Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Solstice!

The official winter solstice was on Sunday Dec. 21 at 7:04 am EST. I wasn't able to post for official winter solstice because I was on the road, returning home from the Vermont Studio Center.
The drive from Vermont to central New York was a long and harrowing one. A huge storm covered the entire length of the trip so driving was slow.

However, I made the trip into a meditation on the Solstice. It was a perfect solstice day: dark and snowy and surrounded by my family. The solstice doesn't need to be celebrated on just one day. After all it isn't a coincidence that many religions have holidays surrounding the solstice. I think we can all agree that there is more to these holidays than commercialism and mass consumption. But what is the winter solstice?

In very basic terms the winter solstice is when the sun reaches the most angular distance on the opposite side of the equatorial plane of the hemisphere you are observing from. As a result, those of us in the northern hemisphere experience the shortest day of the year. The actual solstice lasts for an instant, but it also signals the beginning of the winter season. Primitive man would celebrate the birth of the sun or the return of light to the earth at this time. It is a time of celebrations of joy and abundance to coax the return of light and energy from the sun.

It begins to become clear how this basic astronomical event has evolved into more commonly celebrated holidays. Think: birth of the sun(son), etc. But if we strip back some and look at the teachings that the original celebration offered we get tools for getting through the dark and cold winter months: lighting fires, gathering together and sharing food and entertainment. These activities help to raise spirits, ease depression, and prepare our bodies for the change in daylight. These holidays shouldn't be limited only to gift-giving or focusing on material things, but instead on gathering together, being creative, and giving thanks for the abundance in our lives. It is important to remember that abundance doesn't need to be measured only in material things. The winter solstice can be celebrated from the time of the official solstice all the way through New Year's Day.

I hope you all get a chance to celebrate the return of the light in your own special ways. Remember to be creative and gather together in warmth and light. What will you do to celebrate the season this year?

(Moon Phase: waning crescent )
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