Today is the winter solstice and I was just contemplating about the passage of time. The years are going by at a quicker pace the more of them I survive and so this being the shortest day of the year is likely the shortest day of all my years thus far (relatively speaking).
It is a reminder to never take any moment of any day for granted. Life is too short to spend worrying about making the most money, having the finest possessions, or appearing to be more “successful” than your neighbors.
There are continuous posts on social media from people who encourage us to remember the Christmas story or that family is the most important part of this season, yet the time that is spent purchasing and wrapping gifts outweighs the time actually spent with the family, not to mention the commercial waste of the packaging and gifts that aren’t quite right or simply not needed and add to waste in landfills, plastic in our waterways, and toxins in our homes.
In Vancouver, there is a solstice lantern festival where participants make their way through the “labyrinth of light” a maze of 600 candles that invites visitors to let go of old thoughts and find new possibilities for the coming year.
Lantern workshops are held and the materials used are collected from the natural surroundings. ” Lanterns are made by constructing a simple frame from twigs and then layering tissue paper over the frame. Participants are encouraged to play with the bend and flow of the organic materials and to add leaves or flowers to create a design. ”
Solstice headdresses are also fashioned from local natural materials.
In Iran, they celebrate Shab-e Yalda which is actually a celebration of the longest night, rather than the shortest day. Yalda is an ancient Persian festival that celebrates the last night of autumn as the renewal of the sun and the victory of light over darkness. One has to appreciate the juxtaposition of this celebration and its focus on the future coming of longer daylight hours. “People gather in groups of friends or relatives usually at the home of grandparents or the elderly to pass the longest night of the year by eating nuts and fruits, reading Hafiz poems, making good wishes, and talking and laughing all together to give a warm welcome to winter, and a felicitous farewell to autumn.” Watermelons and pomegranates are eaten as a symbol of the sun and the glow of life as well as a way to ward off illness during the winter months. Again notice that this celebration is not consumed with the giving of gifts, but the passage of time spent with family and friends.
There are many more examples that can be taken from various cultures all with similar themes.
So for this season, I want to encourage everyone to give instead, the gift of time. Time spent with caring for loved ones, time spent volunteering for those in need and less fortunate, or simply time spent in meditation (a gift to oneself).