Celebrate the Winter Solstice
December 21, 2009
Earth tilts on its axis, the sun sinks low on the horizon, the rhythm of each day slows and darkens: Winter Solstice is here and#8212; the longest night of the year.
and#8220;All cultures celebrate the astronomical event of the return of life and light,and#8221; said Sharon Freewoman, owner of Rainbow Bridge in Tahoe City and the Village at Squaw Valley. and#8220;The Virgin giving birth to the son, the bringer of light, is an ancient story.and#8221;
In the days of the Druids, brothers Oak and Holly King would battle. The Oak King, representative of light, claims victory at Winter Solstice, when days begin to nip into nighttime.
Diwali, or the and#8220;Festival of Lights,and#8221; is celebrated in India with burning oil lamps, or diyas, in homes and courtyards, signifying the renewal of life. New clothes are worn, sweets exchanged and fireworks explode in dark skies.
In the Jewish tradition, another festival of lights is held, honoring a legend dating to 165 BCE (Before the Common Era). After three years of fighting the Greeks, a small group of Israelites regained control of the Temple. It was trashed, valuables stolen. All of the vials of oil to keep the eternal flame going had been smashed, save one.
A single vial could keep the flame lit for only one day: It took eight days to make the oil. and#8220;This one vial lasted a full eight days, so the eternal flame never went out as long as the Israelites were in the Temple,and#8221; according to Rabbi Anne Persin, of the North Lake Tahoe Hebrew Congregation. and#8220;Chanukka means and#8216;dedication.and#8217; Jews around the world celebrate this eight-day festival by lighting one candle on the first day, two on the next, etc.and#8221;
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A and#8220;chanukiah,and#8221; or eight-branched candelabra is used, with an extra candle in the middle to light the others.
The Romans commemorated the dedication of Saturnand#8217;s temple the 17th of each December. Partying as only Romans knew how, they turned the day into a week-long extravaganza, despite efforts of Augustus and Caligula to reduce it. Masters and slaves would swap roles, and small presents were made and exchanged.
and#8220;In old traditions, the shaman of the tribe would disperse gifts to those in need,and#8221; said Freewoman of the especially difficult time when days are short, nights long and cold, with no electric lights or heat. and#8220;Each culture has their mystery of light.and#8221;
According to Art Domingue, Minister of the Squaw Valley Chapel, the true meaning of Christmas becomes apparent after Joseph and Mary find no room at the inn and use the stable for lodgings. No room becomes ample room, with a manger-cradle, warming beasts and guests both rustic and regal bringing adoration and gifts.
and#8220;The Christian church reflects the sprit of Christmas when it works to provide room, food and clothing to all who are at risk. Everyone is a child of God,and#8221; said Domingue.
Saint Nicholas, a Christian saint known for miracles and generous gift-giving, was the bishop of Myra in present-day Turkey. In northern Europe, legend has it he brought candies and fruit to children in need.
In fact, the legend of Santa Claus is often attributed to the depiction of Saint Nicholas in Charles C. Mooreand#8217;s poem titled and#8220;A Visit from St. Nicholas,and#8221; written in the 1800s, now known as and#8220;Twas the Night Before Christmas.and#8221;
Santa Claus is also known as Kriss Kringle, from and#8220;Christkindleand#8221; and#8212; German for and#8220;Christand#8217;s Child.and#8221;
In the 1970 release of and#8220;Santa Claus is Coming to Town,and#8221; written by Romeo Muller and narrated by Fred Astaire, the and#8220;trueand#8221; origins of Santa Claus, or Kris Kringle, are revealed. Important questions, such as why Santa brings presents, why he goes down the chimney and why children send letters to Santa are answered.
The Sierra Sun has a long-standing tradition of printing letters to Santa from area school children. In light of resource conservation and the digital age, Santa agreed to read letters for Tahoe Truckee girls and boys posted at http://www.SierraSun.com/SantaLetters.
Children may send Santa a letter by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org until 3 p.m. on Dec. 23. The letter will be posted online for Santa to read. Santa is presently wrapped up with toy production and distribution, so he will not have a chance to reply, however. You too may view the letters online at http://www.SierraSun.com/SantaLetters.
Remember, lifeand#8217;s too short not to believe in Santa Claus.
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