• The Pondering of an Artist

Time to Stand Still...Winter Solstice is here

Updated: Jan 1




"This is solstice, the still point of the sun, its cusp and midnight, the year's threshold and unlocking, where the past lets go of and becomes the future; the place of caught breath." - Margaret Atwood


December 21st is the Winter Solstice and one of my favourite times of the year. A time to stop and slow down with its late dawns and early sundowns. A time to get cosy, drink tea, read books and hibernate under a blanket by candlelight.

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Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year with the least amount of daylight. A day to celebrate the start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The December Solstice, although the shortest day of the year signifies from now on the days will gradually get longer again as we head towards the March Equinox and the start of spring. This is the time to enjoy our homes and light the fire as the temperature drops. A time to celebrate the coming of Christmas, or for the pre-Christians, known as Pagans, celebrate Yule. In present times many people still gather at Stonehenge to acknowledge and celebrate the seasonal shift.


The winter solstice has been for millennia associated with many rituals and celebrations that many of us continue to this day. It is known that Christmas trees began as a Pagan tradition as early as the fourth century and they used branches of evergreen trees to decorate their homes. The Celtic Druids would cut mistletoe from the sacred Oak trees and light yule logs.


Today we still use these traditions and many hang wreaths on front doors to mark the festive season. Gathering greenery from forests and woodlands to make decorations which adorn our homes and workplaces. Whilst walking in the woods I have noticed the beautiful shiny holly leaves, the clinging ivy around the trees and the beautiful fir trees. I love collecting the fir cones and taking photos for reference to be able to draw and paint later on. Whilst walking, the Christmas carol, 'The Holly and the Ivy', goes around in my head and it fills me with admiration and awe at how creative human beings are and what has been and can be achieved. How nature impacts our every day lives and inspires creativity. My imagination is sparked and questions start to pop into my head about nature, our connection to the earth and spirituality. A time for slowing down, contemplating, reflecting and planning for the year ahead.


In Pagan times, Holly was thought to be male and the ivy, female and thought to be unlucky if bought into the house before Christmas Eve. As for the Ivy, there are many tales and myths. For the Christians, the Ivy clings to the tree and so represents love and marriage and being evergreen, long term fidelity. Ivy growing on a house is thought to protect the inhabitants from evil. Fir trees and Yew trees are evergreen and symbolise everlasting life.


I think of winter as a time of dormancy and hibernation, for which it is for many plants and animals, however, going out into nature shows that there is an abundance of evergreen trees and plants still to be seen, flourishing in winter's harsh elements. The symbolism attached to these magical and healing plants, whether it's kissing under the mistletoe, adorning your front door with a holly wreath or creating decorations for your home, it is a message of love and hope. So whether you celebrate winter solstice, Christmas or any other festival, the message is all the same. For me this year I have learned to not give up and to believe in myself and when you believe in yourself you are able to share your happiness and lift the spirit of others. Winter Solstice is a time to embrace the slowness of pace, to enjoy the festivities and traditions, ready to move forward, letting go of the old and moving on with the year ahead.


Sources:

Mistletoe.org.uk

Whychristmas.com

TimeandDate.com

KHKeeler.blogspot.com The Wandering Botanist by Kathleen H. Keelet