During this week at my son’s pre-school we had a Midwinter Festival to mark the winter solstice. The children were given candle-lanterns to carry on a walk through the park, they had a story around a campfire and were given gifts by their carers. The kids had a great time, but in all my life it was the first time I’d been part of a Midwinter ceremony. I must admit that I felt outside my comfort zone – which was great because it really got me thinking.
The Solstice represents the Earth’s maximum tilt relative to the Sun, meaning that we have the shortest day/longest night DownUnder, whilst the northern hemisphere has the longest day and shortest night.
The Midwinter ceremony marks a moment in the celestial calendar, when the clockwork of Earth & Sun reaches a particular tipping point, marking the end of one cycle and the start of another. It has nothing to do with a made-up Gregorian calendar or clocks or dates.
In ancient times and for thousands of years humans celebrated the winter solstice as Midwinter, the first day of winter, new year’s day [the year as reborn], Night of the Mothers and a multitude of other cultural interpretations. There was a deep connection between the Sun, the seasons, food production, spirituality and culture.When I was researching the origins of the Midwinter Festival I landed on the Wikipedia page [as one does] which provides a great view of the world’s cultural ceremonies around Midwinter. I was amazed at how integral this day is with our religions, ceremonies and celebrations, gift giving and sharing – even if under another name, particularly around the christian Christmas period. Even Stonehenge was built to align with the Midwinter sunrise. Definitely worth a read.
So why should we celebrate the Solstice?
It’s a question of us being connected with Nature. It’s nowadays not difficult to find data showing a correlation between our increasing disconnect with Nature and our diminishing respect for and appreciation of it.
Marking dates like the Solstice connects us with our Earth, our Sun and the turning of the seasons. It makes us aware, at least for a moment, that we live within Nature’s cycle. I don’t think it hurts to get into this mind-set from time to time.
So this weekend’s challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to mark the Solstice in some way. Candlelit dinner, moonlit walk, bonfire, funny hats or a pagan goat dance… whatever you like, just don’t burn the house down. Mark the turning of Earth and the seasons with something a bit outside your comfort zone.