Christmas may be the big star of the month but today is one of my favourite days of the year – the Winter Solstice.
You might know it as Yule, or Yuletide. It’s the day towards the end of the year in the Northern Hemisphere when the daylight hours are at their shortest. It marks the beginning of Winter when the darkness is greatest, and when light of any kind is to be cherished and celebrated.
Where Christmas is a nod to Christian values, the Winter Solstice is a quieter, less materialistic festival that looks back to the old ways.
My dad came from a mixed background when it came to religion and faith. His mother was a devout Episcopalian Christian and she held her faith dear to her heart. My grandfather had a more casual link to Christianity. He joined my grandmother’s church simply to please her, but he was much closer to the land, to nature, and to the old ways.
My dad had much the same attitude as his father to the church, while my mum saw attending services, having her child – me – christened, and being wed in church as the right thing to do. Where my dad would see Christmas Eve as a time for family to spend some quiet time together, my mum preferred to attend the midnight church service.
Even in the depths of winter, my dad would be found in the garden, not necessarily tending to the plants but just taking time to think, breathe, and appreciate his life. He found a peaceful happiness in watching the land change with the seasons.
I’m a lot like my dad. Some of my best moments are those spent amongst nature – walking the dog on a morning or going on a park-trek with my family.
On the Winter Solstice, when nature appears to recede and pause, I take the day to do the same. I put aside all the preparation and busy thoughts of Christmas to just be.
I think of the magic of this point in time, and all the threads that have led me here:
- the colour of Christmas Day as a child, with my mum clattering around the kitchen making lunch while my dad kept me amused with toys and books,
- the wonderful mistakes I’ve made in my life that put me on the path to meet my husband,
- and the people I’ve met along the way who have added sparkle to my life.
In a few days’ time, I’ll be in the noisy, joyous midst of Christmas Day with its own vibrant magic. Today, I’ll enjoy the more subtle magic of the beginning of winter.
All the best for a peaceful Winter Solstice.