11:38 pm tonight marks the winter solstice, the point in time when the earth is farthest away from the sun, which makes today the shortest day and longest night of the year. The winter solstice has been a long celebrated day of much significance throughout history all over the world. In the past it was celebrated with festivals and feasts, with the daunting knowledge that many would die in the ensuing months on account of the dwindling food supply during the famine months of winter.
Today the winter solstice is celebrated more as a rebirth, a symbolic day of new beginnings....a joyous ritual often associated with hippies. It's something I've heard about since I was a little girl. I have a vivid memory of my hippie mother leaving a small, lime green Sesame Street flashlight (because the solstice is the darkest day of the year) on my flowered Laura Ashley pillow with a note that read: "happy solstice!" when I was somewhere around 6 years old.
You can even find the term "hippie Christmas" defined on Urban Dictionary (a website that has provided me many hours of amusement over the years!) as: "celebrating the winter solstice, by burning the yuletide log then going out for chinese food and a movie." In my experience though, I've seen solstice trees and labyrinth walks rather than chinese food and a movie.
Last year, Alex and I had a small solstice tree since it was the first Christmas we'd celebrated together and neither of us had any ornaments. I made small cards out of recycled butcher paper and adorned them with spirals; which symbolize a journey through time, progress, direction and development. Inside each card I wrote our hopes, dreams and intentions for the coming year; then I threaded them onto a long strand of hemp. My idea was that we'd add to it every year and also look back to see how far we'd come in the past year by reading the previous years cards. We accomplished so much of what we set out to in 2010 and realized some pretty amazing dreams. It was so great to celebrate our progress by reading last year's cards this year!
Typically, solstice trees will also be decorated with flowers, seasonal berries and lights (due to all the darkness of the solstice).
Happy solstice everyone! The days will grow longer from here!