The Fall-Back Holiday or Why I Observe The Winter Solstice

Because Winter Sucks That Much

Winter makes me sad.  The bleak skies, painfully barren trees, a subdued sun, the cut of harsh winter air, and a multitude of panicked idiots maneuvering massive vehicles at high speeds over very slick surfaces.  One of the few perks (the only?) to the season is mid-winter festivities.  I actually have a theory that the endurance mid-winter holidays owes itself to the psychological benefit of celebrating life at a time when nature sleeps. 

 It’s awkward celebrating a Christian holiday after you’ve become a heretic.  I enjoy any excuse to see family and exchange gifts but I no longer partake in any religious ceremonies.  I still enjoy some of the traditions.  They’re part of my cultural heritage:  a connection to the past.  After all, much of Christmas, even the day on which Christians celebrate Christ’s birth, is rooted in the practices of older traditions.  Other cultures and religions were recycled into the most recent incarnation of our mid-winter holiday. 

 I think, that the motivation behind all the creative seasonal myth-making and revelry our ancestors invested themselves in was a basic need for an agrarian people—a people very in-tune with the movements of the heavenly bodies, but ultimately ignorant of why and how the sun comes back each day and the seasons keep turning—to mark the mid-point of their harshest, leanest time.  Some ancient peoples celebrated the winter solstice as the re-birth of the sun.  It is the point from which days begin to grow longer, hinting at the coming of warmer weather and more plentiful times.  A natural New Years, or one giant hump day.

 Well, we no longer have to pray that our food stores last until next season.  Nor do we live in fear that the sun won’t grow strong to return for the next growing season.  But, I as sure as sweaty mittens and brittle hat hair hate the sleet out of winter.  I dread its return every coming fall and I rejoice at the smallest signs of spring.  Like clock-watching at the end of the work day, or breaking a tough work-out into small chunks, marking the winter solstice makes the season just a little more bearable. 

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