For many thousands of years, human beings in this hemisphere have acknowledged, through prayer and ritual, the sacred power of this season—the power of the long dark and the first glimmer of light’s increase. There is something about this time of year. These are the halcyon days, around the time of the winter solstice, named after the great bird of folklore who built her nest on the surface of the ocean and was able to quiet the winds while her eggs were hatching.
All is calm. The nights stretch out in quiet and cold. Beneath the earth, seeds begin to stir, just as we are stirred by this seasonal pivot of the light. The year hinges on this. We feel the turning.
Much has been said about the over-commercialization of the holidays. We stress the malls (and ourselves) in the frenzied rush to be jolly right now, before it’s too late, before we miss it.
While some sing of comfort and joy, hospitals and psychiatric facilities fill with the broken and despairing. Perhaps we should take guidance from the season itself. This is a slow time. The creatures are sleeping. Growing goes on, but very gently, gradually, in time with the breathing of winter.
A few suggestions, then, for a safer and less stressful celebration, whatever your religion or ritual for honoring this time.
Spend time with evergreens. They have been keeping their promises for eons. Whether you bring them inside and fill them with glimmering or leave them outside to be decked with more fleeting decor, they can reassure you that life goes on and on.
Warm yourselves. Gather before the hearth or light candles or just spend ten minutes with both hands wrapped around a mug of cocoa.
And be still. Keep vigil. Although we celebrate new birth, new light, new life in the world, we also sit joined with one another through the long night’s anticipation. If we are to create peace on earth, it begins with waiting together again through the long dark.