This Saturday, in addition to the start of our winter break, is the Winter Solstice. I know the snow has already begun to fall and the temperatures have steadily dropped, but Saturday is the official end to autumn. It is that point on the calendar when we experience the shortest amount of daylight in our year, or as is reflected in the word’s Latin origin, “the sun is still.” In thinking about the solstice it’s interesting to consider how different cultures through time and across the world have developed celebrations during this period of extended darkness by focusing on festivals that celebrate light.
At a time in the year when we are craving the warmth and glow of the sun’s rays we have created holidays that focus on the warmth and glow of family, spiritual awakening and human kindness. Whether we are celebrating, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Pongal, Saturnalia, or the beginning of winter, we are enveloped in traditions and practices that involve lighting candles and building fires to brighten our seasonal darkness.
It is particularly interesting to consider the common themes of these holidays as they highlight all that we share, while at the same time allowing us to express our differences. In addition to light, each celebration focuses on renewal and unity. These celebrations bring people together in ceremony filled with family traditions, many with religious practices and each with cultural beliefs that expand our knowledge of the world. As our children ask us questions about different practices, let us embrace these conversations as teachable moments that can inspire a deeper understanding of our identities as well as a stronger appreciation of the multicultural world in which we live.
The lights we kindle are an attempt to raise our spirits and remind us that the days will start to get longer and additional sunlight is not too far away. It is a seasonal rebirth and a chance to look forward into the approaching New Year with hope, surrounded by the people we love and immersed in good cheer.
On behalf of all of us at The Roeper School, I wish you safe travels and wonderful celebrations. Have a very happy holiday season, and a healthy New Year – peace.