For those of us in the northern hemisphere tomorrow, Dec. 21st, marks the Winter Solstice. This is the day of the longest period of night, but that's not what we celebrate. We're celebrating the return of the sun! After the solstice that days start getting longer again, and though it might not seem like it at times, we're heading back towards warmer weather.
This time of year has been celebrated for many millennia. The Norse peoples viewed it as a time for much feasting, merrymaking, and many of our traditions like the Yule log, the decorated tree, and wassailing can all be traced back to Norse origins. The Celts and ancient druids had a midwinter celebration. The Romans celebrated the solstice in honour to an agricultural God Ceres. The Romans took much of their observations at this time of year from the ancient Egyptians, who celebrated the time as the rebirth of Horus, the God of the Sun.
Today we still celebrate this time of year. Many of us have Christmas, Hanukkah, or Yule. No matter what your religion, or why you celebrate you can notice many similarities between the various holidays. There's the lighting of candles (celebration of light remember), the lighting of trees, the festive decorating of lights all over town, and even bonfires. There is much feasting and time spent with families, and many people have their own little family rituals (i.e. traditions). And the gift giving is an important part as well. While the receiving of presents is great, its the wonderful feeling of joy we bring others when we share and give of our hearts and our time that makes this time of year have that "magic in the air" that we all get caught up in.
I know there are people out there that have lost loved ones and feel alone at this time of year. Most people don't say anything, and choose to stay home even if they've been invited to celebrations by friends or neighbors. While I understand many of those feelings, you're also denying those people the chance to share with you, and many of them truly care, even if they aren't related. You can also find ways that you can share the spirit of this time with others. Many churches, shelters, soup kitchens, and food banks need lots of volunteers to help right now.
Keep in mind this is a time of beginnings, we celebrate the return of light, not the coming of darkness. The long sleep is over, and its time to awaken and busy ourselves with preparations for the days of warmth to come. I hope my spark of light can reach out to you as you've read this, and be added to your own, and in turn shared with others, so that we might all glow brightly at this time of year.
May peace and happiness be with us all, Merry Christmas (and happy all the other holiday names).