Just before the crazy-making of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day comes this other event, Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, measured by the brevity of sunlight.
Winter Solstice is a fascinating ancient celebration. History tells of rites involving great fires, dance, and sometimes sacrifice to entice the sun to return. Once we were assured this shortest day was an annual occurrence, the rites evolved into festivals, celebrating the return of longer days.
What is particularly significant is that the ancients knew when the shortest day of the year was coming. They watched and studied and noted the changes in the sky, the days, the light. While we go stumbling through our work weeks and to do lists sometimes hardly noticing changes in nature going on around us, they knew when the days would shorten down to the Solstice day and built structures like Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland. Newgrange, which predates the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge, has an opening called the roof box through which light floods the structure’s chambers with light for 17 minutes during Winter Solstice. This was built without our sophistication and education.
The construction of Newgrange is said to have taken about 30 years, so it is likely the architects knew the longer days would return. Perhaps they understood the change in the length of days was more a celestial thing, but still worthy of wonder and mystery.
We like this. We like a celebration that recognizes the wonder of the earth’s tilted orbit around a star. A good meal, an exchange of gifts, playing games and gathering around a fire to honor those keenly observant ancients and to recognize the vastness of the universe.
We hope you’ll enjoy our solstice offerings this year to enhance your own fire ritual.