I’m a pantheist living in North Carolina. There’s something special about winter solstice, that time on December 21st that marks the longest night, the shortest day, when the sun’s daily maximum elevation in the sky is at its lowest, before each day starts to get incrementally longer with a tiny bit more sunshine daily as we head into spring. Winter Solstice is all about light. I could write facts about the solstice, but I prefer to tell you how it makes me feel. For me, winter solstice is intimately intertwined with Christmas. As many of us know, much of what we love and celebrate at Christmas was actually borrowed from more ancient pagan solstice celebrations. As Christianity spread and grew, a date near the Solstice was deliberately chosen for Christmas, the birthday of Jesus, and its play on words, from rebirth of the “sun” to birth of the “son,” as people were already used to celebrating the birth of a sun god at this time.
As a little girl, long before I had heard of winter solstice, my favorite part of the winter holiday season was the Christmas lights; multicolored lights strung on rooftops and trees and storefronts, or the white twinkling ones. My parents and I rode around at night through various neighborhoods to look at them. There was something comforting and cozy about seeing pine trees full of twinkling lights standing in front of living room windows. I still feel that way today, as we hunker down a little more in our homes because it’s dark at 5:30 in the evening now. Families welcome this special time of year by spending time together in front of fireplaces giving light and warmth. The holiday lights and flickering candles hearken back to the Solstice celebration that dates back to the earliest times of civilization and our ancient ancestors, as we, too, celebrate the sun coming back with feasting and families.
Some pantheists avoid any religious traditions, while others embrace or redefine them, but whether you celebrate Solstice or Christmas or Yule, or some combination, whatever you may call it, whether it’s strictly a natural occurrence or also a more symbolic one, I know that people everywhere are also celebrating it in their unique ways. Maybe it’s a special meal or a tree or other greenery or a moonlight hike complete with hot drinks and good company, gift giving, or a big bonfire. It’s the one time of year when people all over the world celebrate at the same time, connecting us to each other and our present world, as well as to our own families and childhood memories. It links us to the ancients, who may not have understood the science behind what was happening, but certainly recognized the pattern in relation to their crops and animals and food supply, and, lastly, to nature itself, that which I find so worthy of awe. This time of year fills people with some measure of hope and love, good will and merriment. There’s really nothing else quite like the time of winter solstice.
We welcome another season that nature gifts us year after year with predictability and its own special beauty. Every season has its blessings, but to me, there’s just something special about the light of winter solstice, the return of the sun, and the brilliance of winter skies full of thousands upon thousands of twinkling stars that no human effort, no matter how great or how enjoyable and lovely, can truly compare to, and the feelings such lights evoke. I feel special and insignificant at the same time, connected to all that has been, is, and will be. I wish for you a happy winter solstice, a warm and light-filled celebration full of hope and expectation.
(originally published in Pantheist Vision)