The word ‘Solstice’ does not mean ‘return of the light’…
Solstice refers to the two times of the year when the sun is closest to and farthest from the earth’s equator. The word itself is of Latin origin with “sol” meaning “sun” and “sistere” meaning “stand still.” The latter refers to the sun’s apparent stoppage in the sky as observed by someone on Earth.
It’s more in tune with nature’s mood to remember that today is the first day of winter.
January brings us into the coldest month of the year, which we are just beginning to feel with the weird, prolonged autumn warmth we’ve been enjoying.
For the Word on the Return of the Light, I look to what is written on the Providence Journal weather page. They publish a nice almanac. You’ll note that immediately after Solstice we do not get any day lengthening action at all, and for weeks following, the days lengthen by a minute every couple of days–if you are lucky enough to see the sun through the iron grey clouds that strew freezing rain or snow. Harsh, I know, but let’s get real. This is why people move to Florida.
For a sense of lengthening days, I try to hold out until Candlemas, February 2. That’s the midpoint to spring, when we have six more weeks of winter no matter what the groundhog sees. And in Rhode Island, it’s anyone’s guess whether we’ll have spring.
I might leave my lights up till then, Christmas lights are the best Pagan fusion party idea ever invented.
I’m really enjoying a blessed season with a combination of mindfulness, gratitude and strategic griping. This is a sample. You don’t beat seasonal affective depression by being chirpy.
Winter solstice takes place on Thursday, Dec. 22 at 12:30 a.m. EST. This lovely image is your tax dollars at work, from NASA.gov.
The cool astronomical diagram is from the BBC. If you are even a little bit nerdy you will enjoy the explanation of how the seasons are measured. I never knew that winter is the shortest season, I always thought February was three months long.
My minister, quoting science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, said, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
That’s why I like Solstice as a winter holiday. You don’t have to believe in it, it doesn’t demand faith, it just happens as it has since long before life began on this planet.
Don’t put too much credence in the ‘shortest day’ hype, though. The days do not begin to lengthen appreciably until early February, when we celebrate Candlemas, the halfway point to spring.
This Winter Solstice there is an astronomical event that won’t return for 456 years.
OTTAWA — This year’s winter solstice — an event that will occur next Tuesday — will coincide with a full lunar eclipse in a union that hasn’t been seen in 456 years.
The celestial eccentricity holds special significance for spiritualities that tap into the energy of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and a time that is associated with the rebirth of the sun.
Not only that– it’s a great excuse for a party. Stay up late on December 20th, or set your alarm. The eclipse begins at 1:33am EST, in the wee hours of the 21st.
Check the Providence Journal for Rhode Island times and weather– here’s hoping for clear skies.
Anguised Repose has fine coverage of the upcoming lunar eclipse– simultaneous with the full moon and the Winter Solstice.
Anguished has the astronomy and some glorious illustrations of the stages of the moon.
“So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
- Susan Cooper, The Shortest Day
A Blessed Yule to all.