“Night’s black shadows vanish, the golden sun an arc, Winter’s crystals glitter – dazzle – and banished is the dark.”
I read these lovely lines in Gillian Monks’ book “Merry Midwinter” and thought they beautifully evoked the symbolism of the Winter Solstice, which is today in the Northern Hemisphere. They resonate with the optimism that I feel deep inside me, knowing the gloomiest, darkest days are now behind us. Up to now, the dark has triumphed over the light but from today, the seemingly impenetrable obscurity thins a little to let in the delicate glow and warmth of the returning life-giving Sun. When I stop and pay attention to my inner world, I am aware of hope and joy awakening, stirring in my soul, a light that never truly goes out but one that seems more difficult to keep burning in the long weeks of pre-Solstice darkness. I also feel a certain kind of relief in the knowledge that the Sun is back on its ascending trajectory to shine bright once more and enable life for another year. It is easy, in our sophisticated, modern world – but somewhat disconnected from nature - to forget that we still depend on the Sun and its life-giving energy for ou existence. To acknowledge and celebrate this, I like to light candles and fairy lights in our home at Midwinter.
It is so easy to get caught up with the frenzy and commercialism of Christmas and all its glittery pressures and expectations that seem to bring more misery than joy, more tension and unrest than happiness or peace. If we are so inclined as to search for a more meaningful festive season, we come across the message that the “real” meaning of Christmas is the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth but that is another construct, created by Christianity. Midwinter and the festival of light celebrated at the time of the Winter Solstice is a much more ancient tradition that dates back to the formation of our solar system, which gives us four seasons and therefore a framework for growing the food we need to survive. It seems simple and primitive to think about this time of year in those terms - and it is true that our world, with all the modern practices helped by developed technology and infrastructure no longer resembles that of our original ancestors - but I think it is worth remembering the importance of how it all began as it informs everything that comes after, with all its variant stories, myths, explanations and traditions.
Whatever our beliefs and preferred ways to mark the return of the light at this time of year, whether we call it Midwinter, Yule or Christmas, the Winter Solstice, in the momentary stillness of the sun on the shortest day, calls for a time of reflection, a pause to reconnect with the origin of time when life began and the breathing space to find what is important to us to guide us through tough times and to bring us closer to the essence and origins of ourselves.
Merry Midwinter! May your festive season be filled with joy, peace and love.