Winter Solstice happens twice in the year, once in each hemisphere and is the shortest day of the year. At this time the North Pole is pointing away from the Sun and the shortest day as in when we have light is apparently 7 hours 49 minutes and 42 seconds in London. (During the summer solstice the day is more than twice as long as this.)
As I started to write this, I was intrigued about the meaning of the word ‘solstice’ which comes from the Latin comes from the Latin ‘solstitium’ meaning ‘Sun stands still’ because at that point in time the apparent movement of the Sun’s path stops before changing direction
. In researching the winter solstice, I came across this diagram which shows the sun’s rays through the stones which are lined up with the path of the sun.
In Ancient Rome, the festival of Saturnalia began on 17 December and lasted for seven days. It was celebrated in honour of Saturn, the father of the gods, the same deity after which the sixth planet in our solar system is named. People would make sacrifices at the Temple of Saturn before banqueting and giving gifts.
In Iran, ‘Yalda night’ – Shab-e Yalda ‘Yalda night’ or Shab-e Chelleh ‘night of forty’ is a festival celebrated on the ‘longest and darkest night of the year’. Friends and family get together to eat, drink and read poetry until the early hours. Pomegranates and watermelons are particularly significant.
The Dongzhi Festival is one of the most important times of the year in China and East Asia. It celebrates the return of longer daylight hours and ultimately an increase of positive energy. The festival’s origins can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony.
And in Scandinavia, the Feast of Juul took place at the time of the December solstice. Fires would be lit to symbolise the heat and light of the returning sun and a Yule log was gathered and burnt in the hearth as a tribute the Norse god Thor.
What does this time mean to you?
When I was younger, this time of year always seemed so far away from Spring but now I have a different appreciation and the promise of more light and the energy of growth and momentum is very welcome. However, I still have much to do in these months of winter and somehow the knowledge that this light, hope and spring is coming makes me appreciate this time even more.
During the dark times, I am not expected to do so much. During the darkness, I am able to slow my pace and be cocooned in the warmth and cosiness. I can take time to look after me, to catch up on sleep and reading. I can spend time in my home and look after it as well as looking after me. I can cook stews and comforting soups, I can enjoy the fire and the candles. This is how you can honour the light. If the light is not outside, like me, you can welcome it in by lighting candles during those long dark hours. And when we have the daylight, especially on those bright sunny winter days, wrap up warm and take a walk outside. Be curious and enjoy the illumination that the sunlight brings and how it enhances what is there.
In the words of my lovely friend and colleague Carrie Ekins -‘until Spring, then deep winter can envelope me and I’ll take the early darkness.’
I am with you Carrie, there is so much to love.
I see it as a low-cost programme which is available to you to work through season by season with a Facebook group facility for sharing and support but then also as a higher price group programme where exploration is more targeted to individual needs and the opportunity for some 1-2-1 input so we can make sure that as well as the generalisations that you get the chance to talk about implementation of the seasonal energies to your own unique circumstances and personality.
If you are interested in either, do let us know and we can put you on the waitlist so that you are the first to know when things are ready to be started. Please email email@example.com.