A 'word salad' of credited quotes.
Photography by Andrea Lea Daniels
The word 'solstice' translates roughly to "sun stands still."
Winter Solstice Blessings - Author Unknown
"May the longest night and the shortest day
Bring rest to your mind and soul, I pray.
May you find guidance and may you find peace
As the cycle of light will slowly increase.
Embrace the magic that the darkness bears,
Breathe deep in the chill and shift in the air.
May you always be blessed with the light from within,
And may well-being be yours as the new cycle begins."
The Old Farmer's Almanac says:
"Onion's skin very thin,
Mild winter coming in;
Onion's skin thick and rough,
Coming winter cold and rough."
In Ireland, there is a burial mound called Newgrange that's over 5000 years old. The Stone Age monument contains a 62-foot passage that leads into a chamber that's aligned with the sun as it rises during the winter solstice. Between December 19th and 23rd, around dawn, sunlight comes through the top of the chamber and slowly illuminates the room for about 17 minutes. Only 60 people are picked from a lottery that attracts thousands of people who apply for a spot inside the chamber each year to celebrate the winter solstice.
"Winter is a season of recovery and preparation." Paul Theroux
"All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray.
I've been for a walk on a winter's day.
I'd be safe and warm, if I was in L.A.
California dreamin' on such a winter's day."
John and Michelle Phillips, The Mamas and Papas
"Welcome winter. Your late dawns and chilled breath make me lazy, but I love you nonetheless. What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness." John Steinbeck
"I like these cold, gray winter days.
Days like these let you savor a bad mood."
Tromso, Norway has the longest night in the world.
It's located 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
From November to January, the sun doesn't rise at all.
The Old Farmer's Almanac says that instead of breaking the turkey wishbone with another person, put it on a shelf to dry. If it turns blue, black, or purple, a cold winter is on its way. If you turn blue, black, or purple, then the cold winter is already here.
"Snow isn't just pretty, It also cleanses our world and our senses, not just of the soot and grime of a mining town, but also of a kind of weary familiarity, a taken-for-granted quality to which our eyes are all too susceptible."
"Cold weather doesn't care if your coat is old or new." Ruskin Bond
"I made myself a snowball,
As perfect as could be,
As perfect as could be,
I thought I'd keep it as a pet,
And let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas,
And a pillow for its head,
Then last night it ran away,
But first--it wet the bed."
"In December, I will be a baubled, bangled Christmas tree with soup bowls draped all over me. Merry once, merry twice, merry chicken soup with rice."
From Chicken Soup With Rice, by Maurice Sendak
In Japan, people traditionally soak in hot baths with the yuzu citrus fruit to welcome the winter solstice and protect their bodies
from the common cold.
"I pray this winter be gentle and kind -
a season of rest from the wheel of the mind." John Geddes
the color of winter is in the imagination." - Terri Guillemets
"In the meadow we can build a snowman."
From the song Winter Wonderland,
written by Felix Bernard and lyricist, Richard Bernard Smith
Koreans believe that eating red bean porridge on the Solstice
brings good luck and good health.
"I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt;
and perhaps it says, "Go to sleep, darlings, 'til the summer comes again."
Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
The Yalda Night celebration on the longest winter night is one of the oldest Iranian traditions that has been present in Persian culture from ancient years. Families gather together, usually at the house of the eldest, and celebrate by eating, drinking and reciting poetry. Nuts, pomegranates and watermelons are favorite festival foods.
"People don't notice whether it's winter or summer when they're happy."
"When there's snow on the ground, I like to pretend I'm walking on clouds." Takayuki Ikkaku
Did you know that although December 21st is the most common date of the Winter Solstice, it can vary anywhere between the 20th and 23rd because "the tropical year" [the time it takes for the sun to return to the same spot relative to Earth] is different from the calendar year?
The next December 20th solstice will happen in 2080,
and the next December 23rd solstice won't occur until 2303.
"Silently, like thoughts that come and go,
the snowflakes fall, each one a gem."
William Hamilton Gibson
Scandinavian and Germanic pagans lit fires on the solstice, and burned Yule logs as a symbolic means of welcoming back the light.
Cattle was also slaughtered in midwinter followed by feasting on what would be the last fresh meat for several months. The seeming death of the light and very real threat of starvation over the winter months weighed heavily on early societies who held celebrations to herald the return of the sun and hope for new life.
Revelers in England gather at Stonehenge at both the winter and summer solstice to sing, dance, play instruments, kiss the stones and do yoga as they wait for the sun to rise. Stonehenge is known for its precise alignment with the sun's movement and may have been a sacred place of worship and celebration for solstices for thousands of years.
"Hear, hear! screamed the jay from a neighboring tree, where I had heard a tittering for some time, 'winter has a concentrated and nutty kernel, if you know where to look for it." Henry David Thoreau
"I heard a winter tree
Its leaves were birds,
And all at once it
ceased to sing...
For all its leaves
Sunsets are, in fact, better during the colder months of the year. The clearer air, due to low humidity, allows sunset colors to reach our eyes undiluted, and nearer the winter solstice, the sun sets on more of an angle than in other seasons, which allow us to enjoy it for longer.
"Deep within the winter forest
among the snowdrift wide
You can find a magic place
where all the fairies hide."
The legend of Santa Claus and his reindeer have origins in folktales from around the world. The two most notable are the legend of Saint Nicolas, the patron saint that gifted children in need, and the Deer Mother. In ancient times people believed that it was the deer mother that took flight on the darkest longest night of the year. She was said to carry the life-giving light of the sun back to the land in her antlers, and into the new year.
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed
slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again."
Bill Morgan, Jr.
In Hollabrunn, Austria, each year, many visit during the winter solstice to watch people dressed like Krampus- the half-demon, half-goat counterpart to Santa Claus. They terrorize and tease the crowd in horned masks, fur body suits and whips. According to German folklore, Krampus is a figure that punishes bad children by whipping and snatching them. The traditional Krampus run is believed to ward off bad spirits near the winter solstice.
The lowest temperature recorded in the U.S. was 80 degrees below zero on January 23, 1971 in Prospect Creek in central Alaska, north of Fairbanks. The coldest temperature recorded in the contiguous U.S. is 70 degrees below zero, measured at Rogers Pass, Montana, on Jan. 20, 1954.
"The light of winter is the poetry of patience." Sean Kempenski
"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape -
the loneliness of it; the dead feeling of winter.
Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show." Andrew Wyeth
Ancient Romans honored their agricultural god Saturn by celebrating with a festival called Saturnalia. Societal roles were overturned so that during this time of revelry, masters served their slaves, while servants were allowed to insult their masters. Many of its customs survived as Christmas traditions.
"Snow falling soundlessly in the middle of the night
will always fill my heart with sweet clarity." - Novala Takemoto
"Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued".
"Snowflakes are one of nature's most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together." - Andrea Reiser, Happiness Coach
"Don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter.
It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." - Rumi
"It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it." John Burroughs
The Unabridged Journals of Silvia Plath
"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos"
Composed by Robert Wells
"I am not afraid of storms, for I'm learning to sail my ship."
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
"Sunshine cannot bleach the snow nor time unmake what poets know."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"When the cold comes to New England it arrives in sheets of sleet and ice.
In December the wind wraps itself around bare trees and twists in between husbands and wives asleep in their beds. It shakes the shingles from the roofs and sifts through cracks in the plaster. The only green things left are the holly bushes and the old boxwood hedges in the village, and these are often painted white with snow. Chipmunks and weasels come to nest in basements and barns; owls find their way into attics. At night, the dark is blue and bluer still,
as sapphire of night." Alice Hoffman
"The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day."
Dr. Seuss, from The Cat in the Hat
"Many human beings say that they enjoy the winter,
but what they really enjoy is feeling proof against it." - Richard Adams
"Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy."
"He told his mother all about his adventures while she took off his wet socks. And, he thought and thought and thought about them."
Ezra Jack Keats, The Snowy Day
Happy Winter Solstice 2020