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How like a winter hath my absence been
>From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December's bareness everywhere!
And yet this time removed was summer's time;
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,
Like widow'd wombs after their lords' decease:
Yet this abundant issue seemed to me
But hope of orphans, and unfathered fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And, thou away, the very birds are mute:
Or, if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer,
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near
William Shakespeare Sonnet XCVII
21 December is the beginning of winter in Europe and the British Isles.
Every winter on the shortest day a remote Neolithic cairn on Orkney gives a
epigrammatic look of a lost world.
As the solstice sun sets, the last of the day's light shines down a
Neolithic corridor at Maes Howe and lights the interior of the cairn in
The cairn is small and only a few people have ever been able to see it each
year live and in it's splendour.
Charles Tait and Victor Reijs now webcast the winter solstice, 21 December
from Maes Howe. Look for yourself at http://maeshowe.mypage.org. It is
worth your time. The web site operates from early December until mid
American Red Indians had winter solstice rites thousands of years before the
In Iran, there is the observance of Yalda, in which families kept vigil
through the night and fires burned brightly to help the sun (and Goodness)
battle darkness (thought evil).
Winter solstice celebrations are also part of the cultural heritage of
Pakistan and Tibet. In China the day of winter solstice is called Dong Zhi,
"The Arrival of Winter."
Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights that occurs around this time every
year. Is this related?
Hanukkah is tied to both the lunar and solar calendars. It begins on the
25 Kislev, three days before the new moon closest to the Winter
Solstice. It recalls an important Jewish event, the Maccabees' victory over
the Greeks and the rededication of the temple at Jerusalem.
In Normandy they discharge shotgun around apple tree to bring good autumn
In Russia a girl would sit in a darkened room, with two lighted candles and
two mirrors, pointed so that one reflects the candlelight into the other.
The viewer would seek the seventh reflection, then look until her future
would be seen.
Early Germans built a stone altar to Hertha, or Bertha, goddess of
domesticity and the home, during winter solstice. With a fire of fir boughs
stoked on the altar, Hertha was able to descend through the smoke and guide
those who were wise in Saga lore to foretell the fortunes of those at the
Spain has an old custom from Roman days, The urn of fate. A large bowl
filled slips of paper on which are written all the names of those at a
get-together. The slips of paper are drawn out two at a time. Those whose
names are so joined are to be devoted friends for the year. Apparently,
there's often a little cheating to help matchmaking along..
In Scandinavia, some families I am told place all their shoes together,
causing them to live in harmony throughout the year.
I wish every list member would put their shoes together. It will not make me
believe in into the Henry/Templar myth or the 9 Knights at Hasting or the
relationship to William I King of England or the deposed King of Poland but
perhaps it will bring tolerance.
I would like to know what other cultures do at solstice.
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