Winter Solstice and Merry Christmas
I recently attended a Winter Solstice gathering that included both Pagan and Christian participants. I felt inspired to write this blog post from the ceremony we celebrated together at that event.
In the old religion of per-Christian times, the people were dependent upon Nature for their survival. Thus, cultivating and maintaining a positive and very intimate relationship with the earth and Her changing seasons was their primary focus. The Solstices and the Equinoxes were honored with ritual followed by celebration and feasting as Christians do with church services and scrumptious dinners after.
The Winter Solstice marks the time when the sun is reborn as the days begin to grow longer. Both Yuletide and Christian celebrations have similar intent, which is to honor the birth of Light – one tradition welcomes the return, rebirth, of the Solar Sun and the other welcomes the birth of the Light on earth in Jesus as the Christ – son of God. Sun/Son.
The Old Ones would burn candles in every window of the house beginning on Solstice Eve to welcome the first rays of the returning Sun at Dawn. Villagers would gather in the town center by the Yule Fire. Fire is very much a symbol of new life and light for the coming growing seasons, as well as purification of what no longer serves. I know of those who bake a birthday cake for Jesus, complete with candles, which they blow out in honor of His birth.
In Europe, many Christians still honor the old ways of honoring the changing seasons. The church I attended in Salt Lake City incorporated the same ceremony of release and sow into their annual New Year’s Eve celebration that we shared together at the gathering. Through the dark season, we turn our attention to the garden of our lives and reflect over the past year.
The Winter is the dark time when it is appropriate to rest more and prepare the soil of yourself with prayerful intent for what you want to harvest in your life. Embrace the darkness within so you can transmute it with Light. But to get to the Light, we must endure the long dark night. Just as we pull the weeds in our garden, we must pull the weeds in our own souls. What habits or situations no longer serve our highest good? It’s a good time to release these with prayer and ceremony and cultivate what we want to accomplish in the coming year.
I was raised as a Christian. Yet, like the blood of my ancestors flowing through my veins, I have had a particularly strong affinity with Nature. I have, indeed, felt guidance and support in the whispers in the wind. My life feels more balanced and complete when I mark the changing seasons with celebration and feast.
Consider the book of Job 12:7-10:
“7” But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky and they will tell you
“8” or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.
“9” Which of these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?
“10” In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
When I think of the Nativity Scene, I mark that even the animals came to the manger to bow down and worship the Christ child. So for me, it is not a question of worshiping Nature instead of Christ, but of worshiping the Divine embodied in Christ alongside Nature.
Since the bible acknowledges that even the animals came to witness the birth and we have many examples, such as the quote mentioned above and the example of God speaking to Moses through the burning bush, of the Holy speaking through nature. For me, it implies that Nature has an ability to recognize and worship the Holy. Therefore, Nature is sentient enough to be conscious and to worship. I do not choose one way of worship over another. As my European ancestors have done, I simply incorporate them together.
Winter Solstice is a time to let go of what no longer serves and a time to plant seeds of new growth and opportunity in the New Year. And of course, be it Happy Solstice or Merry Christmas, I rejoice in gratitude for the return of light in our outer world as the solar sun returns and the birth of Christ, Son of God, whose life and Light awaken our hearts.