The Holiday season coincides with the winter solstice – a unique day of they year – the time of the longest night and shortest day. A day where it could appear that the darkness has triumphed – but only briefly. For after the winter solstice, the nights grow shorter and the days grow longer and the dark wanes and the sun waxes in power.
For 2013, tonight marks the winter solstice along with the official first day of winter. Many of us do not like this time of year because of the dark days and the cold weather. I happily tell everyone that I am not a winter person. I NEED the sun. I CRAVE the sun. For me the light of the sun is life.
The reality is that light is life for everything. Life forms of all species respond to the cycle of light and darkness. Plants become dormant and prepare for spring where there will be new leaves on trees and blooms on flowers. animals hibernate to survive the cold weather. The winter solstice marks the promise of all that will come.
For centuries, cultures around the world have created festivals and traditions to celebrate the return of light to the world. Sweden celebrates St. Lucy Day where young girls carry candles as a celebration and a reminder. The Jewish observance of Hanukkah – the Festival of Lights- is celebrated by lighting candles over a span of 8 days. As we celebrate Christmas, many of us have participated in lighting of the Advent Wreath with its 4 candles, one lit each Sunday before Christmas as a way of rekindling the light.
Although each ritual is different, each represent the promise and return of light to the world. For this cycle has happened before and thus hope is that it will again.
I have never met anyone who prefers darkness. As humans, we are not equipped to see without some form of light. Our senses need it to have equilibrium. This time of year I love being able to drive around town and my neighborhood and seeing the welcoming visions of light. Light directs us, provides a type of guidance if we allow it.
It is not unusual for a grieving individual, or anyone struggling, to feel as if they are surrounded by darkness, uncertain of where they are or where they are going – fearful to move forward yet scared of becoming paralyzed.
There are moments for many of us where we may feel that things can not possibly change, the situation will not get better, this is how it will be. If you are feeling like that I encourage you to think about the winter solstice and the celebration of Christmas. For years, we have lit candles in churches and our homes as a way to provide light for the journey. We have faith that we can make it through the winter months as the Sun stays with us longer each day. We know that it will as it happened a century ago, a decade ago and last year. The darkness does not last.
I have worked with enough grieving individuals that I am aware that a grief journey goes through many of the same seasons. Winter can be equated to numbness where everything is cold – spring is a return of feelings where there is a thaw of emotions which are felt on a different level – followed by a summer where there is the development of a new normal and new life – followed by a fall of reflection and evaluation. The difficult thing with grief or other struggles is that they often do not coincide with the seasons of the world around. us. However, if we stop to observe what we are feeling we can easily see our emotions fit into a cycle.
Tonight I encourage you to take a few minutes to truly take in the lights of your town, your Christmas tree, even a small candle. Think about how you feel the warmth. Realize that with these lights, you are not in darkness.
Whatever you are struggling with, know that through the days of your winter, spring will come.