Today is the Winter Solstice, an important holiday for many pagans and non-christian groups throughout the world. There will be feasting and music and merriment and a general celebration of the slow, gradual return of the sun to our lives. This may not mean much to those of us living in, say, Florida, but if you’ve ever lived a Wisconsin winter, the return of the Sun is a really big deal.
In past times, this was known as Midwinter among the Anglo-Saxons and generally was the last great feast for the year. The cattle were slaughtered at this time, so it was often one of the few times in the year that fresh meat was available as well. That’s a good reason to celebrate! Gifts were given to strengthen family and clan bonds and to show appreciation for a year of service to the village or to the local ruler. The mead had finally matured and with fields covered in snow, folks had some time to party with their friends. Sweet! Everybody dance!
The village shaman has already concluded ceremonies for the day to welcome the sun’s rebirth and now it’s time for fun. Anyone who can play an instrument picks it up and after a brief debate on what song to start, they get the party rockin! It’s the Eleventh Century and we’re gonna party like it’s 999!
Can’t you picture it? The long, smoky feasting hall with everyone you know gathered together. They’re singing songs, telling stories, and playing games. The village kids are running around screaming with laughter and chasing the dogs. The warriors are bragging and trying to catch the eye of some pretty girl who is pretending she doesn’t notice. Some things never change, hey?
While the men and the village leaders talk politics and the grandmas gossip, the women are pouring out the mead and beer and tending to the feast, roasting meat and cooking vegetables, keeping the kids out of the sweets and the teens out of dark corners.
Fast forward a thousand years: Everybody is gathered for the celebration. The Moms are in the kitchen, checking turkeys and roasts in the ovens and making sure Sue isn’t on the back porch with that boy with all the piercings. The kids are playing Xbox and yelling, the Dads are drinking beer and arguing politics. The soldiers home on leave are comparing duty stories and grinning at the pretty girls giggling back at them. Somebody throws in a CD and starts the boombox.
And the next morning the sun comes up just a little earlier, making the world a little warmer. It’s all about family, people, no matter what time or place you’re in. To all of our Pagan readers out there, at this turning of the year, a happy Solstice to you all, and a joyous Yuletide from us here at Heartfelt!