Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year or the longest night of the year, depending on your perspective. The solstice also marks the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Winter Solstice Celebration goes back thousands of years in many different cultures. It was a special celebration of the Druids and Celts and centered on the yule log as part of pagan rituals. In ancient Rome, it was known as the Feast of Saturnalia.
Often, in ancient days, Winter Solstice marked a time of dread. Winter was harder on people in those days because of food shortages, long periods of darkness, illness, and cold. No flick of the switch or turning up the furnace. Those who were lucky lived through the hard winters.
Today we are more fortunate. Winter time marks more colds and flu, rain, snow, sleet and other nasty weather. Winter also can bring on SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder which can cause depression and general malaise in some people. Most of the time, however, these conditions are not life-threatening to modern man.
The good news about Winter Solstice is that the days will now get longer, at least until June 21 or whatever date the Summer Solstice falls on. This year, the shortest day of the year will have only 9 hours 27 minutes of daylight between sun up and sun down, in Manassas. To calculate this for yourself, you can go to the Naval Observatory website and find most locations.
Many people love winter time and say they would miss the seasons if they moved to Florida or Hawaii. Others hate it. How do you feel about this much maligned season? Is it as bad as people say? Is it deadly to the poor? How about in the Dakotas and other northern plains areas?
For 25 years the Paul Winter Winter Solstice has been celebrated in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Enjoy some scenes from this winter extravaganza. Winter Solstice is not just for pagans any more!