On December 21, we gathered with friends old and new to celebrate the Winter Solstice. NCLT staff lined an easy 3/4 mile loop trail at the Trustees’ Doyle Community Park with over 300 paper lanterns illuminated with tea candles. Participants were invited to make their own lanterns and bring them along to add to the celebration. After a welcome and readings from Executive Director, Anna Wilkins, participants walked followed the trail of lanterns then returned for a celebratory hot chocolate and more reflection on the positive intentions for the coming year.
The winter solstice is the point at which we, here in the northern hemisphere, are tilted furthest away from the sun. It’s the shortest day of the year and the start to the astronomical winter. Cultures around the world have long held feasts and celebrated holidays around the winter solstice. Fire and light are traditional symbols of celebrations held on the darkest day of the year. Humans have observed the winter solstice since pre-historic times.
Writer Meg Casey captures the hushed beauty of the light in the dark of December:
“December is a holy month. Maybe it is the dark, silky silence that descends so early that speaks to me of reverence. Maybe it is the promise that December holds — that no matter how dark, how cold, how empty it can get, the light is coming back. Something always shifts in me when December arrives — I embrace the darkness, and am eager for the coming solstice when the whole world is still and holds its breath, waiting to be reborn again.”
It seemed particularly meaningful to mark the winter solstice this year. Participants paused to reflect on their own journey and set renewed intention and blessings for the upcoming year. Time seems to go so quickly these day. But Nature is still bound to the cycles of the earth the moon and the stars. We are still fundamentally bound to it.
So that day- as we walked the trail marked with subtle candlelight in celebration, we gave ourselves permission to pause, reflect and set our course towards the returning light, and the promise of a new year.
It was truly a beautiful celebration of light to mark the days getting longer again. We cannot wait to celebrate again next year on December 21, 2023. Thank you to The Trustees for allowing us to use their trails.
A Winter Solstice Prayer, by Edward Hays
The dark shadow of space leans over us…
We are mindful that the darkness of greed, exploitation, and hatred
also lengthens its shadow over our small planet Earth.
As our ancestors feared death and evil and all the dark powers of winter,
we fear that the darkness of war, discrimination, and selfishness
may doom us and our planet to an eternal winter.
May we find hope in the lights we have kindled on this sacred night,
hope in one another and in all who form the web-work of peace and
justice that spans the world.
In the heart of every person on this Earth
burns the spark of luminous goodness;
in no heart is there total darkness.
May we who have celebrated this winter solstice,
by our lives and service, by our prayers and love,
call forth from one another the light and the love
that is hidden in every heart.
The Shortest Day
By Susan Cooper
So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us—Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.