So many traditions celebrate holidays at the end of the Western calendar year. In the Northern Hemisphere, in less than 10 days, we will experience the shortest day and longest night of the year which is also known as the Winter Solstice. (In Washington, DC the exact date and time of the 2015 Winter Solstice is 21 December at 11:49 PM). In the Southern Hemisphere it will be the longest day of the year and the shortest night or the Summer Solstice.
The Winter Solstice was celebrated in pre-Christian times and was considered to be the beginning of dark times. In agrarian cultures, with the harvest gathered, it was also represented death at the end of the growing season. It was a time of dread and concern about the coming darkness and lack of heat and food. At the end of December, the pagan Yule log was ignited to “melt the heart during a cold and dreary winter.” (www.chiff.com/home_life/holiday/winter-soltice.htm)
The ancients understood that the sun and light were important to our sense of well-being. Medical science now recognizes that depression can be strong during the winter months for those who are impacted by lack of sunlight.
I’m struck by the role that light plays in our end of year celebrations across various cultures and traditions. Some call Hanukah, a celebration of light. Christmas is also full of lighted decorations. Kwanzaa, an end of year celebration of African culture, includes the lighting of candles. All traditions celebrate with the gathering of family, friends and food.
Many have remarked that our world appears to be in a state of darkness. I hear more daily laments of better days gone by than I have heard in many years. If you are feeling this sense of dread and darkness, perhaps you may want to bring some light to your life, during this holiday season. Light some candles as your friends and family gather and notice the comfort and warmth provided by light and those you love. During this season of community gatherings and celebration of light, perhaps we can pause and take a break from our fears. Perhaps the light and company of dear friends can help to “melt the heart” that may have been feeling the darkness of the horrendous events of the past few months.
As a student of Yoga, I resonate with the concept that the light is in each of us. We all have the ability to connect to that inner light through meditative practices. When we tap into our inner light, this time of year can be a time of hope and reflection for the coming year. Take a pause, reflect and focus on what you hope for in the coming New Year. Set your intention to connect with your inner light.
As we approach our shortest day of the year, I wish everyone the ability to find the light within and reflect on current blessings. May the New Year turn hopes into reality. Namaste!
© Denyse Le Fever, December 2015