December 21st or 22nd marks the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere each year, a turning point in the natural world for the seasonal passage of time. Most of our winter holidays are celebrated during the time of the solstice when temperatures drop, the sun is low in the sky and we experience the longest nights of the year. In China, the Winter Solstice is known as the Dong Zhi or “extreme of winter.” This holiday honors the end of the harvest and return to hearth and home. In agricultural societies and the practice of Feng Shui, winter is associated with completion, storage and conservation of energy, until springtime arrives with the promise of a new beginning.
The most yin time of year from a Feng Shui perspective, winter is associated with still water, cold, the moon, silence and darkness. In the phases of the Five Elements and Traditional Chinese Medicine, the season of winter relates to the kidneys, water ch’i and the emotion of fear. It is not surprising that human beings gravitate to shelter and warmth during this season, gathering emotional support and comfort at the bleakest time of the year. Watching daylight fade more swiftly, early Neoliths surely wondered when and if the sun would return to warm the earth. In fact, their efforts to summon the sun through ritual and celebration at the year’s turning gave birth to the winter holidays we celebrate today.
But in the spirit of the holiday season, perhaps some of our celebrations have pushed us too far to the yang side of the equation. Rather than honoring the quiet, introspective side of our nature in winter, we create expectations that bring even more stress to our lives. The holidays become mirrors of the same hectic schedule we keep all year long. In winter, we are supposed to rest and reflect – taking comfort in warm foods, loving companionship, and stillness. Rather than filling our days with activity, it is wise to acknowledge the cycles of nature and passage of time, allowing emotions just under the surface to emerge and pass through.
This holiday season, give yourself the gift of melancholy. Set aside time to remember those who came before you and honor only the traditions that touch your heart. Attempt to put your fears about the future at rest and find quiet time to be at peace with who you are and where you have been, knowing that the sun will always return to warm you.
Wishing you good ch’i,
Diane Gallin, CFSC