Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Circle Turns: Winter Solstice

It must have seemed to the Ancient Ones that when the sun went below the horizon it might never return. In order to prevent this they first practiced rites that would summon it back. In seeking to capture the light of the sun, fire became of central importance in the majority of these rites. If harbored and protected, fire would remain alive, as a symbol of the hidden sun. Sometimes it was enough to celebrate the return of the sun, at others it was necessary to make sacrifices to the god or goddess who was the source of its light, to insure that he or she returned. It's the legacy of these ancient ceremonies that lies at the heart of our acknowledgement of the solstice. Virtually every festival that was celebrated - or which still takes place today - owes something to these long-forgotten celebrations of the year's turning.

The word solstice itself comes from the Latin sol stetit, literally, "sun stands still," which recognizes that for approximately six days in December and again in June, the sun appears to rise and set at more or less the same point on the horizon, appearing to stand still in the sky.

This year, 2009, in our area the Winter Solstice was celebrated on Monday, December 21st 9:47 am, Pacific Standard Time. We still celebrate the return of the light with song and dance as demonstrated by The California Revels; and your local drumming circle may also have an event planned! Find out more about the Winter Solstice and how you can celebrate at and

A splendid collection of winter solstice tales from many cultures is contained in The Return of the Light by Carol McVickar Edwards. An excellent history and folklore of the Christmas tree is: The Solstice Evergreen by Sheryl Ann Karas; and parents and caregivers who want to educate their children about the winter solstice are urged to read The Shortest Day by Wendy Pfeffer . These and other great books on holiday origins can be found on the Sacramento Public Library Catalog.

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