faith, seasons

on a forgotten winter solstice

December 23, 2012

northern lights

Yesterday was Winter Solstice, a fact I only remembered late in the day, over dinner, when my mother-in-law mentioned it to someone and my intermediate Danish caught the comment. I had half-thought I would “celebrate” the Solstice this year, in my own way. So my intitial feeling was one of disappointment. I’d missed it. It was almost over and I’d failed to mark the shortest day of the year.

Then I thought back over the last twenty four hours. The night before we had heaped a pile of gathered holly, pine and evergreen branches upon the dining table, and spent a leisurely hour creating winter displays around large purple and red candles, to decorate the table, the sideboard, the windowsill.

Then that day we had spent with family, amusing the children, eating the ginger and honey cookies I’d baked with my mother in law, fixing the television, making dinner of warm orange paprika chicken and gooey rich chocolate pudding for all four siblings and three better-halfs.

Maybe I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was celebrating Winter solstice the best way I could have – decorating with branches of still-thriving plants to remind us of the life there still was despite the snow clouds rolling in; baking and cooking with the flavours and tastes that warm us and remind us of sunshine and growth; gathering together with loved ones to work together, play together, enjoy each other’s company.

I also realised something important about the Solstice – we don’t notice it without being reminded. Today is as dark and cold and gloomy as yesterday was. I know, because wikipedia tells me so, that yesterday was the shortest day of the year, that today is lighter, brighter, longer. But it doesn’t feel that way yet. The worst is past but we’re still living in darkness.

It was a relief to realise this, honestly. To have nature so mirror the way of life – when you know, objectively, logically, realistically, that the worst is past. But when the darkness still draws in early and threatens to overwhelm with its gloom and chill. In those moments it is a relief then to look up at the candles dancing in their evergreen displays, smell the freshness of the Christmas tree newly decorated with faux-candles and angel-shaped bells, hear the clatter of dishes in the kitchen as the traditional Danish porridge is cooked for dinner the night before Christmas Eve…

The darkness isn’t banished in an instant, but with the slow rolling back of its borders, the gentle but steady gains of the sun and its warmth. Souls don’t lighten in an easy moment, but the worst is over, the light is seeping through the cracks, pushing back the gloom. Soon comes Spring and new growth and new life. So rest just now, don’t worry that the darkness seems to be overstaying its welcome.

Light is coming into the world and the darkness can not overcome it. ///

Northern Lights photo source: Visit Norway, via Pinterest

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  • Ooooh, what a lovely meditation: “The darkness isn’t banished in an instant…”

    I had wanted to celebrate the Solstice, too, but then my friends planned a sushi birthday celebration on that day and I just threw in the towel completely out of frustration. (My perfectionist tendencies at their finest . . . if I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t do it at all). SOMEDAY I will observe the solstices. I’m echoing my usual complaint, though: it’s just so hard when you’re the only one! Holidays are meant to be celebrated communally!

    It sounds like your winter solstice was full of solsticey things, though, and brilliant reflections. 🙂