Today marks the winter solstice, when we have the shortest day and the longest night. It’s a special one this year falling on a full moon. This will not to be seen again in our lifetime, next occurring in 2094. Topping off this astrological bonanza there is Ursids meteor shower which might be tricky see with a full moon not to mention cloudy skies.
Winter solstice celebrations come from practical needs, rooted in taking stock of what supplies are left to last the rest of the winter. Celebrations lift the spirit, marking midwinter and looking forward to welcoming the sun and longer days back along with days of more plentiful in food and warmth. Celtic and pagan traditions of bringing evergreen branches indoors symbolising everlasting life. Each had their own symbolism. Holly was believed to ward off unwelcome spirits and symbolises everlasting life and goodwill. Ivy is a symbol of immortality and resurrection. Both Holly and Ivy were banned from Churches when Christianity tried to destroy pagan beliefs. But these customs survived and we still bring in evergreen branches to decorate our houses at this time of year. Most notably is the pine tree decorated in our homes being an iconic symbol of Christmas. The pagan tradition was to decorate a tree outdoors with candles symbolising the sun, moon and stars to remember the souls of ancestors. It wasn't until the
16th century in Western Germany that trees were more commonly brought indoors and decorated with gingerbread, apples and nuts and later gold leaf, paper decorations and candles. It was Queen Victoria who popularised the Christmas tree in Britain in the 1840's and the Christmas tree soon became common place.
Our ancient traditions are deeply connected to nature and the earth. People were more connected to the land on which they lived. For at lot of us we certainly feel the grind of the shorter days of winter. Hopefully your spirits will be lifted giving a little thought to this part of our Christmas celebrations and welcoming back the light. From now the nights will be drawing out and soon day will have its advantage again over darker hours. I for one am not quite ready to say goodbye to winter. I love all our seasons and everything they offer and find by spending more time outdoors allows me enjoy it all the more. For me it always looks more dour from indoors than when you get wrapped up and get out in it.
I hope your festive celebrations are full of cheer and I look forward to welcoming in the new year and everything it has in store!