Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter solstice

Today is Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere - the shortest day (and longest night) of the year. As a person who experiences mild seasonal affective disorder, I think this is something to celebrate! 

Winter Solstice is one of the oldest winter celebrations - globally. It may be simply the "first day of Winter" for many people today, but it's been celebrated as Inti Raymi by Incas, Beiwe by the Sami of northern Scandinavia, Saturnalia by the Romans, Goru by the Dogan, Midwinter by the Celts and Druids, and Yule by various Germanic cultures - among others! Most cultures viewed it symbolically as rebirth and/or renewal and celebrated it with festivals and feasts. 

When I was in Ireland a few years ago, we visited Newgrange, an amazing structure built over five thousand years ago.  At dawn on the shortest day of the year, a beam of sunlight pops through and lights everything up in an amazing way. I cannot imagine the planning, the sheer genius, that went into designing and building such a structure, especially without modern tools. But certainly, there was something special about this day for the people who built Newgrange. 

It's a special day for me, too. The sun is out today. It's cold out there. But I'm happy and I want to party! We'll need to hurry, though - because the sun will be going down soon. And when that happens, I'll be ready for bedtime. :-)

Happy Winter Solstice! And since I'm traveling tomorrow and will not have internet access for a while, let me also wish you whatever else may apply: Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas/Frohe Weihnachten/Hyvaa Joulua, Happy Boxing Day, and Happy Kwanzaa to all. May your travels be safe, your days be bright, and your nights be merry!