et lux perpetua – Winter Solstice and the light
Overnight, the Winter Solstice will arrive for the Northern Hemisphere, and northern cultures around the globe are in the midst of a great festival of light.
This is the time of the last harvest feasts before the starvations of deep winter. The cold and dark are beginning to wrap the earth in a shroud of icy morbidity. While we feast our last, we create light – for heat, of course – but also to recognize the tipping of the cycle back into sunshine, back towards the promise of a distant spring when the world will be plentiful again.
To fill the night with our own light, to stave off darkness, is one of the most fundamental of human characteristics. And in December, examples of this are countless – in the pre-Christian rituals of the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Russia, in Zoroastrianism, in ancient Japanese myths of the sun goddess, in Buddhism…
– Hannukah, which began last night, celebrates the miracle of perpetual light in a time of great trial.
– In later period of ancient Rome, the harvest carnival of Saturnalia morphed into a celebration of the “Invincible Sun” on December 25.
Of course, in the Christian tradition, this day is far more well-known as a celebration of the life of Jesus, whose birth brought light to the world, and was signaled by a giant star. Right now,the Christian world is decked in evergreen plants, candles, hearths, and lights.
– Another great Christian tradition came on December 13 – the Day of St. Lucia, protector of holy light (and of the blind). Originating in Germanic and Scandinavian Europe, the commemoration includes candlelit processions led by a girl who wears a candled wreath on her head.
All photos Copyright Matt Logan – may not be reproduced, published, or used in any way without written consent.