On Thursday, December 21, 2017, at 8:28 AM Pacific Time (for me) the sun reached its southernmost point before starting back on its northward trek toward Spring. You can calculate your own time accordingly. Actually it has more to do with the tilt of the earth on its axis and its elliptical orbit but we will leave that to the astronomers. I am just one of those who watches the sun regularly rise and set, notice where it is coming up over the hill across the lake. At that moment, the sun was directly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere. That’s why the sun appears as far south on the horizon as it ever goes on its journey.
The winter solstice really only lasts a moment in time, and some of the other terms for the day on which this occurs, are “midwinter”, “the longest night” or “the shortest day”. It really is not the shortest day or longest night. It just refers to the amount of light within a 24-hour period. And, it should not be confused with “the first day of winter” especially here in northern climates where there is often snow and cold since before Thanksgiving.
What winter solstice signals f is the return of the light as now the days start getting longer or rather there is a bit more daylight each day, just as it has been decreasing slowly each day since last summer’s solstice. This celebration of light is recognized and honored by many religious groups. From the Roman Saturnalia to the Indian Pancha Ganapati to Hanukkah and Christmas, to the Persian Yalda and the birth of Mithra, and the recent creation of Kwanzaa in 1966, all kinds of cultures have found ways to pay special attention to our source of life and follow the sun.
Many of us celebrate this season with our families and friends, give gifts and light candles and fires; we might take a walk in the woods or ski down a mountain or through a forest; we might read or pray or sing; many of us will eat and drink around a community table. Whatever we do, it is an opportunity to take some time to do something special that is worth remembering. Stop whatever you’re doing for just a moment in time, for that is what solstice is, a moment in time. Mark it in your journal or on your calendar with your own special thought and experience and share it with your family and friends. At the least, be open to receive the blessings and gifts of the season and celebrate joyfully and gratefully. Celebrate light not just one day when it shifts directions, but every day that the sun rises and gives us this gift of life.