Light a candle for the darkest day and the longest night of the year!
Everyone today should read "Moominland Midwinter" written and illustrated by Tove Jansson. Here are my beloved Moomintroll (the one who looks like a fat plush hippo) and Too-ticky (like a little french sailor) with a snow lantern (a candle within a pyramid of snowballs).
It's the winter solstice today, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. There is a reason why we light eight candles, why we bring in evergreens and cover them with strings of tiny lights, a reason for celebrating the season with lights lights lights! And holly and mistletoe and poinsettias and all those things that have berries during winter. It is to fight the dark and bring back the sun.
Here is Too-ticky's song for the solstice bonfire:
Here comes the dumb,
The lonely and the rum, The wild and the quiet.
Thud goes the drum.
Crackle goes the bonfire
Glowing in the white snow,
Swish go the tails,
Swinging through the light snow.
Thud goes the drumming
In the black, black night.
"I've had enough of your snow and night," cried Moomintroll. "No, I won't hear the refrain. I'm cold! I'm lonely! I want the sun back again!"
"But that's exactly why we burn the great winter bonfire tonight," said Too-ticky. "You'll get your sun back tomorrow."
So let's all batten down the hatches in the dark and brave potential fires in our homes and light all the candles tonight! Let's gaze at evergreens and thank them for their resilience. Even if you are sick to death of Christmas lights, think of how the British call them "fairy lights" instead and watch their twinkling exuberance. Embrace your loved ones and shake your first at the dark outside your cave, because tonight is special. Tonight is old-school.
Now this, this is what the holidays are for. We are like evergreens. Oh, and the crops will come back too.
p.s. No I'm not a Pagan, I'm pretty pan-religious, and a scholar of religions and myths and such and whatnot. And a lover of seasons. I'm never moving south.
All images by Tove Jansson from Moominland Midwinter, first published in 1958