Seeking Light on the Darkest of Days
The winter solstice is a universal event that takes place twice per year (once per hemisphere), and happens at the same moment around the globe despite time differences. Usually occurring around December 20-23rd, the winter solstice signifies the shortest day of the year for the Northern Hemisphere, and longest day for the Southern Hemisphere[i]. This phenomenon is due to Earth’s 23.5-degree axis tilt and occurs when the north pole is furthest away from the sun [ii].
Despite its astronomical magnitude, I never paid much attention to its significance in the past. This year’s anticipation, however, has arrived with news of a celestial phenomenon that has not occurred since medieval times[iii]. December 21st will bring the peak of an astronomical conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn, where the planets will be so close in proximity that they will appear as one super-star in the sky. Known as a “Christmas star”, this phenomenon will not only be a once-in-a-lifetime sight, but might provide a time for reflection over an unprecedented year of turmoil.
For many ancient societies, the arrival of the winter solstice signified the return of light and life at the end of a season of dreariness and hunger[iv]. In fact, many Western winter traditions have roots in the ancient Roman pagan festival of Saturnalia, a celebration of Saturn, the god of agriculture and time[v]. Today, there are several solstice celebrations carried out around the world that recognize the cultural and religious significance of this celestial event.
Through a historical lens, winter solstice has been a time for discoveries and ushering in new eras. For example, Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth on the winter solstice of 1620 in hopes of religious freedom (among other desires that proved destructive for Indigenous communities)[vi]. In 1898, Marie and Pierre Curie announced the discovery of the element radium, and the first manned moon mission took place with the launch of the Apollo 8 spacecraft in 1968[vii]. One can only wonder what discoveries might be made this time around...
Settling back in frigid New Jersey for winter break, I was met with the not-so-cozy transition from Elon sunsets at 5:30pm, to dark, cold skies an hour earlier. In a time that feels like darkness is closing in on multiple levels, we may find ourselves seeking light more often. You might find that light within the spirit of the holiday season, or the smile of a loved one. Maybe it glows among menorah or kinara candles or burns in a fantastic display of Diwali sparklers. Even if it projects dimly from your television screen from a cozy night inside, to me, it represents hope for progression and adaptation.
Professor and author Brené Brown once said, “Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”[viii] This year has been defined by facing the darkness of our past and present as a nation, specifically regarding the lingering (and long-existing) struggle of systemic racism and police brutality, among other oppressions. By facing the challenges and pain of the present, we can use this darkness as a tool to usher in new growth, innovation, and liberation with the dawn of the new year.
For those tuned into Astrology, the winter solstice serves as a crucial time to manifest, opening the year with positive energy and new opportunities[ix]. Manifesting typically involves using the Law of Attraction, where thought processes are focused on attracting the energy or events one desires. Winter serves as a strong time to manifest because as a natural time of hibernation and preparation for growth, one can be intentional about what seeds they want to sow come spring. The principles of this tradition touch on a question that reflects the spirit of this year’s events: are dark times inherently harmful? Of course, this year continues to reflect pain and grieving that should not be euphemized or ignored with the coming of the new year. However, just like a photo needs complete darkness to develop, or a child grows within the enclosure of the womb, the darkness can offer an environment of restoration and development of new things. Resonating with Elon (meaning “oak tree” in Hebrew), the strength and history of a tree lies in the roots underground, removed from sunshine. In the true spirit of readiness and resilience, I urge the Elon community to take what we’ve learned from the darkness and carry it with us into the light of 2021.
[i] J. Rose, ‘10 Facts About the Winter Solstice, the Shortest Day of the Year’, Mental Floss, 2018.
[ii] J. Rose, ‘10 Facts About the Winter Solstice’.
[iii] ‘On The Winter Solstice, Jupiter And Saturn Will Be Together Again’, NPR.Org, 2020.
[iv] J. Rose, ‘10 Facts About the Winter Solstice’.
[v] S. Pruitt, ‘8 Winter Solstice Celebrations Around the World’, HISTORY, 2016.
[vi] J. Rose, ‘10 Facts About the Winter Solstice’.
[vii] J. Rose, ‘10 Facts About the Winter Solstice’.
[viii] A, Meah, ’35 Inspirational Quotes On Light’, AwakenTheGreatnessWithin, 2018.
[ix] ‘A Simple Winter Solstice Ritual to Manifest Your New Year Dreams’, Seasonal Soul, 2020. Works Cited: A Simple Winter Solstice Ritual to Manifest Your New Year Dreams. (2020, November 19). The Seasonal Soul. https://www.theseasonalsoul.com/winter-solstice-ritual/ Hello Winter Solstice & the Mechanics of Manifesting. (2014, December 21). The Moon School. https://www.themoonschool.org/moon-phases/mechanics-of-manifesting/ Ricks, E. (2019, May 15). What Is the Law of Attraction (and How to Use It). Retrieved December 11, 2020, from https://www.astrology.com/article/law-of-attraction-manifestation-tips/ Meah, A. (2018, January 9). 35 Inspirational Quotes On Light | AwakenTheGreatnessWithin. https://www.awakenthegreatnesswithin.com/35-inspirational-quotes-on-light/ On The Winter Solstice, Jupiter And Saturn Will Be Together Again. (2020, December 10). NPR.Org. Retrieved December 11, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2020/12/10/944903633/on-the-winter-solstice-jupiter-and-saturn-will-be-together-again
Pruitt, S. (2016, December 20). 8 Winter Solstice Celebrations Around the World. HISTORY. Retrieved December 11, 2020, from https://www.history.com/news/8-winter-solstice-celebrations-around-the-world Rose, J. 10 Facts About the Winter Solstice, the Shortest Day of the Year. (2018, December 20). https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/72659/10-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-winter-solstice Pictures https://kidspressmagazine.com/science-for-kids/misc/misc/winter-solstice.html https://www.treehugger.com/things-know-about-winter-solstice-4863172