So, here it is... Midwinter... the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. This event has been celebrated since ancient times and has taken on a mystical, magical aspect in many cultures. Astronomically speaking, the night of Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere is marked by the three stars in Orion's Belt aligning with the star, Sirius, the brightest in the eastern sky, to show the exact location the Sun will rise the morning after Winter Solstice. Since Summer Solstice until now, the Sun has been following a decreasing arc across the southern sky. Today, the Sun ceased its decline in the sky, and for a period of three days, the Sun will appear to "stand still," as it will not move on the horizon. On the fourth day, the Sun will begin its ascent into the northern sky and the days will begin to grow longer. For this reason, many cultures interpret this as the Sun being reborn.
People all over the world celebrate Winter Solstice in a variety of ways. In Brighton, UK, they have the Burning the Clocks, a Winter Solstice festival that centers around a procession of lanterns and clock-face costumes representing the passing of time. Led by local bands, the procession makes it way through the streets of Brighton city center to the seafront where the festivities culminate in a lantern bonfire and fireworks. While I am sure it is quite cold, I would love to visit Brighton during Burning the Clocks! What a fun way to celebrate Winter Solstice.
As for us, we celebrate the evening a little more subdued and reflective. It is a time to feel snug in my warm home, and I light a candle as night falls and allow it to burn all night. It is our reminder during this longest night that light will soon come...it is our flickering hope in the darkness.
listen while whispered words
turn the hole into deep night sky
stars close together
winter moon rising over white fields
nearby a wren rustling dry leaves
distant owl echoing
two people walking up the road laughing
...you have nothing to do but live.
From Winter Solstice by Jody Aliesan