This year the Winter Solstice will fall on Saturday, December 21, 2019 in the Northern hemisphere. Winter Solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. It actually occurs when one of the Earth's poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun. It is the direct opposite of the Summer Solstice. Though the occurrence of the tilt is merely a moment in time, the term refers to the entire day.
The winter solstice was significant in prehistory when it was marked by festivals and rituals. “Astronomical events were often used to guide activities, such as the mating of animals, the sowing of crops and the monitoring of winter reserves of food. Many cultural mythologies and traditions are derived from this.” Before the modern advent of food storage and preservation, the winter was time when many people got sick or else starved from lack of preparation or availability of food sources. Therefore, this time of the year was seen to be a time of death and rebirth of the sun itself, with many observances and supplications to the Sun God for help with their sustenance. Ancient Germans referred to this time of the year as Yule, sometimes referred to as Yuletide (meaning Yule time or Yule season).
Later, Yule referred to the 12-day holiday associated with the Feast of the Nativity after the widespread adoption of Christianity through Northern Europe. Thus, Yule became synonymous with Christmas observances.
OTHER WINTER SOLSTICE CELEBRATIONS AROUND THE WORLD:
“Soyal is the winter solstice celebration of the Hopi Indians of northern Arizona. Ceremonies and rituals include purification, dancing, and sometimes gift-giving. At the time of the solstice, Hopi welcome the kachinas, protective spirits from the mountains. Prayer sticks are crafted and used for various blessings and other rituals.”
“The ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia is perhaps the most closely linked with the modern celebration of Christmas. This festival happened around the time of the winter solstice and celebrated the end of the planting season. There were games and feasts and gift-giving for several days, and social order was inverted—slaves did not work and were briefly treated as equals.”
“St. Lucia’s Day is a festival of lights celebrated in Scandinavia around the time of the winter solstice. Although it is now meant to honor St. Lucia, a Christian martyr, it has been incorporated with earlier Norse solstice traditions, such as lighting fires to ward off spirits during the longest night. Girls dress up in white gowns with red sashes and wear wreaths of candles on their heads in honor of St. Lucia.”
Currently, many still observe this day as a significant time of the year and likewise observe the day with festivities. Since the Winter Solstice or Yule is a celebration of fire and light, many people get a Yule log and drill three holes in it in which to place three candles: red, green and white. “The Yule log is generally given, and is at once put on the hearth. It is unlucky to have to light it again after it has once been started, and it ought not go out until it has burned away. (approximately 12 hours).
Knowing all of this history allows us to have an understanding of the beginnings of some of the traditions we still hold on to throughout the winter season and to appreciate the diversity of humanity as we strive for good will towards all mankind. Be Blessed.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM INTERIORS FOR SENIORS
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