December 21 (11:49 PM in the eastern time zone) marks the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere. It’s the the shortest day of the year and a turning point in the natural world for the passage of time. In China, the Winter Solstice is known as Dong Zhi or “extreme of winter.” This holiday honors the end of the harvest and return to hearth and home. Most of our winter holidays in the west are celebrated during the time of the solstice when temperatures drop, the sun hangs low in the sky and the hours of darkness surpass daylight. But while agricultural societies associate the winter season with completion, conservation and inactivity, modern societies tend to increase their activities to compensate for dwindling natural resources, warmth and light. Fire on a cold winter’s night is illuminating but too much fire overheats and burns. As always, care should be taken to moderate yang Fire in a yin Water season.
The most yin time of year from a Feng Shui perspective, winter is associated with deep, still water, cold temperatures, the north, moon, silence and darkness. In the phases of the Five Elements and Traditional Chinese Medicine, the season of winter relates to the kidneys, water chi and the emotion of fear. It is not surprising that human beings gravitate to shelter and warmth in winter, gathering emotional support, sustenance 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 celebrating the holiday season, often we’re pushed too far to the yang side of the equation. Rather than honoring the tranquil, introspective side of winter, we create expectations that bring even more anxiety and stress. As a result, the holidays mirror the same hectic schedule we keep all year long. In the natural world, winter is the season of rest and reflection when plant and animal kingdom lie dormant. For humans, quiet evenings, warming foods and companionship honor the restorative stillness of the season and allow us to gather strength for the remainder of winter.
This solstice, give yourself the gifts of stillness and reflection. Remember those who came before you and honor only the holiday traditions that touch your heart. Set aside your fears about the future 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 inspire and warm you.
Wishing you and those you love all the blessings of the season,
Diane Gallin, CFSC
In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy ~ William Blake