Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

Today is the shortest day of the year for us here in the Northern Hemisphere. Which at first sounds like a bad thing, but when you think about it ... it is a good thing! Every day from now until Summer Solstice will be longer! More daylight to get things done; like stringing, beading and wire-work which for me go faster with natural light :)

As you can see last winter was a bit rough here in the Pacific Northwest! We rarely get snow and last year it stuck around for several weeks. Making every day tasks (like driving) quite difficult.

Many of our current holiday traditions center around the winter solstice. Midwinter festivals and celebrations occurring on the longest night of the year, often calling for evergreens, bright illumination, large ongoing fires, feasting, communion with close ones, and evening physical exertion by dancing and singing are examples of cultural winter therapies that have evolved as traditions since the beginnings of civilization.

Christian churches recognized folk elements of the festival in various cultures within the past several hundred years, allowing much of the folklore and traditions of local pagan festivals to be appropriated.

The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common in winter between January and April, also known as the famine months. In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time. The concentration of the observances were not always on the day commencing at midnight or at dawn, but the beginning of the pre-Romanized day, which falls on the previous eve.

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