Today December 21, 2012 is the Winter Solstice. The solstice marks the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The winter solstice also marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Have you noticed that the place and angle of the sun is different throughout the year? With the coming of the winter solstice the sun appears at its lowest point in the sky. The fact that the sun’s noontime elevation appears to be the same for several days before and after the solstice accounts for the origin of the word “solstice” coming from Latin solstitium – “a stoppage.” Following the winter solstice – the days begin to grow longer and the nights shorter. This change in the span of daylight even though only a minutes or two at first is good news! Everyone seems to notice the changes. For the ancients the solstice was a time of celebration.
The celebrations of Christmas, Hannukah and Kwanzaa at this time of the year have roots in ancient times. Throughout history, humans have observed this seasonal milestone and created spiritual and cultural traditions to celebrate the rebirth of sunlight after the darkest period of the year. The rituals involve personal renewal, sharing, remembering and honoring the past, honoring family and friends – the customs involve wreaths, lights, gift-giving, singing, feasting, resolutions, mistletoe, evergreen wreaths, holly, Yule log, and the Yule tree.
Today might be an especially good day to start a new personal tradition for this time of ritual, reflection, and renewal. Make a promise to yourself… write a short poem or reflection… hug a child and think of those lost and those to be saved. Indulge in a moment of silence. Light a candle.