Happy Winter Solstice
Why is the Winter Solstice important to a girl who grew up Catholic? Well, it is the foundation for all of the winter holiday traditions, if you look at culture through the eyes of an anthropologist (such as my DH). The earliest winter celebrations predating Judiaism and Christianity were based on the turning of the year, as noticed through observations of the heavens. This is the night that precludes the day when the sun begins to return... the longest night of the year. The jubilation was really over the fact that the sun wouldn't continue to diminish, with ever-shorter days plunging us into darkness, but that the light would gradually return, and spring would come again. The coldest days often still lie ahead, and winter may seem to drag on interminably, even to those who love to wear wool, but the day length will be noticeably longer in less than a month.
To me, it is also symbolic of the fact that light can always be returned to a situation, that we can open our eyes wider, see things in a new light, and transform our lives and our world, if we choose. Many tragedies cannot be reversed, but how our hearts move forward can. Candlelight in particular has always symbolized light from outside of a situation or person to me, moving light, illuminating that which was in shadow before.
I grew up and away from the Church traditions over the years, and embraced many ways of seeing that would be considered pagan and buddhist, but each and every tradition sees this pause before the earth turns back towards longer days to be a significant and deeply holy time. My favorite Solstice nights have been those when I could walk out into the starlight of this longest night, crunching over deep snowpack, and feeling that silence that accompanies the pause. It has always helped to ground me in the chaos that often accompanied frenetic holiday activities. Although I love my family and friends, I also treasure those quiet moments alone when I can feel close to the Divine.
This year I have a serious cold and won't be doing any traipsing about in the night chill, but I will still manage to light most of the candles in the house, always symbolic to me of bringing new light to a situation, and create my own moment of silence in the roar of holiday celebration. I wish you the same peace.