Finding Your Own Brighter Days Ahead During the Yuletide
Today, in the Northern Hemisphere, our winter solstice sun appears at its lowest point in the sky. Many traditions and cultures honor these short days and long nights as a sacred and special time.
This time of year is associated with light – electric string lights, the burning yule log, and candles. Hanukkah in the Jewish tradition is the Festival of Lights, which just completed the 8 days of ritual illumination of the menorah. There’s the advent wreath of the Christian faith (weekly lighting of candles) and the all-night bonfire of the Yule log. The lights are reminders of our inner light, an affirmation of our higher and better selves, and hope for brighter days ahead – as we move through our darkest days.
Winter Festivities – Coping with Darkness and Chill
The trimmings, the sweets, the parties and the hoopla of the season are all intended to help carry us through this dark and cold time of the year. Without our social connections and the promise of brighter days ahead, the winter blues might be overwhelming. Parties and holiday gatherings remind us that we’re all in it together. And it can, indeed, be good medicine because we humans long for a sense of belonging, to feel that deep bond of family and community, to be part of a “tribe”.
Of course, we get distracted by all the “wanting”—feelings of lack, and a focus on stuff, or even our longings for perfect health. And we easily miss the central point: to love one another, to offer companionship and reinforce our connections through the trimmings and the gifts (the ones we give!). We tell ourselves that it is the cookies, the drinks, the food and the gifts that make the holiday special. Try them out all by yourself, and see if you can honestly say that is the case.
The Way Out of Winter Solstice Darkness
And then there is the pressure to be positive, cheery, merry, and bright. But you may have your pain, grief, or worry—your own reality that seems at odds with all the outward festivity. What if melancholy does have you in its grips? Does all this ‘cheer’ make you feel even more alone with your pain? It could, and you don’t need to apologize for that. Let me offer you permission to feel what is real for you.
I don’t mean to suggest that it is best to wallow in sorrow or become some version of Scrooge. I’m just saying that you need and deserve some compassion—from yourself. And some loving input—from yourself. So, if you’re not feeling the “be-of-good-cheer” vibe, try this: Claim your right to be supported, by you, first and foremost. Find 10 minutes of peace and calm to sit with pen and paper. Write a list of “wellness” actions you might take on your own behalf. Choose actions that would give you a solid and level foundation from which things will, at least, not get worse. Look for your own paths to healing, and be willing to take steps in those directions. Touch an inner compass, and find the place within you where purpose lives.
The truth is that things don’t stay the same. Even though our sunken sun appears to be the same for several days before and after the solstice, we are still moving towards spring. So if you feel sad and perhaps even a bit hopeless, just know things won’t stay this way forever—especially because you’ve befriended yourself.
Winter solstice marks the beginning of the return of longer and brighter days, though there are many weeks of winter ahead. While we might be feeling the long darkness of night, the days are indeed growing, though we won’t see the difference at first. Yet by December 25th, where Christmas tucked itself into the calendar in place of a Roman winter festival*, daylight hours are indisputably getting longer. Hooray!
Remember, the dying of the sun and the passing of the year also mark a rebirth of the sun, of the cycles of life, and of hope, faith, and love in our hearts. May you nurture your own heart and soul this season.
Sending you my love!
*December 25 was adopted as the date for Christmas in Europe in order to superimpose on the pre-existing mid-winter festivals. The Romans held a festival on December 25 of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, “the birthday of the unconquered sun.” The Romans also had a week-long winter festival called Saturnalia that included public feasting, dancing, singing and gambling. Houses were decorated with evergreens and bunches of holly were given as tokens of friendship. When this festival was absorbed into the Christian calendar, holly, evergreens, and other symbols were adopted as well.