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Winter Solstice

December 22, 2018

Winter solstice

© Megan Draheim, 2018. Winter solstice moon somewhere between Chicago and D.C.

Winter solstice has come and gone, and with it the longest night of the year. We’re back on track to gradually have the sun return to us – longer days, less time dancing in the dark.

All over the world people celebrate solstice by lighting the way for the sun to return. This manifests itself in many ways, but the commonality is light – even Christmas, the most-celebrated winter festival in this country. Putting up lights on houses, on lamp poles, on trees – all of that harkens back to pagan rituals co-opted by early Christians to encourage conversion, but the fact that such manifestations of the holiday have had such staying power over the centuries means that they tap into something deeply human. Dr. Jacquelyn Gill (highly recommend you follow her and read her excellent blog, especially if you’re interested in academia and the Ice Age) wrote a great Twitter thread yesterday describing both the cultural and scientific aspects of the solstice.

Growing up in Chicago, a city that knows something about long winters, one of my favorite things was seeing the lights in front of the buildings on Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue. They followed different strategies: some buildings wrapped individual branches with lights, while others wrapped the entire tree or bush making them look like spun sugar. The best were the buildings that kept the decorations up well past Christmas, providing some warmth the entire winter.

Lights Michicago

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Winter can be a time of darkness and of loss. I think it’s important to fight the dark with the light, in whatever way is your tradition. Soon enough we’ll start to see signs of spring in the nature all around us, and until then I wish you a cozy time watching the equally interesting winter world.

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