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On Solstice and the Return of the Light

From Thanksgiving through till January 1 each year, my family switches into Celebration Mode. If I'm to be honest, we do a 'soft open' for this celebration season on Halloween, and we have the great fortune to have moved to a town that is BIG on Halloween, which is one of my favorite holidays. My youngest child's birthday falls right around Thanksgiving, and then - since we are a mixed faith - family, we celebrate Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, and New Year's Eve. I'm up to my EARS in festivity to close out Autumn and welcome in The Long Dark.

Solstice is newer celebration for our family. We have always acknowledged the day, with a glance at the calendar and an "Oh yeah, it's the first day of winter," along with a peek into the closets to confirm we have all the gear we need for braving the colder weather. I live in northern Vermont, about 22 minutes from the Canadian Border, so we have a list of things that need tending to in order to not get caught short. Swap out the summer tires for snows. Check the shovels. Insulate the windows in the house. Check the woodpile and/or fuel tank. Many have already checked on all these back around Halloween, because the first snow typically flies in November. I've lived here three decades, so I usually feel less urgent until the end of December, when I know that we have January to bear.

More recently in our repertoire, we have folded in Winter Solstice as a different take on celebration. December 21, 2020, at 5:04 am EST marks the date and time this year, so if you're reading this you have arrived! The First Day of Winter! And the Longest Night of the Year. It is also a celebration for the return of the light. After tonight, each day will get longer by about one minute, until the pendulum swing changes direction toward the Summer Solstice and the Longest Day of the Year.

In a year marked by restriction, limitation, missing out, missing others, and confinement, celebrating Winter Solstice is a beautiful way to create something new within your own home and family. It offers a direct connection to nature, a recognition that every season has a beginning, and an end, and is part of a larger pattern. It is a way to slow down the holiday season, to reflect on the year that will soon end - and in 2020 some say cannot end soon enough - and begin to look toward the new one. A large part of the celebration is the light returning from the darkness, and along with it a sense of renewal.

Some fun activities with children include baking sun-shaped cookies, making actual Yule Logs or crafting yule log fire starters, and having outdoor campfires (weather and location dependent, of course). You can share stories or poems around the fire as a nice touch. In a lot of ways it's like a birthday for the sun. For grownups, it's a great time to reflect, sit by a fire, a Christmas tree if you have one, or by candlelight, and maybe journal, read a book, daydream or meditate. Time stills.

And this year is incredibly special, from a celestial point of view as well. Two huge planets in our Solar System, Jupiter and Saturn, are going to meet in the southwestern sky *just* after sunset in what will look like the Christmas Star or the Star of Bethlehem. It is also known as the Great Conjunction, and this celestial event has not happened for 800 years (the last time it was visible in this way was in 1226). If you have a pair of binoculars or a telescope, you will likely even be able to see Jupiter's 4 moons in the mix.

For myself and my family, this year has rendered us unrecognizable in almost every way. We live differently, our movements are different, the way we think and feel about ourselves and our world is different. We are fortunate that we have not had direct contact with the virus, and yet it impacts our community directly. We are safe and warm, and yet we also acknowledge many are not. I am grateful for all that I have, grateful for my family, my friends, the connections I've made this year, the business I am growing, my health, my shift in perspective to include the importance of collective wellbeing.

I also recognize the importance of safe spaces and community, while we are still restricted in our in-person movements and gathering. It is with this in mind that I have created and am welcoming in new members to the Creative Coaching Services Community Group. Membership is free. There I focus on a weekly theme (the last two weeks have been Rooted in Gratitude and Engaging with Creativity), and share articles and posts intended to inspire and connect. I also present a weekly Guided Meditation on the topic via Facebook Live. It has been lovely to be a part of, and a light in the dark.

May Your Fires Burn Bright,

Rachel V.

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