Our family celebrates the Solstice as our winter holiday. We do this for several reasons, the first being that we enjoy acknowledging the cycles and rythms of the natural world, and the second is that we are always with extended family on Christmas and we want to have a time that our little family unit celebrates together.
The winter Solstice occurs each year around Dec. 21st or so and it is the point when the earth is tilted the furthest away from the Sun. As the Earth reaches its furthest point away it slowly turns and begins its journey back toward the light. At this time we experience the longest night of the year. But even though Solstice marks the first day of winter, we are also experiencing the return of the Sun. Each day after Solstice we begin to experience a little more sunlight, until we reach the summer Solstice (June 21st or so), the longest day of the year and the time the earth begins traveling away from the Sun again. Cultures around the world have been celebrating the Solstices (and Equinoxes, the half way point between the Solstices when the day and night are equally balanced) for many thousands of years. Though the winter Solstice celebrations take many different forms, the main theme centers on rebirth.
We are still developing our Solstice traditions. This year we began the evening by lighting candles to remind us of the Sun’s warmth and light. Then we read “The Rebirth of the Sun,” a children’s story which describes the Sun as having become very weak and old this time of year. On Solstice night the Sun is wrapped in the arms of the night for a long time before being reborn as a new babe. (And of course this time of year we are also celebrating the birth of another important Son, aren’t we?)
After our story we each made a Solstice ornament for our tree while we waited for dinner to finish cooking. And yes, Wyatt sewed and embroidered his! Once the food was ready we read a mealtime prayer and enjoyed a Solstice feast of roasted (and locally-sourced from the Goosemobile) duck with roasted root veggies and saurkraut, lefse from Cider Hill Farm, and stuffed balsamic glazed apricots. Delicious!
We then opened our gifts to one another. We had just a few gifts under the tree this year, which made us truly appreciate and enjoy each one. Harper received a handmade toy from me (will be featured in another blog), Jan Brett’s book The Mitten, and a wooden tractor from Wyatt. Wyatt and Ialso exchanged a few small gifts with one another.
It was a very beautiful evening. In the morning we awoke and greeted the return of the Sun, which now grows stronger with each passing day.
Happy Solstice to you, and may you be thankful for every sunrise.