"The December solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly inclination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, it is when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. Depending on the Gregorian calendar, the December solstice occurs annually on a day between December 20th and December 23rd. On this date, all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south receive 24 hours of daylight. The sun is directly overhead on the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere during the December solstice. It also marks the longest day of the year in terms of daylight hours for those living south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Those living or travelling south from the Antarctic Circle towards the South Pole will see the midnight sun during this time of the year.
On the contrary, for an observer in the northern hemisphere, the December solstice marks the day of the year with the least hours of daylight for those living north of the Tropic of Cancer. Those living or travelling north of the Arctic Circle towards the North Pole will not be able to see the sun during this time of the year."
Just so. But for me, there is so much more to it than that. It is the time of year when the earth turns back towards the light, a time of renewal and hope. But it is also a time to appreciate the necessity of the cyclical nature of things - and to celebrate "the need for withdrawal as an essential part of renewal." There is a beautiful passage in The Circle of Life: the Heart's Journey through the Seasons by Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr, which really speaks to my condition. My thanks to Frederic Brussat for drawing it to my attention via Twitter:
"There is a tendency to want to hurry from autumn to spring, to avoid the long dark days that winter brings. Many people do not like constant days bereft of light and months filled with colder temperatures. They struggle with the bleakness of land and the emptiness of trees. Their eyes and hearts seek colour. Their spirits tire of tasting the endless gray skies. There is great rejoicing in the thought that light and warmth will soon be filling more and more of each new day.
But winter darkness has a positive side to it. As we gather to celebrate the first turn from winter to spring, we are invited to recognise and honour the beauty in the often unwanted season of winter. Let us invite our hearts to be glad for the courage winter proclaims. Let us be grateful for the wisdom winter brings in teaching us about the need for withdrawal as an essential part of renewal. Let us also encourage our spirits as Earth prepares to come forth from this time of withdrawal into a season filled with light.
The winter solstice celebrates the return of hope to our land as our planet experiences the first slow turn towards greater daylight. Soon we will welcome the return of the sun and the coming of springtime. As we do do, let us remember and embrace the positive enriching aspects of winter's darkness. Pause now to sit in silence in the darkness of this space. Let this space be a safe enclosure of creative gestation for you."
May it be so.