It being a holiday season for many religions, I figured I’d take a break from picking my way through the folkloric roots of the fantasy genre, and talk a bit about the death and rebirth of light.
Powerful symbol, ain’t it? From earliest times, humans must have noticed the days getting shorter and then longer again. (The further they lived from the equator, the more easily they would notice it.) We’ve got good reason to think that variation spurred the development of astronomy, and therefore of math, so that people could pinpoint the exact days on which the solstices and equinoxes fell. They built temples and monuments to mark those days, developed calendars so they could better know when to plant and harvest, then planned festivals around these things. Our planet’s little wobble on its axis gave birth to science, religion, culture.
I’m a solar-powered creature myself; I need the light. Paradoxically, then — or perhaps not paradoxically at all — the winter solstice is one of my favorite nights on the calendar. I love to curl up with a book and some music and read by candlelight, a little island of illumination in an otherwise dark room. No blue-glowing electronic devices; just the warmth of fire, and a reminder of the past. I have other holiday traditions (most of them Christmas-related, for all my family is not what you’d call church-going), but that one is personal.
What personal traditions, religious or otherwise, do you have around this time?