Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. I think of it more as the LongestNight, because in my personal allegory, living through the long, cold, dark night and surviving to see the Sun again, that's what it's all about. It's a symbolic celebration of course, we're all still trapped in the soul crushing grip of freezing temperatures and 5pm sunsets and won't actually be free of it until around the Vernal Equinox. But this IS the astronomical turning point, where the days start to grow longer, and it gives me HOPE, which is such an intangible thing, you better grab it where you see it!
My mom called and told me that I slept through the Solstice, which was at 7am this morning. Ah well, I only get so many days off, so sorry if I slept through this astronomical event, but the precise timing of these things has never been a hobby of mine like mining their mythology is.
This morning I woke up to bright sunlight streaming through my windows. This is so different from the hazy rainy gloom we've had for the past week, I felt happier immediately. Of course it hasn't lasted, the clouds are already obscuring everything in shadowless wintry grey light.
Many Americans appear to believe this season of festivity was born in the 1930's when an artist for the Coca-Cola company gave us a picture of Santa Clause. These are the people I have seen out at the shopping centers tithing huge percentages to the Material Gods and their carols are the beeps of the cash registers at Wal-Mart. Then there are many who chant "Remember Jesus is the reason for the season!" and think that their religion has the copyright on Winter Holiday. Whatever. (I wonder how many of them are secret cultists of the Material Gods?) Mithra is an even Older "Reason for the Season" His story is so like that of Jesus' modern courts could convict the Christians of plagiarism. But there were midwinter festivals before the cult of Mithra sprang up among the Romans too. I'm sure there are solar deities who get born on the Solstice in a bunch of other cultures going back to the beginning of time. Why? Well, I think it is because winter is long, and dark, and hard, and people need something to help them through.