Helen Grundmann Garden Design

Winter Solstice

winter solstice low winter sun

On this day when the sun is at its lowest point in the sky and darkness comes earlier than at any other time of the year, we celebrate the Winter Solstice. While December 22nd is the first day of Winter, it also marks the day when the light begins its return, and days become longer as we move toward the Spring equinox.

Every year, as the winter solstice approaches, I pull out a wonderful book that I used to read to my now-grown children when they were young.

winter solstice book

The Winter Solstice, by Ellen Jackson

It talks about how hundreds of years ago many cultures worried that the sun would not return. They practiced rituals and ceremonies that they believed would help the sun be reborn. This was a time for goodwill, forgiveness and love.

Scandinavians in the far north went without light for more than a month and celebrated the sun’s return with a great festival, the feast of Yuletide, from which the tradition of the burning Yule log comes. In Stonehenge, thousands of years ago, the huge stones were placed to frame the setting sun on the winter solstice. In ancient Roman times, a special weeklong celebration began on the winter solstice. People changed places: masters waited on their servants, criminals were treated with kindness, presents were exchanged with friends and relatives, coins and small gifts were hidden in pudding, and evergreens were brought indoors.

Today, many of the traditions that we do at Christmas and Hanukah have roots from solstice rituals practiced long ago. Though the traditions we all practice may be different, there is a commonality in spirit.   The Winter Solstice marks a time for new beginnings. It’s a time to hope that darkness will give way to light and that the world will be a better place in the year to come.

Winter, like life itself, is a season of contrasts and duality.  It’s where the light gains ground over the darkness, it’s one season that spans two years, it’s the time of sleeping which ends with a great awakening.  The Winter Solstice reminds us to embrace the duality of life.

And so my wishes for each of you are also twofold: that you may be both prosperous and generous, and that you may give as well as receive loving kindness today and throughout the New Year.


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