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Date:9/18/2014 6:44:07 AM
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Winter Solstice, Part I
Cheer up all! The days start getting longer this month! The winter solstice has always been a time when people have rued the dark and hoped for the light. Every tribe and nation of the northern and mid latitudes of our hemisphere have had celebrations marking this time of year. For most of mankind's history, the months from the winter solstice to after the spring equinox was a time of hunger or starvation. Native Americans called these months the Wolf Moon, Hunger Moon, and Starvation Moon. Therefore, the time of the winter solstice was one of uncertainty and even dread. It was also a time when communities of people got together to encourage each other for the ordeal ahead. Bonfires were lit to encourage the sun to return north. Even though the elders and holy men and women assured the people that "every winter is followed by a spring," the young people would still fear the darkness.

My friend, "The Farmwife" reminded me that in southern climes, they would welcome cold weather because it would end their field work. Historically, peoples in more temperate climates would view the winter solstice in more celebratory terms. While there would usually be sufficient grain storage to last the short winter, much of the animal stock over and above breeding stock would have had to have been slaughtered in order to reduce the demand of those stores. Thus, the winter solstice would be a time of festival; when the glut of fresh meat would be consumed at communal feasting.
In the Germanic tribes, evergreens and other confers were used as reminders that life still endured even in the depths of winter. The Christmas tree, first used as a pagan phallic symbol denoting the procreation of life, was transposed to being a central part of the Christian celebration at that time of year, presumably to ease the transition of converts to the acceptance of Christianity. The same had been done centuries earlier in the Roman Empire when the Saturnalia, its celebration of the solstice, was co-opted to being a celebration of Christ's birth. While historians attest that Jesus was born in the summer of the years inclusive of 4-6 BC, the traditional celebration of Jesus' birth at the winter solstice coincides with mankind's desire to believe in the eventual renewal of life. It is conspicuous that Jesus' birth comes at a time of hope for renewal and that His death and resurrection comes at a time of actual renewal, the Spring Equinox. I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide upon what the significance of the Winter Solstice holds for you. As for us at Le Ferme Sabloneuse, we celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year and take stock of what we've done, and of what we hope to do, during the next year. -- Gary
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