Long, long before there was Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or even Saturnalia, ancient peoples lived in alignment with the rhythms of Nature and the seasons. At the Winter Solstice, the peoples of the Northern Hemisphere experience their longest night and shortest day, and people developed a holiday (holy day) to celebrate the return of the Light!
From the above video of Nome, Alaska, on the Winter Solstice, you can see why people wanted to celebrate the return of longer days – the sun rose at noon and set at 4pm on the shortest day of the year. Talk about S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder)!!
The celebration around the Winter Solstice was the celebration of the Birthday of the Sun! After the darkness of the late autumn months, the Sun appeared to stand still in the sky for three days, after which it would begin its journey back to a higher arc and the days would start getting longer again. This was a time for great joy and celebration, and many of the customs of this ancient holiday have been passed down over the generations to our modern celebration today.
Although different cultures have different customs and religious traditions at this time of year, many have kept some of the ancient traditions of lighting lights, feasting, and gift giving. Here in America, we keep the traditions of the northern Scandinavian and German cultures which celebrated Yule. Many of our customs today – decorating an evergreen tree, putting up wreaths, holly, mistletoe, and singing carols, come from the pre-Christian Yule tradition.
However you choose to celebrate your Winter Solstice holiday, may the Light and Love of being with friends and family shine on the darkness of your personal Shadow, allowing more of it to be looked at, released, and integrated into a shiny new Light-filled and Whole YOU in the coming year!