Winter Solstice Comes Early Thursday Morning

Winter Solstice Comes Early Thursday Morning

Photo Contributed.

Today, December 21, is the shortest day of the year for daylight hours. At 12:30 a.m. tonight, on Dec. 22, winter solstice arrives and slowly leads to longer days as the Earth orbits around the sun.  The Northern Hemisphere leans farthest away from the sun at this time of year, making the solstice the shortest day of the year and the first official day of winter.

Solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (stand still). While some may not think it a cause for celebration, the solstice is a day of deep historical and cultural significance.

“On about December 21st of each year, Aborigines, academics, astro archaeologists, Atheists, Celts, Druids, historians, Native Americans, Pagans, Shamans, Wiccans, Witches, etc., the world over will be celebrating the world’s oldest holiday, the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice,” according to Religious Tolerance.org.

School of the Seasons states: “The Romans celebrated from December 17th to December 24th with a festival called Saturnalia, during which all work was put aside in favor of feasting and gambling. The social order was reversed, with masters waiting on their slaves. For new life to flourish, for the sun to rise again, it is necessary to vanquish this gloomy old fellow. Therefore, the feasting and merriment of the midwinter season are religiously mandated in order to combat the forces of gloom.”

Other festivities would eventually overshadow Saturnalia. Christianity took hold in the Roman Empire, and Christmas became more prominent. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah, the African-American celebration of Kwanzaa, the Greek festival of Kronos and other celebrations also occur at this time of year.

Scandinavia’s Norsemen called the festivities Yule. The Old Norse traditions of Yule logs, mistletoe, ham for dinner have now become commonplace in traditional  Christmas celebrations. Nowadays, the solstice passes mostly unobserved, although there are still some groups that formally celebrate the event. For Wiccans, Yule is one of eight solar holidays, marking the rebirth of the “Great God.” Druids gather at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, to end their mourning for “the death of the light.”

Religious Tolerance‘s website states: “The solstice is the time of the death of the old sun and the birth of the dark-half of the year. It was called Alban Arthuan by the ancient Druids. It is the end of month of the Elder Tree and the start of the month of the Birch. The three days before Yule is a magical time. This is the time of the Serpent Days or transformation. The Elder and Birch stand at the entrance to Annwn or Celtic underworld where all life was formed. Like several other myths they guard the entrance to the underworld. This is the time the Sun God journey’s thru the underworld to learn the secrets of death and life. And bring out those souls to be reincarnated.”

So whether you celebrate winter solstice or not, be aware of  getting “SAD” this time of year, as the lack of sunlight is known to cause seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a mood disorder affecting an estimated half a million people worldwide every year. Symptoms include overeating, anxiety, lethargy, depression and loss of libido, according to the Mayo Clinic.

To combat the winter doldrums, exposure to an extra few hours of bright light a day will help as will Melatonin.

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Posted on December 21, 2011, in Home and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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