Here in north Georgia, the Winter Solstice occurs at 11:49 p.m. on Monday, December 21. (You can look up the exact time of the Winter Solstice for your location.)
Why does the Winter Solstice matter?
Honoring the Winter Solstice is a way of honoring the earth and the earth's natural cycles. This ancient holiday, celebrated in cultures around the world, is one reason we celebrate Christmas in late December. Both holidays acknowledge our vulnerability, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. We're warm-blooded mammals, after all, and the long cold nights of winter remind us of our vulnerability.
At the exact time of the Winter Solstice, the Earth's Northern Hemisphere stops tilting further and further away from the sun. Since the Autumn Equinox, our days here in the north have gotten shorter. The Winter Solstice signals the end of this. From that moment on, the Earth begins to tilt back toward the sun and longer days.
Paul Winter Solstice Celebration
In the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City, the Paul Winter Consort celebrates the Winter Solstice very year. Someday I'll go! Meanwhile, the rest of us can enjoy the audio part of the 2015 Winter Solstice Celebration, thanks to NPR. Three even earlier Paul Winter Solstice celebrations are available lower on the same NPR page.
It's a thrilling performance each year. At the moment of the Solstice, a huge golden sun descends from the ceiling of the nave, with the sound of a gong that seems to penetrate the bones.
I also love "Wolf Eyes" from the 2008 Winter Solstice Celebration:
Check out more Paul Winter Consort songs and celebrations from this annual celebration. This year marks the 36th year!
Light a candle and listen in the dark. Let the darkness penetrate. Praise the miracles of the sun returning, of wolves that survive winter cold and remind us of our own wild souls -- and that our God is not a tame God.
Turning toward the new year
Just as Christmas is celebrated near the Winter Solstice, the New Year follows. Sap slowly begins to rise, and it's time to open to the possibilities of the coming new year. For myself, it's no longer a time to set goals or make resolutions. Rather, it's a time to pledge an openness to whatever God has in store for me.
This is just what's right for me now. If you feel called to visualize, to set specific goals, by all means do it! Timing is everything, and there's a time to set goals and a time not to set goals.