Today, December 21st, marks the Winter Solstice day. A solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice each year, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is most inclined toward or away from the Sun, causing the Sun’s apparent position in the sky to reach its northernmost or southernmost extreme. The name is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstices, the Sun stands still in declination; that is, the apparent movement of the Sun’s path north or south comes to a stop before reversing direction. The term solstice can also be used in a broader sense, as the date (day) when this occurs. The solstices, together with the equinoxes, are connected with the seasons. In some cultures they are considered to start or separate the seasons while in others they fall in the middle.
This day is being celebrated worldwide. u.a. in the St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York. Paul Winter who conducts this Solstice Celeberation Concert, says: “Thirty years ago, the Consort and I were invited to be artists-in-residence at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine. We aspired to create music appropriate to this extraordinary acoustic space—two football fields long and tall enough to accommodate the Statue of Liberty. I dreamed of presenting a musical celebration that could resonate with all people regardless of background or age. It occurred to me that the most universal milestone we could celebrate would be the winter solstice. The event’s significance is best illustrated in this Thomas Berry poem. Over the years, this event has become a shared rite of passage through the longest night of the year. The Cathedral’s all-embracing vastness overwhelms our differences, and yet welcomes and affirms our diversity. Of all the places I’ve played in America, only two could host a concert on this scale: the Cathedral and the Grand Canyon. Traditionally, Solstice has been a time of reflection, gratitude, forgiveness and renewal. My aspiration is that the audience will come away with their spirits awakened, and with a deepened sense of relatedness to the family of life, to the Earth, and perhaps even to the cosmos. Please join us, along with our special guests Russia’s Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble and New York’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, as we celebrate the rebirth of the sun.
Winter solstice is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Traditionally, it is a time of both foreboding and expectancy, as the longest night leads to the revival of the sun. And yet it is a turning point, when the sun reaches its southernmost point from the equator and seems to pause before reversing course. “Solstice” in Latin means “the sun standing still.” In ancient times, observers watched the sun sink lower in the sky each day, and feared it would disappear completely and leave them in darkness. People practiced special rituals intended to entice the sun’s return. Bonfires and candles, with their imitative magic, helped fortify the waning sun and ward off the spirits of darkness. These symbols live on in our modern seasonal customs: the candles of Hanukkah and Christmas are kin to the fiery rites of old, which celebrated the miracle of the earth’s renewal. These traditions reflect our need to come together in times of extended darkness. We celebrate not only the rebirth of the sun, but the community of life on earth.