Winter Solstice officially occurred at 5.30am on 22 December 2011. At Winter Solstice the sun is closer to horizon than any other time of the year. The shortest day of the year, with just eight hours and twenty three minutes of sunlight, in the northern hemisphere Winter Solstice is the date marks the first day of winter, and the slow transition back to longer days.
Since ancient times people have marked Winter Solstice with countless cultural and religious traditions associated with birth and rebirth. Many ancient cultures still celebrate this transition of seasons today.
Indigenous Mayan’s have begun their countdown to December 21, 2012, a date that marks the end of a five millennia calendar. They believe the world will end in an apocalypse on that date but Discovery News points out that the mathematical calculations behind the prophecy may be flawed.
In Latin “solstice” means “sun stand-still” and in ancient Rome, it was celebrated at the feast of Saturnalia to honor the king of the gods. Pre-Christian Scandanavia would hold the Feast of Juul, known today as the Yuletide celebrations that span 12 days at the end of December.
Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights, celebrates the dedication of a new altar in the Temple after the old had been destroyed. The lighting of the lamps parallels the celebrations worldwide in which a lit fire hails the returning sun. For early Christians the pagan sun holiday became the celebration of their Son-god’s birth.
Wouldn’t life be worth the living,
Wouldn’t dreams be coming true,
If we kept the season’s spirit,
The whole year through?
Steeped in many traditions Winter Solstice remains a time for personal reflection for me. As I make evergreen wreaths and fill my Christmas Goodie Tins for family and friends, I review what I want to release from my life and what I want to welcome into my life in the new year. I stand under frosty forest trees and breathe out each thing I want gone into the palm of my hand, and blow them away into the winter sky. I breathe in each thing I want to enter into my life. Then I return to the house and light one red candle before I meet my friends and we decorate our peace tree.
May the spirit of love fill our hearts and homes in this holiday season, and may we experience health and happiness in the new year.
Does this time of the year hold special memories and meanings for you?
Do you have a seasonal traditions or wishes you would like to share?