Winter Solstice is tomorrow, Thursday, December 21st, 2017.
The Winter Solstice is the precise moment at which the Northern Hemisphere is tilted farthest from the sun. The solstice occurs at the same moment everywhere on Earth -- and in northern Illinois, where I currently live, that will be at 10:28 tomorrow morning.
You will often hear the Winter Solstice called "the shortest day of the year." Of course, that's not quite accurate. December 21st is still 24 hours in length -- but it is the day with the longest night and the fewest hours of daylight.
"Culturally, the solstices and equinoxes are typically used to denote either the beginnings of the seasons or the center points of the seasons. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other holidays have arisen out of the solstices, equinoxes and the midpoints between them." (Rick Kline, Spacecraft Planetary Imaging Facility at Cornell University, https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/science/2017/12/19/thursdays-winter-solstice-marks-longest-night-year/964544001/)
To honor and connect with this year's Winter Solstice, I searched for a reading with which to close each of the yoga classes that I taught this week. I was fortunate to find and be able to share with my yogis, these beautifully written words. And so, I now also share them with you...
"There is a tendency to want to hurry from autumn to spring, to avoid the long dark days that winter brings. Many people do not like constant days bereft of light and months filled with colder temperatures. They struggle with the bleakness of land and the emptiness of trees [without leaves]. Their eyes and hearts seek color. Their spirits tire of tasting the endless gray skies. There is great rejoicing in the thought that light and warmth will soon be filling more and more of each new day.
"But winter darkness has a positive side to it. As we gather to celebrate the first turn from winter to spring, we are invited to recognize and honor the beauty in the often unwanted season of winter. Let us invite our hearts to be glad for the courage winter proclaims. Let us be grateful for the wisdom winter brings in teaching us about the need for withdrawal as an essential part of renewal. Let us also encourage our spirits as Earth prepares to come forth from this time of withdrawal into a season filled with light.
"The winter solstice celebrates the return of hope to our land as our planet experiences the first slow turn toward greater daylight. Soon we will welcome the return of the sun and the coming of springtime. As we do so, let us remember and embrace the positive, enriching aspects of winter's darkness. Pause now to sit in silence in the darkness of this space. Let this space be a safe enclosure of creative gestation for you."
(from "A Celebration of Winter Solstice" from The Circle of Life by Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr., http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/practices/naming-the-days/view/20546/winter-solstice)