34 votes

Happy Solstice!

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.

11 comments

  1. [3]
    autumn
    Link
    Here in the northern hemisphere, it’s both my least and most favorite day. Least because I live for warmth and sunlight, most because it means it’s all getting lighter and warmer from here!

    Here in the northern hemisphere, it’s both my least and most favorite day. Least because I live for warmth and sunlight, most because it means it’s all getting lighter and warmer from here!

    17 votes
    1. [2]
      Thra11
      Link Parent
      I find it super-depressing that at this time of year I get ~8 hours of sunlight and it matches up pretty much exactly with my work hours. In theory, I can shift my work day to start later and...

      I find it super-depressing that at this time of year I get ~8 hours of sunlight and it matches up pretty much exactly with my work hours.

      In theory, I can shift my work day to start later and finish later, but I don't like doing that because I find trying to do stuff before work less relaxing, owing to the looming deadline of starting work, and finishing late eats into your free time in the evening.

      Can't wait to be able to go for a nice walk in the countryside after work again!

      5 votes
      1. cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I used to suffer from similar mood issues come winter too, until I finally got myself a light therapy box (Verliux Happylight), and starting using it every day from late fall to early spring. And...

        I used to suffer from similar mood issues come winter too, until I finally got myself a light therapy box (Verliux Happylight), and starting using it every day from late fall to early spring. And if you also suffer from SAD as well, I would highly recommend doing the same. It may seem weird at first to just sit in front of a really bright light for 10-20min every day, but I simply worked it into my morning/evening meditation + DIY infrared sauna routines, and it has made a world of difference to my overall mood.

        1 vote
  2. [3]
    JCPhoenix
    Link
    YESSSSS! I don't mind the cold and snow (usually), but the lack of daylight is what kills me. I don't get SAD or anything, I just hate ending the workday and it's already dark!

    and for the next half of the year, the period of daylight will only get longer.

    YESSSSS! I don't mind the cold and snow (usually), but the lack of daylight is what kills me. I don't get SAD or anything, I just hate ending the workday and it's already dark!

    7 votes
    1. [2]
      stu2b50
      Link Parent
      The day daylight savings time ends is the worst. Not only are the days getting shorter but then everything just moves 1 hour forward to boot. Yeah yeah you get one more hour of sleep, but all your...

      The day daylight savings time ends is the worst. Not only are the days getting shorter but then everything just moves 1 hour forward to boot. Yeah yeah you get one more hour of sleep, but all your free time on weekdays is in darkness now.

      5 votes
      1. JCPhoenix
        Link Parent
        Yup. It takes me forever to adjust to the spring forward. We need to just pick one. Either perma standard time or perma DST. I hear the EU might be trying to get rid of it. Lucky ducks.

        Yup. It takes me forever to adjust to the spring forward. We need to just pick one. Either perma standard time or perma DST.

        I hear the EU might be trying to get rid of it. Lucky ducks.

        5 votes
  3. [2]
    nukeman
    Link
    Thanks! I went to watch the sunrise from a nearby bridge. Kinda anticlimactic, because it was super cloudy, but still nice to get up early and enjoy the sunlight.

    Thanks! I went to watch the sunrise from a nearby bridge. Kinda anticlimactic, because it was super cloudy, but still nice to get up early and enjoy the sunlight.

    6 votes
    1. mtset
      Link Parent
      That sounds absolutely lovely! Too bad it was cloudy.

      That sounds absolutely lovely! Too bad it was cloudy.

      5 votes
  4. [2]
    mat
    Link
    I'm not sure that hanging mistletoe is particularly Christian. Christians certainly do it, but I don't think it has any significance particularly. Mistletoe was very important to various...

    Celtic tradition of hanging evergreen plants, such as holly and ivy, as a sign of hospitality became the British Christian tradition of hanging mistletoe

    I'm not sure that hanging mistletoe is particularly Christian. Christians certainly do it, but I don't think it has any significance particularly. Mistletoe was very important to various pre-Christian religions in the UK (as was holly and ivy, as you say)

    You see plenty all three around the UK at Christmas time. I used to live in a house which had a huge holly tree outside and from around November onwards people would knock on our door and ask if they could have some holly to make wreathes with. As it was a rental house I did not care either way and I suspect quite a lot of front doors were strung with holly from that tree..

    Also yule logs are a thing here outside of Judaism. My parents, firmly non-religious people, used to decorate and hang a log at christmas time, and you can still buy log-shaped cakes around this time of year.

    Anyway, it's nice to know this is as dark as it gets. I particularly dislike the amounts of darkness we get in december/january.

    2 votes
    1. mtset
      Link Parent
      Absolutely, I didn't mean to imply that these older traditions have died out outside of major religions.

      Absolutely, I didn't mean to imply that these older traditions have died out outside of major religions.

      1 vote