Winter Solstice arrives at 9.30 tonight here in Portland, Oregon. It’s time to decorate the house with greenery, light candles, burn fires, and take down the old mistletoe (if you leave it up all year like we do) to replace with a fresh sprig. The ritual of hanging mistletoe recalls the Norse myth about the death of Balder and of his resurrection, brought about by the love of his mother Freya. Love conquers death.
Once upon a time, the cycle of the seasons – the turning of the year itself – was viewed as a sacred manifestation of the mysterious power of the universe: something to closely attend to, learn from and participate in. And so it is that we continue to celebrate the birth of light on the darkest night of the year. That’s magic!
Here’s a marvelous poem by Susan Cooper that was first brought to our attention by our friends at Portland Revels.
The Shortest Day
And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.