Maybe it’s because our holidays have been taken away from us this year that some of us feel it’s even more important than ever to celebrate them.
While many of us will refrain from gathering with friends and family, neighbors and coworkers to take part in the usual social rituals involving food and drink, gifts and songs, laughter and reflection, that should not, and as far as I’m concerned will not, keep us from observing these holidays in personal, private and meaningful ways.
With so many December holidays to choose from, the one that holds special significance for me this year is the winter solstice.
For us here in the northern half of the planet, it is the shortest day and longest night of the year (though, surprisingly, it is neither the latest sunrise nor the earliest sunset). From this point on and for the next six months, we will experience an increasing amount of light every day!
How hopeful sounding is that? (I guess, unless your livelihood depends on darkness, i.e. vampire, prowler, DJ, nightclub, etc.)
From a planetary standpoint, it means the axis of the Earth, which is an imaginary line running through the center of the planet from the South Pole to the North Pole and extending into space in both directions, has reached its farthest angle of tilt away from the sun. Think of a top tilting in one direction and then another while it is spinning. It does not mean that the Earth is at its farthest point away from the sun; in fact, we’re almost at our closest point to the sun (that will occur on Jan. 2). It means that in relation to an imaginary straight up and down line, the planet is tilted as far as it will get at any point throughout the course of the year. It will reach this same angle of tilt in “the other direction” in June.
I compare this movement of the Earth’s axis to the motion of a pendulum; when it reaches its furthest limit, it comes to a complete stop for just a moment, which is the actual moment of the solstice, before it begins to move back in the other direction.
In a metaphorical sense, too, we have gone as far into the darkness as we can go, and having reached that farthest point, we now make an about-face and start heading toward greater light.
Allegorically speaking, it represents a shift from the darkness, where things are hidden from sight, to the light, where things are revealed. From the darkness — despair, depression, confusion and incomprehensibility — to the light — knowledge, understanding, hope and good cheer.
This is the symbolic meaning of the winter solstice, and I will celebrate it with my immediate family (and perhaps with family of the heart via electronic technology) — on Sunday night, Dec. 20, for that will be closer in time (for me) to the actual standstill moment, which in the Pacific Standard Time zone occurs at 2:02 a.m.
We will build a fire, and in that moment, where we and the whole world hang momentarily motionless, suspended between the past and the future, we will imagine it burning away and consuming the aspects of our past and our personalities that we would prefer fade into the obscurity of the receding darkness. And we will envision the sparks from the fire igniting and animating the seeds of change that have been germinating in the darkness these past months, that they may bud and bloom and thrive in the coming light of day. It is a mystical transmutation, of fear into courage, anxiety into confidence, selfishness into open-heartedness, sickness into health and tension into release.
So, that’s the holiday I have planned.
But whether it’s winter solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, Yuletide, Festivus, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, the Universal Hour of Peace or National Chocolate Candy Day, I urge you to ponder, penetrate and find the meaning in your holiday, and celebrate it!
It is hard to provide a short bio for Ron Colone. Writer, performer, business owner, concert promoter, music historian, baseball fan, proud so…