Winter Solstice feels more meaningful to me than Xmas or New Year, neither of these have played a significant part in my life, religiously or otherwise. Each celebration however, does have some themes and rituals which bring me pleasure and time for reflection. Whist thoroughly enjoying a recent carol service and remembering each hymn word perfect, my companion, a visitor from the East, (not a King), listened spell bound as I told the Bible story behind the words. A perfect baby, the Magi, how charming. Try explaining the virgin birth, or the slaughter of all Jewish baby boys ordered by Pharoah, when the Magi told him of the Savior’s birth. It was interesting to hear how in her experience, coming from a predominantly non-Christian country, what Christmas traditions they have adapted totally detached from the Bible story.
Traditional church services have little spiritual appeal for me, but I do enjoy church buildings.The interior of churches are where many find comfort and where they also find space to create meaning. The above photograph was taken in Wakefield Cathedral. I was pleased that my phone camera captured, unaided by flash and in the candlelit space, or without later editing, this rather other worldly image.
The dwindling daylight of the season means I rely more on the lighting of lamp or candle, which I find cozy. I’m happy I don’t feel obliged to observe too many of the season’s other razzmatazz trimmings. It’s good to remember, as one of our last posts mentioned, that this season’s celebrations can be a very difficult time for some people, the reasons may be numerous. Loss of natural light at this time of year can lower peoples general resilience; the perception that everyone else might be having fun.when they are not, can be isolating; lack of money to choose which rituals they might want to join, a lack of adequate heating or essential food, or in addition poor health can severely disadvantage many. (If you need support over the holiday period here are the details again)
My preference for Winter Solstice is because of it’s fewer trappings. I no longer observe any of it’s Pagan rituals that I once found novel in contrast to my earlier Christian but non-conformist traditions. It is the Winter Solstice physical descent into darkness which helps me confront symbolically the life journey I’m on.
Winter Solstice is the “shortest day and longest night of the year”. Daylight hours may be short but it also marks the return to increased daylight, which though imperceptible at first, by a fraction of a second on each successive day returns us assuredly to the sun’s Spring light.
During last year’s Winter Solstice I was moved to write about the different names people have given the moon that signals Winter Solstice. Moon cycles never fail to fascinate me, and that afternoon the sighting of the moon and sun in a bright blue afternoon sky inspired.
Though I feel able to give as much or as little attention to Christian or Pagan rituals as I wish, as the mood takes me. I think the everyday rites we as individuals re-create are just as valid and meaningful as the ones we might traditionally and collectively.enjoy. It may be tempting to regard disdainfully those who celebrate in different ways to ourselves, especially when commerce and excess appear to drive their enjoyment, but it is meaningful to them in what otherwise might seem a humdrum existence. Dr. Dorothy Rowe describes all of us as “meaning.creating” beings.
Lighting a candle for those in physical or emotional distress, or for those who have died was never part of my religious tradition. I’ve adopted it nowadays as a gesture when words have been insufficient for seemingly unsolvable situations; in memory of those who’s mood has tipped them into darkness more times than is useful, and for those who’s ill health dims or extinguishes their future.