Today at last the northern hemisphere will reach the official starting point of winter, but we’ll also begin the long slow march toward the summer season.
Solstices are both an astronomical event as well as a moment when we can look back on past human history and consider the importance that ancient civilizations placed on these events. They built incredible structures, many of which still exist, to mark the occasions. Understanding earth’s seasonal clock was a matter of literal life and death.
I don’t think it’s an accident that holidays of family gathering and giving happen to fall so close to the winter solstice. Before Christmas, or Hanukkah, or the Roman festival of Saturnalia, there were older winter solstice traditions that marked the end of the harvest and hope for spring after the cold of winter. Those ancient holiday traditions have been largely lost to time, but they influence us even today.
So certainly we can look forward to a fun holiday season of gift-giving and family time in our warm homes. But let’s remember the most ancient of all holidays today and be thankful that no matter how cold it may seem now, spring and summer are coming once again.