“Celebrating the Winter Solstice Mindfully,” by Carol S. Pearson
by Reggie Kapp
Before any of the world’s spiritual texts were written, the earth and her creatures served the original text, were created directly by the One who also remains incarnated in it as well as in us. The Winter solstice, observed December 21 of this year, is a reminder to put down our phones and connect with the wisdom or nature all around us if we just look up and around. We can notice that night is getting longer and daylight shorter until the triumph of the dark on the 21st, after which the light begins to return.
Long before Jesus was born, our earliest ancestors may have feared that the earth would just continue to get darker and colder until it no longer supported life. And, yes, even now, nature appears to be dying, the leaves falling and decaying, trees bare, and not much growing during the winter season. Once ancients were capable of pattern recognition, they began to celebrate the triumph of the dark and the inevitable and joyful return of the light and the fact that winter will inevitably lead to spring and rebirth.
To encourage and celebrate this, the ancients lit candles, perhaps even in the way many do now at Christmas Eve late night celebrations, with one person lighting another person’s candle until a ring of light lights up the darkness. Eventually, when Christianity gained traction in the European Northern hemisphere, many such traditions were incorporated into the celebration of Jesus’s birth, along with the tradition of putting candles on an evergreen tree which now have been replaced by electric ones.
The natural cycle of fall, winter, spring, and summer, highlighted by the equinoxes and solstices, reminds us of how constant change is. We are always dying to what has been and birthing something new. Our bodies are made of earth stuff, and life requires that we breath in and out, eat food, digest it and expel the rest. The human mind has sometimes defined light as good and dark as bad, but day without night would be a horror. Night is a time for socializing, family coziness, partner intimacy, rest, and dreams that help us digest the input of our day and prepare to respond to the call of what the new one will offer and require of us. Sleep is like a mini death and awakening is like a resurrection that helps us prepare for making our transition out of this lifetime. And honoring the winter solstice, even unconsciously through Christmas traditions, helps us prepare for the New Year with a clear and loving sense of anticipation and purpose.
See also Karyl Huntley Sandler’s article, “Rebirth of Wonder: Winter Solstice Rituals of Release”, the December 21st Daily Reading, “Solstice Altar of Light”, and Rev. Dr. Jess. Jennings’ answer to the question, “How can I, a post-Christian metaphysician, not feel like a hypocrite while celebrating Christmas?” in the December, 2021, Science of Mind Magazine.
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