Below, I repost one of my Winter Solstice posts from 2009:
“The Winter Solstice occurs exactly when the earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun at its maximum of 23° 26′. Though the Winter Solstice lasts an instant in time, the term is also colloquially used like Midwinter to refer to the day on which it occurs. For most people in the high latitudes this is commonly known as the shortest day and the sun’s daily maximum position in the sky is the lowest.” (Wikipedia)
There are as many different types of celebrations of this astrological event as there are cultures and religions, past and present. It is the “official” day of winter, here in the northern hemisphere, and it is when the days begin to lengthen again.
For me, rooted in a northern clime, the significance is both the beginning of winter, and the lengthening of the days. I am a person of the sun, who rises with it, and slows my rhythms when its time with me is also slowed. Long before we had a name to go along with these most natural of nature’s patterns (seasonal affective disorder), our bodies simply increased the secretion of melatonin in the body, causing longer sleep. Now, we know that special lights, plants, and negative ions can diminish the effect of the lesser sunlight.
It is a seasonal lull that many of nature’s plants and animals observe. It is a time for us to be focused inward rather than outward. Rather than fight the natural patterns, I choose to follow them, and become quiet, solitary, and introspective. Tomorrow, that time lessens, and my outward focus will begin its return, just as the sun increases its time in our northern skies.
I will celebrate the holidays with friends, as we all do, but for me, the true holiday is today, the Winter Solstice, when I begin my outward focus, once again, and leave the inner world I have come to inhabit.