Friday, December 23, 2016

Lights in the darkness

The winter solstice for the northern hemisphere was two days ago. It is the first day of winter, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. The nights at this time are dark because the small crescent moon is waning. On December 29th, there will be a new moon, which is not visible from the earth.

The winter solstice is a traditional holiday, celebrated around the world. It was called Yul by the Druids and Jul by the Norse.  Druid colors were red, green, and white. The houses were decorated with holly, ivy, evergreen boughs, and pine cones. The Romans had a Saturnalia festival that went on for a week. It was a very long party. The Chinese celebration of the winter solstice was called dong zhi and it was believed to be the day when everyone became one year older. Southern Chinese ate tang yuan or brightly colored rice balls cooked in a sweet or a savory broth. Northern Chinese enjoyed plain or meat filled dumplings.

In Peru, the winter solstice is celebrated in June. The festival that celebrates the Sun God is called the Inti Raymi, and the Sun God is called Inti in Quechua. Animals were sacrificed, and the Incas used a mirror to kindle a fire.

For more information about winter solstice festivals, take a look at the link mentioned below:
link to an article about traditional winter solstice festivals


The days of darkness are also the days of celebration. This year, Chanukah and Christmas fall on the same day. On December 24th, when the sun sets, Jewish people will begin celebrating Chanukah, the festival of lights, that continues until January 1st. Chanukah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees or the Israelites over the Greek-Syrian ruler, Antiochus, about 2,200 years ago. When the Maccabees wanted to relight the menorah, they found that there was only enough oil to keep the menorah lit for about an hour. Miraculously, the menorah stayed lit for eight days.

Christmas is also a celebration of a miracle, the birth of the baby Jesus, who grew up to be the person that Christians believe to be the savior of the world. Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem, and is considered to be both human and divine.  Three kings saw a bright star in the sky, which led them to the baby Jesus. In the western Church, Christmas is celebrated on December 25th. Many churches have nighttime services on December 24th. Christmas isn't just one day. The Christmas season continues until epiphany or Three Kings day on January 6th. In the Orthodox or eastern church, Christmas is celebrated on January 7th.

Kwanzaa was created by Maulana Karenga as an African-American holiday. It begins on December 26th and ends on January 1st. It celebrates seven principles, which are:
  • umoja (unity)
  • kujichagulia (self-determination)
  • ujima (collective work and responsibility)
  • ujamaa (cooperative economics)
  • nia (purpose)
  • kuumba (creativity)
  • imani (faith) 
Candles are lit and libations are poured in a wooden unity cup. These are placed on a mat. A Kwanzaa ceremony includes music and drumming. The colors of Kwanzaa are black, green, and red.

For more information about Kwanzaa, take a look at the official website. A link is below:

At people's homes, holidays are celebrated with decorations and with families getting together. Today, I went to my sister's house. Her house is full of all sorts of lovely winter decorations.

Snow globes are quite delightful. The harder you shake the snow globe, the harder it appears to snow inside. If you are very enthusiastic, you can make a blizzard. Here is Santa Claus inside a snow globe.

Lovely building in times long ago. 

This outdoor scene seems almost magical. The building appears to sit on a cloud.

Peering inside on a snowy day.

More winter magic.

Old-fashioned fire station (on a cloud).

Jolly Santa Claus in front of a painting that I made about seventeen years ago.

Santa Claus with the evergreen needles.

These people truly seem as if they are living on a cloud. 

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