Celebrating Winter Solstice
Westwood's Winter Solstice Celebration
On the darkest day of the year - come and share the light with us! Westwood Unitarian Congregation will be holding our 26th annual Winter Solstice Celebration.
>Friday, December 20, 2013
>City Room, Edmonton City Hall
The service is family friendly, and all are welcome. The event is free.
Enjoy a time of music, story, and celebration as we reaffirm our ties with nature and celebrate the return of light and longer days. The service is led by Anne Barker, minister of the Westwood Unitarian Congregation, and features Gordon Ritchie and his harp and Westwood choir, Harmonia.
Hot cider and refreshments are provided after the service.
Westwood Unitarian Congregation is dedicated to social justice. The proceeds of the Winter Solstice Celebration offering is given to a charity selected by Westwood's Social Justice Committee. The 2012 collection went to the Edmonton Do Likewise Society, operators of The Neighbour Centre, a resource centre on Edmonton's south side.
Solstice means sun - standing - still
In Edmonton, the precise time the 2013
Winter Solstice will occur is 10:11 am MST on December 21.
Sunrise: 8:48 am MST
Sunset: 4:16 pm MST
Total daylight: 7h 27m
History of winter solstice celebration
May ancient cultures noted that the sun set in different places. These early astronomers stacked stones that framed the setting sun - leaving two special openings - lined up so that when the sun shone through one opening, they would know the shortest day had passed; and when the sun shone through the second opening, 6 months later, they would know the longest day had returned. One of the oldest of these is Newgrange in Ireland, which is over 5000 years old.
More than 3000 years ago, in China , astronomers measured shadows to determine the shortest day. Shadows are longest on winter solstice, because the sun hangs at its lowest point in the sky. The "Extreme of Winter Festival" celebrated by Chinese and other East Asians is connected with the Buddhist and other eastern religions. For Taoists, it is a sign of "returning" and a time for families to get together.
In Ancient Egypt, the god Osiris was reborn at mid-winter. The Romans, over 2000 years ago, celebrated the shortest day with festivals and merry-making. They gave evergreen branches to friends as a sign of good luck, and decorated their doors with wreaths. The evergreens in Rome - and all around the world - stayed green through-out the winter; and so they remind us of the coming spring. Mistletoe and holly hung in Roman homes as symbols of life. Many people believed these plants would bring strength to their families.
About 1000 years ago, Europeans celebrated the winter solstice. Druid priests of England and Ireland decorated oak trees with golden apples and candles to represent harvest and light. In Sweden , the festival of light celebrated the return of longer days. On St. Lucia's Day, girls wore crowns of evergreens and candles to rekindle the sun's fire as they delivered warm buns to family and friends. Boys went from door to door singing to the neighbours for a few coins.The Norsemen told stories and drank ale around roaring bonfires at Winter Solstice. They imagined the sun as a "houl" or wheel that changed with each season. The Nordic aboriginal Saami people continue to celebrate their sun-goddess of fertility at this time of year.
Around the same time in history, the Incas of Peru marked the shortest day with a festival in honour of the sun. At dawn, when the sun first appeared, shouts of happiness rang out. Then the Incas used a shiny surface to reflect the sun's rays onto dry cotton. The sun heated the cotton and made it burst into flame. They carried the fire to their temples and kept it burning on the altars all year, because it came from one of their gods, the sun.
Today people still celebrate at the beginning of winter by decorating their houses, lighting the darkness, gathering together, and exchanging gifts.