THE SHORTEST DAY
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, revelling.
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 so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
(The Shortest Day, by Susan Cooper)
When we were young it was always “Christmas” which rather excluded those who celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and Eid-al-Adha and other seasonal days of importance, so gradually people celebrated “The Holidays” – but always had a Christmas Tree.
The Holidays is not specific enough. There are holidays at other times of the year too. Consequently, in recent years in this house, we have adopted the thinking of our ancestors going back millennia. Regardless of our religion, or none, we are all really celebrating the universal Winter Solstice after which the days begin to lengthen again and gradually we return to spring and regrowth. We can each, in our own ways, continue to celebrate Christmas, or whatever has meaning for us in a religious way, if we are so inclined (Christmas isn’t about the turning of the year at all and probably should be held some time in March anyway) but it is the return of the sun and lengthening days that has true meaning for everyone. “Yule” is Universal.
… and we can all have a “Winter Tree”
Footnote 1: The photograph at the top of the page is the sunrise following the solstice seen over the river in Baie-D’Urfé
Footnote 2: The exact time of the Winter Solstice in Montréal 2021 is December 21, at 10:59 am.