Sunday, December 20, 2009

The winter solstice

Photo courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art

The winter solstice – which in 2009 happens tomorrow, December 21st – is a day of celebration for societies around the world, from Sweden to Polynesia to Australia and Japan. In America, hardly anyone notices except for a handful of neopagans.

It’s hard to think about the solstice, or even realize that it exists, when the greater society relentlessly shoves Christmas in your face, as well as the mandate to make that holiday perfect for your family.

I say, don’t stress. You can celebrate the solstice without neglecting Christmas. The solstice is only one day – actually, only half a day if you start celebrating at sunset.

The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, so the moon will be up for longer. Why not have a dinner that’s as white as the moon? Serve it on white plates against a white tablecloth.

I suggest these dishes:

1. White fish such as halibut, cod, and scallops.
2. White vegetables and side dishes such as parsnips, cauliflower, potatoes, and rice.
3. White drinks such as water (with seasonal navel orange slices for flavor), milk, white chocolate, egg nog, and sparkling white wine.

Nighttime puts me in a mood to watch movies. Perhaps this longest night of the year is a great night to watch a lengthy classic such as Gone with the Wind, Ben-Hur, or Doctor Zhivago. (If you dare, you can even attempt the four-hour-plus Cleopatra, where you can see Elizabeth Taylor being a movie star.)

Nighttime is also a good time to slow down – and to think about slowing down. What are the stresses that are weighing you down? How many of them are really self-inflicted? Do we worry too much about problems instead of thinking about solutions? Do we realize that we are not as helpless as we think? How can we slow down the way nature slows down in winter? It is possible – even a few days before Christmas.

It’s true that all holidays are man-made. Pausing to celebrate the winter solstice, though, doesn’t feel quite so artificial – because it’s the day of a natural phenomenon that happens every year. And think of this good news – after the 21st, the days will start to get longer again.

Happy solstice, everyone.

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