Somewhere between December 20 and 22, we have the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. It is also called midwinter, which is somewhat ironic because it is also the official start of winter. I like the term midwinter myself because it reminds me that we are now halfway out of the dark, and the days will slowly be getting filled with more light. For my friends who love the deep peace of winter, the solstice is not a day to celebrate, but for those of us who love the summer, it is a celebration and a relief.
As the precursor to spring, midwinter also reminds us that all life begins in the dark, although we won’t see it until the days get longer and warmer.
For people in times past, the solstice was filled with significance. We see that most clearly in the monuments they left behind, such as Stonehenge and Newgrange in Ireland, which are situated with respect to the solstice. The Solstice, of course, held special significance for people who relied on agriculture, with its promise that spring was coming, even though the worst of the winter was yet to come. In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a plentiful supply of fresh meat was available.
Many festivals are or were held at this time of year. Ancient Rome celebrated Saturnalia. Scandinavia called this time Yule, or Jul, Many modern Christmas traditions, such as the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath, the Yule log, and others, are direct descendants of Yule customs. Gods of death and rebirth are also associated with the solstice, as Mithras in Rome.
Wishing you a happy solstice today.
Quotes about the solstice and winter
The Winter Solstice is the time of ending and beginning, a powerful time – a time to contemplate your immortality. A time to forgive, to be forgiven, and to make a fresh start. A time to awaken.–Frederick Lenz
The winter solstice has always been special to me as a barren darkness that gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination, a time of pain and withdrawal that produces something joyfully inconceivable, like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon, bursting forth into unexpected glory.–Gary Zukav
Now, near the Winter Solstice, it is good to light candles. All the nice meanings of bringing light to the world can be beautiful. But perhaps we are concentrating on lighting the world because we don’t know how to light up our own lives.–Ralph Levy
I celebrate the spirit of Christmas. It’s the winter solstice celebration, rebirth and new possibilities.–Ian Astbury
Heading into the night of the winter solstice, every spiritual tradition has some kind of festival of light. We’re all just whistling in the dark, hoping against hope that someone up there will see these little Hanukkah candles and get the hint.–Lawrence Kushner
In a way winter is the real spring, the time when the inner thing happens, the resurge of nature.–Edna O’Brien
Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.–Pietro Aretino
There is a wilder solitude in winter
When every sense is pricked alive and keen.–May Sarton
Chill December brings the sleet,
Blazing fire, and Christmas treat.–Sara Coleridge
A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.–T. S. Eliot
If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.–Anne Bradstreet
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