For those of us in the northern hemisphere, today is the hiemal solstice. Today is the shortest day of the year, and for the next half of the year, the period of daylight will only get longer.
Since ancient times, people have marked this day each year, through celebration and through the construction of buildings that line up with the sun or stars on this day; for instance, Stonehenge in Britain and Newgrange in Ireland both act as solstice indicators. Celtic, Chinese, Indian, ancient Roman, and even ancient Hebrew solstice ceremonies are recorded in various forms, with some (such as Newgrange) dating as far back as 3200 BC.
Today, many of these solstice ceremonies have been wrapped up into the Christian winter holiday of Christmas. For instance, the Celtic tradition of hanging evergreen plants, such as holly and ivy, as a sign of hospitality became the British Christian tradition of hanging mistletoe. Even the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah bears a striking resemblance to the Celtic idea of the Yule Log, a fire that was meant to burn for twelve days without re-fueling.
In addition, the solstice itself remains meaningful to many, both in mainstream religions and in neo-Pagan revival movements. So, to all of you who celebrate, happy Solstice, and may the sun shine warm on your face for the rest of the year.