Winter Solstice 2017
In the early hours of December 22 the period known as Winter Solstice on the Chinese solar calendar begins for the northern hemisphere. Thursday, December 21 marks the shortest day of the year with more hours of darkness than daylight. This is 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 date honors the end of harvest season and return to hearth and home. Most of our western winter holidays 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 rest, we tend to increase activities to compensate for dwindling natural resources, warmth and light. Fire on a cold winter’s night can be illuminating but too much fire scorches and burns. Care should be taken to moderate fire in the watery winter season and avoid overdoing.
From a Feng Shui perspective, winter is the most yin time of year associated with deep, still water, cold temperatures, the north, moon, silence and darkness. In the phases of the Five Elements and Traditional Chinese Medicine, 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.
While celebrating the holiday season, we’re often 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 kingdoms lie dormant. For humans, quiet evenings, warming foods and companionship honor the restorative stillness of the season and allow us to gather strength we’ll need 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 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 surely 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