By Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP
The Winter Solstice – known as the longest night – has opened the way to the coming light.
From this moment, each day will become a few seconds longer and each night a few seconds shorter, as our planet’s Northern Hemisphere twirls closer to the sun.
The Winter Solstice, which we popularly call the first day of winter, is the holy day of our ancestors, one not burdened with the hurry and commercialism of our modern Christmas Day. The solstice only asks that we pause and look to our relationship with the sun, the light, the dark, and other great powers beyond our comprehension.
**Our ancestors celebrated** the “fire” festivals to acknowledge the rebirth of the sun, and these festivals are found in variations throughout the ancient world.
Holiday historians tell us that the Roman festival of Saturnalia took place at the time of the solstice, when people cut and brought in evergreen boughs to decorate the house, the children and the poor received gifts, and the regular business of the day stopped for frivolity and feasting.
The Persian Mithraists saw the date of Dec. 25 as marking the birth of their most important sun god, the one they called Mithras. This god was related to their values of obligations and contracts, honored by common meals and celebrated as a victory of light over darkness.
In Sweden, Dec. 13 was considered sacred to the Goddess Lucina, the “Shining One,” and celebrated the return of the light. On Yule itself, on or near Dec. 21, people lit bonfires to acknowledge the powerful gods Odin and Thor.
Once again, the coming of the light
So now we once again celebrate the coming of the light. The Jewish people already celebrated Hanukkah, the festival of lights, earlier this month. The next several holidays continue that celebration in many forms: Christmas marks the arrival the holy Christ Child; the newer African American holiday Kwaanza starts on Dec. 26 and uses ceremonial candles to recreate the importance of the sun’s light; and Jan. 1 marks the beginning of the new year and new opportunities for the Western world.
There is no doubt that having experienced the darkness of this past year, we yearn for more light. The pandemic and the collective trauma that it has stirred has been teaching the harsh but important lessons of isolation and division.
No certain answers, only experiences
We are asked to learn these lessons, which have no certain answers, but rather only experiences that point us to possible new directions. At this time of light and dark, we are especially asked to look at the intermingling of the opposites.
We are asked how we can mourn and celebrate at the same time. We are asked if we can recognize our own good fortune while acknowledging that many people and families are struggling and desperate, standing or parking in long lines hungry for food to eat. And more…
We need light to enter to not only illuminate the places that have been hidden and lost but also help us find a way to new landscape of inclusivity, connection and opportunity.
I dare to take the challenge, in my humble human way. I may make mistakes, and I don't expect to do it perfectly. But I invite you to join me and venture into new landscapes of light, openness and truth. Let us find our way together.
Wishing you and yours the joy to be found and the darkness to be understood and illuminated.
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Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP, is an author, trainer and psychotherapist who promotes, practices and teaches experiential methods including psychodrama, Family and Systemic Constellations, mindfulness and Tarot imagery.