Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Midwinter and Ancient roots of Christmas

I've loved Christmas since I was a small child. This past several months I have been scanning in to digitize a lot of old family photos and found some to celebrate Christmases over the years as I went for a baby to a teenager and my brothers came along and grew with me. Our family was far from well-to-do but when I was little Mom and Dad always managed to make Christmas special and as my brothers came along and the parents were older and more careworn, I took over a good part of trying to make the holiday memorable for the boys. Then when I had kids at home, I did the same for them. After they were grown and gone, I did not quite become a Scrooge or Grinch but a lot of the fun went out of it.

In the past ten years since my hubby has been gone, I've varied from doing quite a bit in terms of decorating, baking etc. to almost nothing. In 2003, he'd just been gone a few weeks, having passed away on November 10, so that year the holiday was barely noted. Now that I live with my middle brother after we both ended up single--our youngest brother died of an aneurysm in 2005--we're both kind of jaded about it.  So we do not do a whole lot to mark the season but agree Midwinter Solstice is just as significant as Christmas. Below is that middle brother and me; I was eight and a half and he was six weeks old! I had to look twice to be sure it wasn't a baby doll I held. And yes, we always had fresh cut trees we got in the forest for our Christmas tree! They were usually juniper or pinyon pine, both plentiful in the high desert area of Arizona where we lived. This holiday would have been in Jerome, AZ by the way.

Even when I was in my teens, I also felt that the midwinter solstice was a very special time too. I've been a sun-centered being all my life. I say jokingly that I operate on solar batteries and they run down in gray bleak weather and lose some power when the hours of darkness exceed those of daylight. So that day when the sun stands still at its farthest point is critical to me.  And solstice means just that--the sun standing still! I often feel like that is the real New Year's instead of the arbitrary day of January 1. Well, actually the day after the solstice would be New Year's Day and the day itself New Year's Eve. My internal calendar kicks over on that night between anyway. Again I go back to my ancient Celtic ancestors who marked the night more than the day in terms of festivals.

These days I celebrate midwinter about as much as Christmas and now know why I always climbed a few old Cottonwood trees as a kid to collect mistletoe--my Druid ancestors got it from oaks but they held it sacred too, not just for kissing under! The evergreens, the candles, the gifts, and the special feast-style dinner all have roots many thousands of years old so I cherish all the time-honored customs. I still observe some of them in reality and others in memory.

I found a neat link if anyone is interested in some special music and such to mark the solstice date--which will be December 21st this year. Aine Mineague is the artist featured here. http://wintersolsticemusic.com/ I hope the link will work for you and you can enjoy this!

Then I came across another neat thing, a suggested Midwinter Solstice Rite. While it differs somewhat from some that a group of Druid friends have devised and performed it is simple ans clean and I like it! The author is in Australia so her midwinter is our midsummer but that is not critical! Here you are:

Copyright Stella Woods (June 2009): 
Decorate a room with winter greenery. Place a large bowl of water and a
lighted candle in the centre of the room. Have some golden glitter and
scented oil nearby and a candle for each person. Sit in a circle with a
lighted candle in front of you and talk about what you wish to release at
this dark time of the year, blowing out your candle once you have
finished speaking. Once everyone has had their turn, blow out the
central candle and sit in the darkness reflecting on what you are leaving
behind. After a long silence, relight the central candle, which represents
the sun, and sprinkle golden glitter on the water. Then each of you light
a candle from the central candle and place it by the water so you can
watch the glitter sparkling. Pass around a glass of wine and offer a toast
to the sun, the bringer of new light. Then go round the circle again, each
of you talking about a dream for the future or a new attitude you wish to
embrace. Finally sprinkle scented oil on the water and choose someone
to anoint each person with sunshine by dipping their hand into the
sparkling, scented water and sprinkling it over each person’s hair. Hold
hands and offer thanks

As I wrote in my post over at the Amber PAX blog:  http://amberpax.blogspot.com/  the Norse god Odin is featured as a gift bringer driving a sleigh with an eight-legged beast drawing it! I will style myself Odin's handmaiden here and offer a gift for a selected commenter on my posts either there or here. You can have your choice of the three PAX tales I had released this year: A Different Drummer, Dark and Stormy or Last Train to Clarkdale. There's info on all three in earlier posts here this year if you want to look them up or you can go to www.amberquill.com/AmberAllure/bio_ODare.html to find them on my backlist.

I wish all of you a wonderful midwinter season and whichever of its special days and festivals you observe! It is a magical time of year and one we can all enjoy, whatever our persuasion in terms of religious practice or simply our preference. Go in peace and harmony into the new year and may it treat you well!

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