“Now is the Solstice of the year.
Winter is the glad song that you hear.”
As part of my extended birthday celebrations last weekend I had the pleasure of attending The Jethro Tull Christmas Concert in the wonderful Medieval Wells Cathedral.
The was a bit of a pilgrimage for me as a long time Tull (and indeed other Prog Rock bands) fan, I had never seen one of their Christmas Concerts. Putting it simply, it was wonderful! To cap it all they performed their seasonal hit “Solstice Bells” and I was accompanied by my oldest mate known in this blog as Vifferman!
Incidentally, 100% of the ticket sales were donated to the upkeep of that wonderful ancient Cathedral.
Now it doesn’t take much to make me happy, which might seem a bit strange for a chap who owns two big Harley Davidson motorbikes, but it’s true. Today, for example, is one of those things that no-one can own, hold or claim; it’s the Winter Solstice and I’m a very happy Dookes as a result!
It’s probably fair to say that this has become my favourite day of the whole year!
In our Northern Hemisphere it is the shortest day, when the Sun barely shows itself above the horizon and then for the briefest possible time! Sunset today was just before 16:00hrs!
The Solstice marks the turn of the seasons when the days begin to grow longer and the warmth of Summer begins its long return journey.
I written before how the relevance of this turning point has become stronger for me as I have grown older; I now understand the ancient people who venerated the turning seasons and the Celestial Calendar.
It appears that since the dawn of time our forbears have found reason to celebrate a festival of light in the depths of the darkest day of the year. So why not have a party to celebrate the ending of one celestial year and the beginning of a new one?
Sounds good to me, but then I am a Welsh Wizard/Dewin Cymreig and a Druid to boot!
Let’s not forget that many other cultures and religions around the world also celebrate festivals at this time of the year and have the rebirth of light firmly as their focus.
The Christian Church has celebrated the birthday of Jesus Christ, Christmas, on December 25th since the 4th Century when Pope Julius I chose the date in an effort to replace the Roman Feast of Saturnalia. In several languages, not just English, people have compared the rebirth of the sun to the birth of the son of God.
It’s also interesting to reflect that the origins of many “traditional” Western Christmas decorations such as the Yule Log, Tree and Wreath can trace back to pre-Christian times.
Familiar decorations of green, red and white cast back to the Wiccan traditions and the Druids. The old Pagan Mid-Winter Festival of Yule also included feasting and gift giving, doesn’t it all sound very familiar?!?!
When I was younger we always did the usual Christmas decoration stuff, including a highly non-authentic artificial tree! My late father did little to dress the tree, but had his own take on the whole decoration thing that he insisted on doing himself; every year he would garland the house with boughs of green holly and evergreen, it was only then that I truly used to feel that things were being done properly. I suspect that my Celtic blood has a lot to do with this and I still carry on that tradition today in Dookes H.Q., I adore the house smelling of pine and other evergreens!
Many Pagan religions had a tradition where it was customary to place holly leaves and branches in and around dwellings during winter. It was believed that the good spirits who inhabited forests could come into their homes and use the holly as shelter against the cold; whilst at the same time malevolent forces and spells would be repelled.
Mrs Dookes enters into the spirit of the season with her splendid handmade evergreen wreaths. This reflects another Celtic tradition, the wreath’s circle has no beginning or end and the evergreen represents life in the depths of winter.
Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, The Solstice, Dongzhi, Yalda, Saturnalia, Malkh, any other festival that I may have missed, or just looking forward to having a restful holiday, have a truly wonderful time and maybe spare a thought, or penny, for those less fortunate.
Thanks for joining me for the ride this year, it’s been a ball and I hope you will saddle up with Harls, Hettie and I in 2020 for more two-wheeled adventure and opinion!
“Praise be to the distant sister sun,
joyful as the silver planets run.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.”
Catch you soon.
With grateful thanks to Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull for sharing the Solstice over many decades!