Today is the Winter Solstice.
Winter is desolate and dark and cold. Grey. Quiet.
In the far northern hemisphere, where my family hails from, the days are short and glancing. The harsh light and landscape gets dimmer and the light slower to rise and then, we celebrate.
In Scandinavia, this is the celebration of light. When the winter solstice comes it is the darkest day of the year - the shortest day and the longest night - and we can begin to watch the days grow longer, the light glow brighter.
The colors of summer wouldn't be what they are without this rest. And so we celebrate and sing.
We have a holiday in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland that marks this cycle of the earth around the sun and it is also the beginning of the Christmas season - always celebrated on December 13th.
The holiday is in honor of Sankta Lucia (or Saint Lucy). It's a feast. A celebration of light. And the beginning of the 12 days of Christmas.
The solstice this year actually occurred on December 23rd, 2015. At one time, under the old Julian calendar, the feast of Saint Lucy fell on the winter solstice but calendar reforms have caused the celebration to occur now on December 13th.
The feast commemorates Saint Lucy, from Syracuse Sicily - who was born in 283 AD. Legend says, she desperately wanted to help the poor, and brought food and help to Christians hiding in the deep catacombs. Her hair was wrapped with a wreath holding candles so that she could find her way and have arms free to carry her offerings.
Songs and Poetry
The celebration now represents so much aside from the historic religious connection.
I remember it as a small child as a magical and mysterious time. All the children would participate in a peaceful and beautiful procession dressed in long white robes each carrying a candle.
Sankta Lucia was represented by the oldest girl who wore a red sash and a wreath of candles in her hair. Elsa Beskow is one of my favorite authors and illustrators. Her sketch above gives the sense of the tradition.
And, the lovely song that we sing is so beautiful - both the haunting melody and the poetic lyrics, here in English:
Night walks with a heavy step
Round yard and hearth,
As the sun departs from earth,
Shadows are brooding.
There in our dark house,
Walking with lit candles,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
Night walks grand, yet silent,
Now hear its gentle wings,
In every room so hushed,
Whispering like wings.
Look, at our threshold stands,
White-clad with light in her hair,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
Darkness shall take flight soon,
From earth's valleys.
So she speaks
Wonderful words to us:
A new day will rise again
From the rosy sky…
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia
Art Inspired by the Seasons
The seasons inspire me in so many ways - I talk about this often at The Whiskey Porch (which is all about nordic lifestyle & design). Here in my art studio the seasons can inspire my artwork as well.
I have written another blog post about my glass work and a new collection I've created called "Winter Solstice Glass Collection", which I invite you to check out: Meditation with Molten Glass.
Stay warm & see the beauty in winter,