Lighting a light at the darkest time of the year is a pledge. A promise. A sacred vow. Such a small symbolic gesture. So elegantly simple. So significant. Each tentative flicker of each tiny flame is a reminder of the fragility and pulsating persistence of the life force. Each spark, a signal flare of faith."
I hosted my first-ever Winter Solstice gathering last night. Ahhh, what a cozy time we had! A small group of (grown-up!) friends gathered in our living room, drank some slow-cooker Holiday Wassail (mmmm!), did some writing, reflecting, storytelling and laughing, and warmed our hands over the bonfire we lit in our neighbors' backyard (thanks, Matt and Andrea!).
We lit floating candles in mason jars filled with water, cranberries and evergreen trimmings, and set them in the windows. We turned off all the lights in the house except for our little Charlie Brown Christmas tree.
For me, celebrating the Winter Solstice is one of the most special moments of the year. Unburdened by the over-commercialization bestowed on other winter holidays, the shortest day of the year provides a time to pause in the middle of this bustling season, to turn off the lights and the busy-ness and sit quietly in the dark, to reflect upon the past year and set some intentions for what to bring with us into this next season of expanding light.
What do *you* want to leave behind you in the dark? What do you want to bring forth, to manifest, to create, to cultivate, with the return of the light?
We celebrate Chanukah and Christmas at our house, too, as an inter-faith family. It seems fitting to me that these three events happen within a few weeks of each other, since they are all celebrations in some way of the returning light. The miracle of the menorah burning for 8 nights, the miracle of the sun returning its energy to us each year, the miracle of the humble birth of baby Jesus, whose prophetic life brought light and hope into a dark world.
We live in a universe of expansion and contraction. Seasons, cycles, natural rhythms. And now the days will grow longer again. Each day, a little bit more light. Even though the cold winter has only begun here in New England, the return of the light guides us forward.
Happy New Year, friends!
“And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.”
― Susan Cooper