The magic has returned to our Holiday season.
That cornucopia of awe and reverence and faith that must be the backbone of each of the winter holidays had been missing from ours for some time. A long time. Too long. There had been an inkling, a whisper: Solstice. But the hurried frenzy that makes up the backbone of the commercial holiday season had already enveloped us. Making gifts, buying gifts, list crossing, miles driven. A year passed, the whisper unanswered. And another year, caught in the vortex, spun out of control. There was a glimmer of hope when the time came to resurrect the spirit of Santa Claus. Honoring the tradition of the benevolent giver, experiencing the magic of Christmas through the eyes of our child, it seemed for a time that it might be enough. Might be enough to keep the glow within us alive, when outwardly all that remained of the holidays were our shiny new things, crumpled balls of wrapping, and leftover crumbs of cookies. But it wasn’t enough, not enough to satisfy. I think that, for us, Christmases of the recent past have been rather like an intense sugar high. The build-up of anticipation, the lights, the music, the cheer in the air that’s almost palpable are all delicious and sweet but fleeting in their ability to satisfy the soul. It reminded me of learning to mediate the sugar in my diet from my wise midwife, when both pregnancies prompted a closer look at what and how I was eating. Morning rituals around here include honey in the coffee and frequent maple syrup based breakfasts; temper that sugar with protein and fat, she said, and your blood sugar will remain on a more even keel.
We needed a little holiday protein. Again, that whisper was heard. Solstice. I began this season by canvassing a pool of experts, namely my friends. Do you celebrate Solstice? If so, how? And on the eve of Solstice Eve, we made our plans.
We started by collecting candles to light as the sun’s own faded. With actual Solstice, or Yule, as it’s also known, falling on Monday, we chose to celebrate on Sunday, when we’d all be home. On Sunday morning we planned for the coming eve, planned to conduct our evening by the light of candles and tree lights only, in honor of the year’s shortest day. After consulting our new go-to reference book, we decided also to light a yule log, realizing after some excited brainstorming that last year’s Christmas tree was still accessible outside.
And then we received a delightfully unexpected Solstice gift: an email from my Holiday Traditions Exchange partner and her family. Having traveled all the way from California to Wisconsin for a family holiday gathering, they were now only an hour away. Could they come by for a visit and meet us face-to-face? Of course – how lovely!
How small this world really is and how precious to find kindred spirits. It was a gift indeed to welcome new friends into our home, then lit by the gentle flickering of candles. How bizarre it must be to meet new people that way, to get a house tour lit only by candlelight, but they were gracious in participating with us. A meal was shared, so many common threads uncovered, and I daresay a strong friendship is in the works. A blessed Solstice indeed.
We closed our family Yule celebrations last night, on Solstice night, by lighting our Yule tree. As befitting a new tradition, it was the Christmas tree from the previous year. No doubt this year’s tree will be honored in the same way next year.
Perhaps part of the problem I had found with trying to celebrate Solstice in the past was in my attempt to figure out how to celebrate it in lieu of Christmas. This year, the forced quietness that comes with candlelit reflection has given our family a groundedness with which to enter the upcoming Christmas holidays, when we congregate with family and engage in all kinds of merry-making. Of course we realize that there are so many paths to the divine, so many real and true traditions to celebrate at the dawning of Winter. Our great joy, besides the making of new friends, comes in finding a path that speaks to the unique beats of our hearts.