All over the northern hemisphere, for thousands of years, people have been celebrating the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. Traditional religions have made some of their most important celebrations fall at the end of December. Jesus, for example, was historically thought to have been born in the spring, but the Christian church decided that his birth would be celebrated in the dark of winter – when pre-Christians were already celebrating, burning yule fires, and decorating trees.
There’s a reason why the darkest nights of the year, which fall at the end of December in the northern hemisphere, evoke celebration. Imagine life without electricity. Imagine as the shorter and colder days increase and all you have to stay warm and to see for hours each afternoon and evening is firelight. Imagine how important it would be to gather with loved ones, sing and dance, share the bounty you’ve painstakingly gathered in the warm months, and then to revel in the longer days that begin immediately upon the passing of the darkest night.
What I like about this time of year – even with central heating and electric lights – is the opportunity the dark, cold days provide to turn inward, to introspect, to slow down. It seems that the months of summer fly by, and I cannot find time to get together with friends, but when winter comes, suddenly I am gathering more often over candlelit dinners to talk, laugh, sing and play games. It is also a time to consider my hopes and goals for the coming year, to reflect upon what I want to bring to light.
This solstice, let us all imagine what light we might bring to a world that needs us. And then let’s put our imaginings into practice.
Go in light,
Author of Most Good, Least Harm
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