The December Solstice is perhaps the oldest of Sabbaths, perhaps as much as 20,000 years old. In days of old, winter was a far more dangerous season. In this way the ‘birth of the sun’ was a great call for celebration. In pagan traditions it marked the birth of the male god/son/lover of the virgin goddess.
Today the approach of midwinter is an ideal time to embrace rituals of the past. The celebrations of this holiday time are gratitude and grace; taking time to weave our abundance, be it humble or great, with others through giving, sharing or charity work. We seal the close of our year with service and love, which in turn sows the seeds of abundance within our hearts.
In my native Ireland at the sacred ground of Newgrange, the sun enters what’s known as the “light box” of the chamber at around 9 a.m. on the morning of midwinter. There it illuminates the sacred stones within for exactly 17 minutes. The meaning is surrounded in mystery, yet we can perhaps divine ourselves that this is a time of deep reflection. The sun continues to shine on the carved stones within the chamber for five days. There are five spiral carvings on these inner stones, three going counter clockwise and two going clockwise, perhaps representing these five days.
The plant nation also offers us many gifts during this season of gratitude. The sumptuously fragranced pine tree, and the holly berry representing male virility. Mistletoe’s magical origins from ancient Druid rites is the female counterpart, and a kiss under the mistletoe heralds love and blessings of the earth’s abundance to come, and the Solstice promise of the return of the light.