We’ve been celebrating Solstice in our household for several years now. And I have to admit it’s taken a while for me to not miss Christmas. Fifty plus years of that holiday goes in deep. And lingers. Made more poignant by the huge presence of the holiday and all its trappings for increasing months each year. It’s easy to be nostalgic about decorated trees and memories of childhood Christmas times. And sometimes those ghosts drift through with a tug of longing. Still, shifting to Solstice is a decision we have never regretted.
There’s much about the Christmas holiday I don’t miss and much of what I don’t miss has made it easy to disengage. I don’t miss the frantic consumption that takes people over and the sense of obligation to buy things for people who quite frankly don’t need anything. Things too often made by poor people and children, too often under slave labor conditions. Too soon headed for the landfill. Annie Leonard, creator of the Story of Stuff, reports that only 1% will be in use six months from now. I don’t miss the idea that what and how much is gifted to others is somehow a measure of love. I don’t miss Santa taking center stage from Jesus. Whether he was born on December 25th or not, and most biblical scholars agree not, Jesus was a most amazing being of light and love.
After all, Light is the true reason for the season. The return of the Light in this season and all seasons of darkness. Attending the Light we all hold and again setting an intention to make our Light manifest in the world. And so we celebrate Solstice with light. We find music to play that doesn’t involve reindeer. We host a sacred Solstice Fire celebration. And then, while the rest of the world is busy with Christmas, we tuck into a few days of peace. Reading, writing, being on the land. Time to be still and be with the Light.
Ironic, really. That the choice to celebrate Solstice and the Light gives us the space to do just that. A Light that continues to dispel the ghosts of Christmases past.
There are many wonderful things about celebrating Solstice. Among them this year is this week that stretches before me. A time to settle in with the land and write. To once again pick up the shuttle to weave the words and stories of Ireland’s indigenous spiritual ancestors. A time of peace and quiet as clients and friends are busy with the Christmas holidays.
Solstice. A time when we celebrate the Light and step once again beyond the darkness. Within and without. A time to leave behind what no longer serves us. A time to remember what is truly important. A sentiment beautifully articulated in this Irish blessing.
May you never forget
what is worth remembering
what is best forgotten.
Worth remembering for me is a powerful meditation under this magnificent tree in the Giant’s Ring in Belfast two summers ago. This tree holds such power. Even in winter.
There is a quiet light that shines in every heart. It draws no attention to itself, though it is always secretly there. It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty, our desire to seek possibility, and our hearts to love life. Without this subtle quickening our days would be empty and wearisome, and no horizon would ever awaken our longing. Our passion for life is quietly sustained from somewhere in us that is welded to the energy and excitement of life. This shy inner light is what enables us to recognize and receive our very presence here as a blessing.
And so as we welcome the returning light of the Sun, may we welcome and celebrate the Light we hold within. There is such power in this Light. Indeed it is the only power that can dispel the darkness. Within and without.
This is a story I will share around the Solstice Fire tonight. Will be a wonderful and powerful gathering…and we will have bagpipes this year! Magic. Magic.
It was the day before Solstice in the deep of winter. Snow swirled in the bitter cold wind. In the castle high on the hill above the village there was trouble. The great kitchen fire had gone out. There was no flame to cook the food or make the big kettle sing. As people stood shivering in front of the hearth they wondered what had caused this catastrophe. Some said it was the wrong fuel they were burning in the fire, others ventured that all the quarreling in the castle over matters of state made it too cold for any fire to burn.
The King snorted. “No matter the cause,” he said, “we must have fire!” And he sent a messenger to the village to bring back coals from one of the hearth fires. So the messenger set out with a big iron lantern and made his way down the hill crying, “Coals. Coals. Coals for the castle fire.”
The door flew open as he passed the first cottage and a man stepped out. “Coals for the castle? Why yes, we have coals.” As the messenger filled the lantern the man said, “Of course tell the King we want as many gold coins as coals you are taking!” The messenger agreed and started back up the hill to castle. But he hadn’t gotten very far before the coals in the lantern turned cold. Leaving them on the side of the road he turned back to the village calling, “Coals. Coals. Coals for the castle fire.” Continue reading
“I just hate this time of year,” she told me on the phone last night. “It’s so cold and it gets dark so early.” Like so many, she is a woman with places to go and things to do in these hectic holidays. Rain, icy roads, driving in the dark. This season just isn’t cooperating.
It never does. And for those of us who live in the northern hemisphere we might have figured out by now that it never will. For the whole point, the lesson, of this season is not about it cooperating with us…but rather our cooperating with it. This season call us home to the hearth to spend time around a warm fire. And as we wait for the return of the Sun’s Light, to attend our own Light. A great gift of the dark is that we are able to see our own Light most clearly.
Our ancestors knew this.
They would step away from the busy seasons of planting and harvesting to spend time sharing stories, playing music, singing songs, and re-membering who they were as people and as a people. It was a time to reconnect with the great dreams and visions of their lives. Their fires and candles were a powerful reminder of the power, promise, and purpose of this season. A bright beckoning in the dark.
Today we have electricity and our lives are filled with light. But are they filled with Light? I imagine Earth Mother shaking her shaggy head as we rail against this season. When will we learn? When will we slow down to find the gift of Light within the darkness? I imagine Spirit looking at our frantic activity and sighing. Maybe next year, maybe next Solstice Season. For it will return. It always does.