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Thursday, December 22, 2011

For the Winter Solstice

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

"We are nearer to Spring
Then we were in September,"
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.

- Oliver Herford

Today marks the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere).  It is also the point in the Wheel of the Year when the days begin to lengthen again, when the Sun is "reborn" and starts to strengthen.  Although today is the beginning of winter, it is also the day we shift from increasing darkness to increasing light. 

Long before Christianity came to Europe, the ancient people there celebrated in December at the Winter Equinox (sometime around December 20-24), because although that is the darkest time of the year, it is also the time when days start getting LONGER again rather than shorter! They lit fires and candles to symbolically strengthen the sun's fire, and they decorated with the evergreens that magically survived through the winter.  The Romans likewise held their greatest celebrations this time of year.  This season has for thousands of years been a time of joy and celebration, and a festival of light.

P.S.  Remember to put out food for the birds this time of year, especially when there is snow on the ground.  Enjoy the season, and if the cold gets you down, remember that Spring is getting closer every day! 

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