Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Solstice Celebration

Winter Solstice

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One year, the wind blew down the mountain fiercer than it ever had before. The wind screamed so loud sometimes that Lucia could not hear her mother humming as she rocked the baby by the fire. Frost covered the nail heads in the walls, and the wind that sneaked in through the cracks tossed the last of the flour in the barrel around, so that it seemed to snow inside the house as well as out.

One day, the sun did not rise over the mountaintop. And the next day and the next and the next, not a glimmer of sun shown, no matter how long Lucia watched for sunrise. Dark roosted on the land.

"Where has the light gone?" Lucia asked.

"I don't know," her mother replied. "Even the oldest tales never told of this darkness." She wrapped Lucia in her arms. "We will be each others' sun until the real sun returns," she said.

Today is Winter Solstice, the day with the shortest sunlight hours here in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the height of winter, the darkest time of the dark season. Starting tomorrow, the sun will stay in the sky just a little longer. And that is more than enough reason to celebrate.

I spent the day at the Nature Park doing a day off camp with elementary school aged kids. We spent the morning reading the wonderful story Lucia and the Light by Phyllis Root, which I have exerpted here, hiking in the woods and seeing what was growing and what was not out there. We found some awesome newts and an amazing fungus forest, with six or seven varieties growing out of a single pile of logs. Of course, we sent arms full of leaves and twigs over the railing of the bridge and down the swollen Beaverton Creek, an all time favorite activity for kids of every age. 

In the afternoon we made lanterns to celebrate the returning of the sun. We talked about the science of the solstice and how the days will begin to get stronger with each passing day and then provided them with colored tissue paper and plastic lantern forms. As the dusk came on we lit them with electric tea lights and paraded around the office building, welcoming back the sun. Later, ask evening came on for real, the kids asked if we could turn off the lights in the room and they proceeded to leap over their lit lanterns. Screams of laughter greeted the gathering darkness.

Sunlight followed Lucia through the front door and poured across the floor, warm and sweet as honey. A fire blazed and the hearth and the baby cooed and clapped to see Lucia.

"I thought I had lost you," her mother cried, sweeping Lucia into a hug."and then the sun came up, and I knew you would come home. My brave child!"

Lucia's mother held her close. "My sunshine," she whispered. "Light of my heart."

How do you celebrate the darkest day of the year? How did you welcome the dark, or greet the growing light? When was the last time you heard children howling and screaming with laughter? Happy Solstice!

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Winter Solstice 2008: Good Morning Sun! and also Solstice Creche

Winter Solstice 2009: Christmas and Advent, Awaiting the Birth

Winter Solstice 2011: Advent and The Long Nights of Winter and It's Christmas

Winter Solstice 2012: City and Sky Advent

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