'The Light', Winter Solstice at New Grange, County Meath, Ireland photograph by Alan Betson
Only on Winter Solstice each year will the sunrise create this beautiful warm glow in the depths of the chamber at New Grange. In complete darkness (the womb or void) one sits in quiet contemplation until the sun's first rays bring the renewal of sweet light and life. A reminder of the all the blessing it brings for another season. The photo looks a bit like 'light at the end of a tunnel', or 'a star at the top of an evergreen tree'. Spectacular!
Message... the Light increases multifold this day. Open to receive the blessings which are pouring forth. Come to me I await you. Let us dance in joy and celebrate the Glory and Majesty of God. Be of good cheer for it comes. Rejoice!
12/21 - Winter begins, the shortest day and longest night of the year. Winter Solstice (12:04 am UTC).
Yule, Pagan and Wiccan holiday which ushers in the return of Light. It celebrates the return of the Sun God. It is a time of enlightenment, when light is reborn in the womb of darkness to begin another cycle.
The lighting of the Yule log (usually oak or pine), is a traditional custom for the Holiday. It symbolizes and honors the Sun God. Some of the log is kept to begin next years yule fire.
During Yule homes are decorated with fresh evergreens, holly, ivy and mistletoe commemorating the coming of light and life. Fresh greenery in winter is seen as a magical tool of growth. Yule is a reminder that the ultimate product of death is rebirth. The celebrations include much laughter, singing, dancing and feasting.
The painting above left is called 'Winter Solstice Fire Lord' by Steven Lucas (2008). Amazing, powerful image. I hear him say "Come within, warm self and dance with me... renew." Magnificent! You can read Steven's blog or see more of his works at fineartamerica.com.
12/21 to 12/25 - Pancha Ganapati, Hindu festival celebrating Lord Ganesha the Five-Faced Maha Ganapati - Lord of Categories. The celebration is five days of festivities, feasts charity and gift-giving. Daily chants, songs and bhajanas are sung and trays of sweets, fruits and incense are offered. After the daily puja, sweets are shared. Gifts are given to the children each day, who put them before Pancha Ganapati, all are saved to open on the the last day. The festival is centered on restoring peace, love, harmony and bringing joy and happiness. Image is Lord Ganesha. More at hinduismtoday.com.
12/21 to 12/29 - Chanukah the Festival of Lights, eight-day Jewish festival that begins on the eve of Kislev 25, celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality. The menorha (a nine-branched candelabra) is lit nightly, starting with a single flame plus the shamash on the first night. Two on the second and so on until all eight lights plus the shamash are kindled. The holiday traditions include eating foods fried in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes), dreidel games and "gelt," gifts of money. Image is a menorha. More at chabad.org.
12/21 to 1/9 - Soyala New Year Festival, Hopi, Pueblo and Zuni American Indian tribes consider this a time of purification and renewal. The Soyala symbolizes the second phase of Creation at the dawn of life. One of the most sacred celebrations which honors the beginning of a new cycle. Activities take place in the kiva and include reverent silence, fasting, humility and eating of sacred foods to achieve spiritual focus. Prayer feathers are prepared and placed in homes, villages and in shrine sites around the ancestral homeland. Picture is of the Hopi Soyal Kachina who comes in December. More brownielocks.com.
May the Light renew you and yours on this sacred day. Happy Holidays!
The photo of the 2003 Winter Solstice sunrise at New Grange, Ireland is by Alan Betson, from Dunboyne, Co. Meath, Ireland. The photo was printed on the front page of The Irish Times newspaper on the 22nd December 2003. You can find out more about Alan at gaelicweb.com.
There is a webcast of the 2007 Winter Solstice sunrise at New Grange, Ireland available at newgrange.com.