Happy Winter Solstice. This day, the shortest day of the year and the darkest, always seems special to me. It’s been pretty gloomy and foggy here in Northern California, but this means we are about to turn the corner and can look forward to more hours of light and warmth.
When my son Griffin was young he took piano from the most wonderful woman, Kathy Goldbach. She and her sweet husband Evold, always held the December recital on this day where he concluded the concert by the reading of this poem, which I found really fitting. He did it with such emotion, you could imagine all those that endured dark winters through the ages and how they gathered and made merry to get through. After the poem, we would be invited to have some of Evold’s homemade stollen which was par excellence and made with ingredients his family sent from Germany along with punch from a real punch bowl-a rarity nowadays. To top it all off, they would send us home with bags of persimmons from their Campbell yard, which was still orchard-like and very old California.
Those are sweet memories and on this day I cannot help think of what kind and generous people they were and how their little tradition and effort made us all feel a bit of the magic of this season. I hope next year to start the same tradition – having friends over in our new home and reading this poem while sharing some food and good cheer.
Tonight we will be at a friend’s home and I will bring a Yule Log- or Buche de Noel from the French Bakery in town and we are planning to partake in a little food and merriment. I think this is a perfect day, even if you are staying home, to light some candles, reflect on the year past, share some food and kindness with others if you can, and revel in the here and now and the gift of friends, food and life. That’s kind of what it is all about isn’t it? I feel like I’m repeating the Grinch byline, but Christmas isn’t about gifts I have to remind myself. The kind of gifts that stay in your heart, like traditions and memories, can’t be bought in a store.
See if you feel the same about this poem as I do.
The Shortest Day
by Susan Cooper
So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us — Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
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