Thursday, December 21, 2006

Winter solstice

The dark of winter wraps around us tight.
The lamps are fired, and flickering light
beats time to the fiddle as notes float softly down,
like the years' first snow.
While outside the window a blast of late December wind
whistles harmony to the drone of the pipes.
We push the old year back against the wall
so we can dance a jig for Christmas
and welcome in the new.

Johnny Cunningham*

Today is winter solstice in the northern hemisphere when we note the end of darkening days and the gradual return of the sun's light. The artificial light pollution of the modern world has decreased the awareness of our dependence on the sun to provide life on earth. Solstice literally means "sun stands still" and it is celebrated as a time when light triumphs over darkness. Ancient cultures had a variety of light celebrations at this time of year and some of their traditions continue on today.

Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, features the eight candles of the menorah. It celebrates a lighting miracle when one night's worth of oil lit candles for eight days.

In A.D. 354, the birth of Jesus Christ was designated to be celebrated on December 25 even though the date is not accurate. The darkness that came as a result of the sin of mankind is dispersed by the light of the newborn Saviour. The lighting of advent candles is part of our Christmas pageantry.

Yule traditions continue to be observed, and carols such as The Holly and the Ivy, and Deck the Halls speak of their influence in the celebration of Yule and Christmas.These and other customs all give us hope in a time of darkness. Let us celebrate the emerging light of a new season and share its warmth and glow with others!

*For a selection of lovely winter poems, visit the web site of Aine Minogue, an Irish musician who now lives in New England.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for acknowleding the Winter Solstice and the meanings behind it. I appreciate your poem and *enlightening* post.

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  2. Yule hails as Michael and my path's "Christmas", the day and night that the sun wins his battle with the dark and begins his journey back to us :)
    Blessed Yule and Merry Christmas!

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  3. What a lovely post! Indeed, let us be bathed in the returning light!

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  4. Mary- You are a clever punster. I really liked the imagery poem too

    Jaspenelle- I too look forward to the sun's return

    Samtzmom- What a nice thought. I am lucky to be bathed in a drop of sunlight each day now, but symbolically, I am fully bathed in light every day.

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