Today is the shortest day of the year and in Brighton where I live that means that the sunrise is at 08.01 and the sunset is at 15.56, which means that I spent pretty much all daylight hours at the office. But in northern Sweden (for instance in Gällivare) the sun doesn't rise until around 11.00 and then it sets again at about ten past 12. So not a whole lot of time to get a vitamin D fix in other words. The word solstice means "standing-still-sun" and for several days around the solstice the days remain painfully short and nothing much seems to happen. In fact it's not until early February that a definite change can be noticed.
The winter solstice has been celebrated by civilisations around the world as an important turning point for many thousands of years. The reasons behind probably being the fear that without our intervention the failing light may not return at all. The idea is to enjoy ourselves as much as possible during the darkest time of the year and thereby encourage light (and lightness) back into the world. Different cultures celebrated by feasting, gambling, playing pranks, giving gifts, visiting, drinking, dressing up, fornicating, putting on plays and staying up all night. I guess the point of it all is to celebrate all that which makes life worth living.
But the winter solstice isn't just about celebration and parties. It's also a time for quiet introspection, and so in the midst of the frenzy of the holidays, I would like to set aside some time this year and spend most of this day in silence and reflection.
The beautiful photo above comes from a wikipedia article on the phenomenon of northern lights.