here for most people that’s Christmas, for my family it’s Hanukkah, for others Yule and so many other festivals. Maybe it’s a natural thing that in the time of the year when dark is so pervasive that the celebrations of these festivals tend to focus on expressions of light. The range of these is amazing: the often very secular decorating of houses with spectacular lighting displays, the lighting of the candles or oil in the Hanukkah menorah, the burning of the Yule log and maybe most importantly the gathering of loved ones often around the light of candles or a fire in the fireplace.
Imagine, living thousands of years ago, long before we had any understanding of why the seasons change, why the days grow longer and shorter. Imagine how frightening it could have been to notice the days getting shorter and shorter and the nights getting longer and longer, and wondering if the process would ever reverse. No wonder, it became a tradition to hold our loved ones close at this time of the year. Even today, when we have little question that tomorrow will begin the lengthening of days towards the summer solstice, we are still drawn together in the dark time of the year, to celebrate with lights.
I wish you holiday gatherings and celebrations full of light and love!