We went to the Festival of Lights Solstice parade last night. Which I guess is what you do if you’re not quite sure how else to celebrate the season but want to pay homage to nature, pre-Christian traditions or just generally like the sound of hippies banging drums. Because you can be sure that all the real Pagans and Wiccans who consider this an actual religious event were probably not standing around in Kensington Market last night watching people walk around with lanterns.
However, the idea of celebrating the Solstice is much more concrete to me than the birth of Jesus. Yes, I believe Jesus existed, but I’ve always taken umbrage with the idea that early Christians moved the celebration of his birth to coincide with Saturnalia and the Solstice to lure pagans to Christianity through the temptation of a bigger and better party. Almost all of the “traditional” Christmas traditions predate Christ.
Also, as someone who is really into food, sustainability, supporting farmers and enjoying the harvest, the Solstice as the huge year-end celebration just seems to make so much more sense. On the darkest day of the year, it is just so logical and down to earth to celebrate the returning of the sun, without which we could not survive. After a long year of harvesting, the Solstice celebration is not only a way to enjoy what has been reaped in the previous year but a way to look ahead to the the year and new crops and new conquests.
When I suffered from SAD (which notably, was probably not SAD at all, but a potentially dangerous allergy to the mold in the house I was living in) I could not have conceived that there was anything good about winter, and I know plenty of people who have a hard time dealing with the darkness, but now my outlook is very different. I dislike cold days far less than the stinking hot days of summer, and with two dogs (and living in an apartment), I have no choice but to go out into the elements regardless of the weather. Sure, mornings full of freezing rain or -30C windchills aren’t fabulous, but playing in the snow with a dog is just about the best thing ever.
Winter has its own beauty that might take some time to learn to appreciate, but the stillness of a snowy night, the sharp air, then the beginnings of buds on trees – all are part of a great, logical, beautiful cycle that is so amazing to be a part of.
The days between the Solstice on the 21st of December and the calendar new year are very much a time of renewal for me. The presents and celebrations are wonderful, but this week for me is about cleaning and fresh starts. Some people get into spring cleaning, but in our house, things get the scrub down leading up to January 1st. Finding a place for the new things that were left under the Christmas tree means, especially when you live in a small space, that something else has to go. And if you have to tear apart your storage closet to put the tree and decorations away, might as well clean the whole thing out as well.
We’ll face 2010 with a new sofa, new curtains, steam cleaned carpets, re-organized file drawers and great plans for the new year. We’ve got our accounts in order, physicals done, dog’s surgery completed. We’re ready to face the new year – and the rising sun – raring to go, excited about what lies ahead.