For today’s Friday Five, we have five good reasons to add a little light to your life and celebrate next week’s Winter Solstice—the shortest day of the year and its longest night. That’s right, in 2012, the earliest winter since 1896 arrives with the solstice at 6:12 a.m. EST next Friday, December 21—a mere seven days away. If celebrating this solar event isn’t already a part of your holiday tradition, you may want to make it so. Why? Lots of reasons:
1. It’s profoundly simple. Here’s the basic concept, repeated again and again around the world, both ancient and modern: The longest night of the year signals the return of more light to the earth as days grow longer and longer. It is an opportunity to reflect, commune, celebrate and anticipate the coming year. The goal is to put bad things behind you and anticipate a fertile and joyful return of lighter days ahead. Everyone but a troll can get on board to cheer the gradual lengthening of the days.
2. It’s universal. There is proof that every civilization has observed Winter Solstice in one fashion or another. The Chinese have made offerings to deceased relatives as part of Dongzhi Festival for more than 2,000 years. The Saami, the indigenous people of Finland, Sweden and Norway, worship Beiwe, the sun goddess of fertility and sanity. (Who can’t use a bit more sanity?) Lenaia was observed by the ancient Greeks and it was only around the 5th century BCE that the celebrants shifted from sacrifice to theatrical competition. (It was named for the female followers of Dionysius. Draw your own conclusions.) The Kurds celebrate Night of Winter. In North America, the Zuni and Hopi observe Soyal, and We Tripantu is the longest night for the Mapuche in Chile. (Yes, winter is upside down there.) There are even those who believe Hanukkah and Christmas (Yuletide) should be classified as Winter Solstice holidays.
3. You can make it your own. Even though observance of the solstice is as old as the hills surrounding Stonehenge, it is far from hidebound with tradition. So if you like the idea of creating your own unique celebrations, this is the time to do it. You can start with a little research into various cultures’ traditions. Do a little reading. Ask around—you’ll be surprised. And then just start picking, choosing and inventing. Gather a crowd or observe a solitary midnight. Watch an appropriate movie. Recite a poem, sing a song or pause for some silent meditation. Go deep, astrologically.
4. Gifting is optional. You may choose to incorporate the giving of gifts into your observance of the solstice. Or not. Who’s to say it’s required? But if you do give gifts, emphasis is most appropriate on the symbolism and meaning of small things. A candle. A wreath. Something you made or baked. Or just the pleasure of your company at the table. (If you just can’t resist going commercial, however, there’s a sale on Winter Solstice T-shirts!)
5. You can relax. In terms of entertaining, celebrating Winter Solstice will keep you from being a stress-bucket about offending—somehow—by focusing on one religion or ethnic tradition at the expense of any other. It’s so stress-free it may have you rethinking all the fuss you’re making over those other big holidays. (Santa who?)
Regardless of how or whether you choose to observe the arrival of Winter Solstice this year, do pause briefly next Friday to breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate the return of the light!
Merrilyn has been helping lawyers and law firms think differently about the business of practicing law since 1984. She is a founding member of the Legal Marketing Association, a Past President of the College of Law Practice Management and an LMA Hall of Fame inductee. This year, she’ll observe a quiet Winter Solstice with a good bottle of Chablis in the company of friends and family.