Solstice Blessings and Abundance
"Tis the season" and a long one it is at our house, to celebrate the winter Holidays. Amid the celebrating and I think as important as the celebrating is reflection. So let me begin with this one, about the wonderful family I was lucky enough to live next to when I was a kid, OK a little kid. In their dinning room, above the stand that held the silver coffee service was hung a framed textile that said "God Jul" , and being an inquisitive child, I asked what it meant, and it was explained to me that it meant "Merry Christmas" in Norwegian. In my maturing brain it clicked the Yuletide was another way of saying Christmas. There was so very much more I would learn as the years went on.
The Solstice, the longest night of the year, which occurs at 4:49 UTC today, also known as Yule, a Quarter day in the Pagan year, that corresponded with the celebration of Christmas in the Christian part of Europe. A celebration that welcomes the lengthening hours of day light, is filled with feasting, decorating the house, merriment and get-togethers, and of course the celebration of the returning daylight. Yule is a time not as much for looking back as Christmas and New Years seems to be now, but a time for looking forward.
Yesterdays sunset appeared to come before 3PM, though actually in was approx. 4:45. that is less than 9 hours of daylight. A remarkable thing happens in the days around the solstice, in the Northern Hemisphere, the earth's axis begins to tilt away from the sun, the suns rays reach the greatest distance from the equator.
Though the Mediterranean is enjoying rather warmer weather, this is the traditional day for planting garlic, and for harvesting the garlic planted on the summer solstice. Or so I have been told. It is also one of the days that in many homes, a candle in a jar is place in the window, and it is kept lit until the 3 Kings arrive on Epiphany. A similar tradition was observed at my house, and being allowed to start a new candle was a great honor, at least to me it was.
The Norse tradition of bringing in an evergreen tree and decorating it, to encourage as well as welcome back the sun, was the beginning of our Christmas tree. Bedecked with heirloom and new ornaments that depict those things, activities and people we hold dear, it is more like the trees that decorated those long ago homes than one might think at first.
The greens and reds used then are still used today. The hardy survivors of winter who remain green even in the oldest weather.
"Treeing" the custom of going from house to see how the neighbors are doing , sample their home brew and probably to hear the latest gossip, carries with it, locally at least, collecting a custom of pinching a few needles from your hosts Christmas tree and saving them for next year. Which I would not be surprise to learn is a custom based on the saving a bit of the yule log for the next years fire. When I was clearing out my grandparents house, I discovered a forgotten box of Christmas candles, and in it was, and still is a large number of pine, hemlock and spruce needles.