Tomorrow is the winter solstice, and this means a lot of things for many different people, but for me it has special meaning above what other cultural norms I grew up in have—the days are going to get longer again. I recognized this day over the other days that my parents celebrated because it is real day with real meaning for me. It is the shortest day of the year, and the longest night, so from there on in the days will get longer, and hopefully the winter will be short. Knowing that the days are getting longer means that the cold and snow will soon disappear—hope for a new year.
I also observe the solstice as an astronomical moment in time. In theory the solstice is a mere second of time because as soon as the Earth’s North poll reaches it maximum tilt away from the Sun, it continues its tilt back for another cycle. I like to look at it as a whole day to celebrate and reflect on new beginning, so the whole day is special. It is also a good time to start thinking about new paths that I should take when the warming seasons starts while I’m sitting at home out of the cold. You know, those New Year Resolutions that are bound to be broken?
Every culture, in some way, celebrates the shortest day of the year. It is interesting to follow the different calendars of other cultures and wonder why these certain groups celebrate it on days close to or on the 21st of December. In my Anthropology classes, I remember the lessons on how inaccurate most calendars are, that “leap years” and other adjustments had to be put in place to keep them on track. Nothing worse that finding out that our month of December would mean weeding the garden in 3000 years from now with out these tweaks? This explains why some cultures calibrate it on days near the solstice.
Equally interesting are how organized religions have used this day to incorporate their special meaning into it. Go to any land and you will find celebrations all over the calendar month of December that have various traditions and calibrations on it. And this brings up the holiday season. I am glad that at least there is a respite from work, and regardless of what the dominant discourse of my culture says it is for, it is the winter solstice for me. While my next-door neighbour is setting up a tree to decorate in their living room , another is placing candles in their front windows, there is a wide variety of calibrations in my neighbourhood. It all looks pretty. Not me, it is all about a good time off snuggling up by the furnace to keep warm, and being rest assured that the longer days are around the corner.