We just wanted to stop in today to say happy solstice!
When we met each other, it became very quickly apparent that we share a scary amount in common (which we’ll talk a little more about when we celebrate the one year anniversary of Plaster & Disaster next month!). One of our early discoveries was that both of us celebrate the winter solstice as our December holiday — which seems like a really eerie coincidence given that solstice is not a holiday that many people celebrate or even know much about.
So why solstice? Well each of our families had some specific reasons for thinking the shift away from the more mainstream winter holidays made sense, but at the end it comes down to solstice as the embodiment of the season — a celebration of warmth, hope, togetherness, and light in the darkness.
Scientifically, the solstices are the two days of the year when the sun is the greatest distance from the equator. And since our earth rotates on a tilted axis, that means that one pole is at its closest point to the sun while one is at its furthest point. In June, the northern hemisphere is the closest to the sun and the southern hemisphere furthest away — that’s the summer solstice for the northern hemisphere and winter solstice for the southern. What we get in the north is long days and warm summer nights, and it’s heavenly.
But in December, the northern hemisphere is furthest from the sun and the southern hemisphere is closest.
That’s our winter solstice in the north, and the reason why (in addition to nonsensical daylight savings) the days are so short this time of year. In Boston the sun sets around 4pm and it’s terrible. We get sad (and for a lot of us, S.A.D.). The winter solstice is the precise day when the sun is up for the shortest period of time, usually between December 20-22. This year it’s today, the 22nd!
So why celebrate the darkest day of the year? Well there are a lot of reasons. There’s the physical — the fact that the darkest day is the perfect one to come together in family and warmth and celebrate the return of the light. Before the modern era you can imagine how much more powerful and important that was — winter is rough, imagine it without electricity and heat. When Sage was growing up, her family didn’t use electricity on the solstice as a way to appreciate this more directly.
There’s also the metaphysical — the fact that there’s a lot of (non-physical) darkness in the world. There is so much death, and hatred, and fear. There are people doing terrible things with terrible intentions, and so many more people doing terrible things with the best of intentions. Coming together in the midst of that darkness is a reminder that we create light and warmth. Or as Sage’s uncommonly mature younger brother once wrote:
The world is a dark place. But guess what — welcome to it. If you can’t find the light within yourself and shine it on the people and places you encounter, that darkness is going to seem awfully scary.
So here’s wishing you a very happy solstice, a joyful holiday season, and a New Year in which we all do our part to bring light to the world.