Today is the Winter Solstice …

From this day onwards the daylight hours will start to lengthen and we can know that spring is coming, even if not quite yet.

We celebrate Christmas along with everyone else as we have done for seven decades and more, but this is the day that matters. This is the day that all those other mid-winter festivals coalesced around. Welcome Yule indeed.

British author Susan Cooper captured the magic of this day and this season for everyone in her poem entitled The Shortest Day. A time to be marked by all people, of whatever religion or none. This poem is just wonderful …  

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.
… Welcome, Yule!


I rarely try to translate into French, despite almost 25 years living in francophone Quebec, but I was minded to run the Shortest Day poem through  a translation tool and, perhaps because the lines don’t have to rhyme, found that it came out pretty well unmangled. For my French friends, here it is:

Et ainsi le jour le plus court est venu et l’année est morte
Et partout au cours des siècles du monde blanc comme neige
Des gens sont venus chanter, danser,
Pour chasser l’obscurité.
Ils ont allumé des bougies dans les arbres d’hiver ;
Ils ont accroché leurs maisons avec du feuillage persistant;
Ils ont brûlé des feux implorants toute la nuit
Pour faire vivre l’année.
Et quand le soleil du nouvel an s’est réveillé
Ils ont crié, se délectant.
À travers tous les âges glacials, vous pouvez les entendre
Résonnant derrière nous, écoutez !
Tous les longs échos, chantent le même délice,
Ce jour le plus court,
Alors que la promesse se réveille dans la terre endormie :
Ils chantent, festoient, rendent grâces,
Et aiment tendrement leurs amis,
Et espérer la paix.
Et maintenant nous aussi, ici, maintenant,
Cette année et chaque année.
Bienvenue Yule !