A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

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Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy Winter Solstice

For many, many years we have celebrated the Winter Solstice, usually with a gathering of friends, but also some years with sledding to candlelight, provided by pillar candles stuck in the banks. This year, there are torrential rains, the burros are drenched, even with their barn and shelter, and I am sick. Lucky for me, I wasn't quite ill yet when we had our party on Saturday night!

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.

3 Comments:

Blogger Tactless Wonder said...

Happy Solstice!

I think the sniffles are all over tonight. I'm desperately trying to not get any sicker before a too long car trip tomorrow. Obviously as it's 11pm I'm not doing so hot.

Hope you feel better quickly.

11:07 PM  
Blogger Carole said...

I've really enjoyed reading everyone's ways of celebrating the Winter Solstice on the blogs. This something new to me and I'm glad you shared your ideas about it. We lit candles last night and talked about the solstice and the ways we want out light to shine in the coming year.

4:35 AM  
Blogger margene said...

Solstice brings peace with the knowledge the days will now grow. The day was so beautiful here and now the snow comes to cover us for Christmas. Thank you for such a beautiful post.
Feel better quickly.

5:12 AM  

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