At sunset on December 21, we begin our longest night of the year.
The solstice occurs on December 22 at 12:48pm local HK time, marking the beginning of winter on the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. In a single moment, the reversal begins and the days will begin to lengthen.
In ancient time, the solstice marked the birth of the sun and new beginnings, a time used traditionally for inner reflection. Rituals release what is unwanted into the darkness and welcoming the return of the light with renewal with longer and brighter days.
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer” Albert Camus
The winter solstice is an astronomical point of transformation from darkness into light.
The Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese Dongzhi Festival or Winter Solstice Festival can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony. Longer daylight hours means an increase in positive energy flowing in.
Historically, the midwinter festival was the last feast before deep winter began. One of the most globally recognized midwinter celebrations, Christmas or Christ’s Mass celebrating of the birth of Jesus Christ, is observed on December 25 which was the Roman winter solstice. Christians hold Midnight Masses and sing Christmas carols around the Nativity and many also observe the tradition of St Nicholas (Santa Claus) with good deeds and gift giving.
Early Germans gathered their families, decked houses with fir and evergreens and baked cakes shaped like slippers and filled with gifts to welcome Hertha, the Norse goddess goddess of light, domesticity and the home.
The winter solstice ceremony of the Hopi heralds the beginning of another cycle of the Wheel of the Year with purification rituals.
Many of these ancient traditions are hinted at in current practices like family feasts, stocking stuffers and gift exchanges around evergreen trees. Retailers deck the malls with artificial pine scented decorations draped in blinking lights blasting electronic noises vaguely resembling Christmas carols. Emotions are targeted with seasonal images of stylish happy couples or loving families and their beautiful children gathering in luxury homes sharing gourmet food and exchanging expensive gifts.
Anyone who doesn’t fit into the holiday greeting card scene may be challenged with difficult feelings that arise when we realize we won’t be having these impossibly perfect experiences.
This year, as our climate continues to change, mother nature is mixing it up with storms that wreak havoc on even the best planned holidays. Many are forced to reconsider where the heart is and enjoy the holidays closer to the home where they live.
Instead of escaping to seek comfort in the company of strangers, we can create our own traditions to shift our mood and mark our own new beginnings. Light a candle, brew a cup of tea, play some favorite tunes, indulge in some aromatherapy, curl up with good book; laugh at a funny movie; cook a simple meal, sit outside in the sunshine, appreciate the time, write a note to a distant friend, wander through the streets and enjoy the peaceful time.
How will you create your holiday memories ?