The winter solstice came and went Tuesday, meaning we’ve experienced the shortest day and longest night of 2021.

As winter approached in ancient times, people were frightened. For them, it was the inability to grow crops and the risk of running out of the food they preserved to get through the barrenness of the season. They feared death.

And so, on or around Dec. 21 they celebrated. The sun was coming. The days were growing longer. Their ceremonies and celebrations symbolized the opportunity for renewal. They symbolized hope.

“This is one of the reasons they celebrated the solstice,” Barbara Buls, an interpretive coordinator for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, told reporter Will Broaddus at a winter solstice observation in North Andover on Tuesday.

“It was important to their very survival that the light came back and they would be able to grow crops,” she said.

For the Yule, which continued through January, fathers and sons gathered large logs – Yule logs – and set one end on fire outside. The community feasted and imbibed for days until the flame died out. Then they were rejuvenated with bravery to make it through the remaining cold months.

And then there was the evergreen. Pagans gathered branches to decorate their homes, sometimes whole trees. They chose the evergreen because it’s never without live foliage; it doesn’t shed until new foliage is fully formed. The evergreen symbolized everlasting life, brought health into the home, and made a promise that the dark times would come to an end.

Amid the pandemic, social unrest and political turmoil, most people will not be sorry to say goodbye to 2021.

As we celebrate the holidays and move into the remaining days of winter, let us embrace our loved ones and the safety of the greater community.

Let us invoke the spirit of the evergreen.

Trending Video

Recommended for you