On the darkest day…
It’s the darkest day of the year. The days are short and the nights are long. Nature is resting in silence, spring is still far away and there’s nothing to do but rest. The winter solstice marks the deepest winter, the cradle of the dark season. Despite the stillness of the season it is a reminder of just that – the seasons. Change is the constant. We’re always moving and even when we rest it’s a preparation for the next move, stillness is a phase necessary for future action.
In Sweden where I lived for most my life, the difference between the seasons is huge. The summer days are long, in the north the sun never sets and even in the southern parts of Sweden we only get a few hours of darkness (but the light lingers on the horizon all night, as if the sun is just resting briefly before it returns in full power). Most people need less sleep, stay active until midnight, are very social and spend a lot of time outside. The winter is the opposite, it is dark and we are not as outgoing. Life slows down, people spend more time alone or with their closest family. But in the absence of light we spend more time looking inwards. We notice things we can not see in the light.
As you probably know, I am a questioner of norms and what we think is established truths. My quest is for freedom, and to be free is to do what I value also when it comes to what I celebrate and how. Lately, I’ve been questioning the traditions and holidays in my culture as to actively choose what and how I want to celebrate, and as I do I am learning where they come from and how the got to be what they are. Most traditions and holidays came with meanings that we’ve at least partly forgotten, and most are a mix of culture, religion and (sadly) market forces of today.
Nature is one truth, heritage is another. In my heritage lies the old culture of the north – the Aesir faith and the Nordic mythology – as well as the many years that christianity shaped it. Both are still affecting how we do things around here, and I am rediscovering all in today’s Sweden that is a heritage from before christianity.
The darkest day of the year has been celebrated in the Nordics for as long as we know. A big feast was held in the darkest of winter, a celebration of the new solar year and the return of the light. The Swedish word for Christmas (jul) stems from the old Germanic languages and despite the christianization of jul into what is now a christian tradition the word has lived on.
Looking inwards, I find the winter solstice and the return of the light a much more important event than Christmas. In my soul and body I feel more connected to nature and seasons than to the celebration of Jesus (especially in it’s materialist modern version, although I’m not blaming any religion for that). I still value what Christmas brings in the sense of time with family and a “holy break” for those who work regular jobs.
But today, on the darkest day of the year, I’m looking inwards. I’m grateful for the seasons in me and in nature. Nordic mythology speaks of this longest night of the year as a night full of supernatural powers, a night where magic is near. Maybe today spend some time reflecting on what in your life that you want to leave behind in the darkness and what you want to invite more of into the new cycle. Before I’m off to my hometown and the Christmas rush, I’m taking this day to appreciate the natural cycles that shape earth as well as our lives. The shifts, the sacredness of eternal change. And I wish you a beautiful winter solstice and happy holidays, spent in the way that serves you most.