My sister lives up north and she hates it. She is so far from our childhood of big sunny Texas skies and sunburnt summers. For her now, the winter sun rises around 10:00am and sets around 3:00pm. The first few years my sister felt real fear as the dark nights approached often saying with a hint of panic in her voice, “winter is coming.” Every year, she has come to look forward to the Winter Solstice and the glimmer of hope it brings.
Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year and therefore the shortest day. This year, in the northern hemisphere, we celebrate this dark night on December 21st. Yoga communities honor this time as the blazing rebirth of the sun (as well as a yearly rebirth within ourselves). We take this time to set glowing intentions and to call in what we most desire. We also illuminate what is not serving us and attempt to let it go.
Cultures throughout the world have celebrated this special time with ceremonies and traditions. The Romans closed businesses and feasted for a week. The Norse lit yule logs and celebrated with delicious foods for twelve days. They believed that each spark from the fire meant a new baby calf for the coming year. The Incas celebrated with a three day fast gathering on the morning following that longest night to watch the sunrise and drink chicha (fermented corn beer.) In China they celebrate Dong Zhi, making tang yuan rice balls and meat dumplings. The Japanese light bonfires and eat kabocha squash for good luck. Iranians celebrate Shab-e Yalda (“Night of Birth”) and celebrate their sun god Mithra’s victory over the darkness. The Hopi Native Americans danced around a fire all night long and exchanged gifts.
All of these beautiful traditions carry a common thread...the celebration of light. Light gives us nourishment but we also need the darkness. Just like the seed needs the soil before it eventually sprouts in the sun, the darkness of winter may not be easy but it is necessary for our radiance and our growth.
This Winter Solstice we also have a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. This splendor happens every 20 years but the last observable one was in 1226. In astrology Saturn symbolizes rules and tradition. Jupiter symbolizes growth and evolution. The dawning of this 20 year cycle may ignite huge changes in our world. It is also a brilliant time to envision the glowing desires for your future.
My sister will always be a Texas girl yearning for sunshine but the darkness has brought her healing and growth. She is more connected to the cycles of the Earth and to herself. The dark nights forced her to get still, to hibernate, and to spotlight the things that she wanted to shed. Now her smile is brighter and her light is bigger. May we all celebrate and find this rebirth of light. Let go of what we do not need and bring in what we do. Even if you have never celebrated winter solstice before, maybe this year do a little something. Light a candle, wake up to watch the sunrise, or dance around a fire. Whatever you choose, know that even in the darkest, longest night of 2020 the LIGHT.IS.COMING.
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