And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
With profound thanks to Rams, our Lady of the Comments, who always knows the right poem for everything.
I love this night. The longest one there will be all year, and the shortest day to go with it. Tomorrow the sun will shine a little longer, the night – just a few seconds less. We celebrate tonight, as we always do, with friends, and food and good wine, and mostly with candles, and light. Twinkle lights hang everywhere, the tree is sparkling against the afternoon dark, ice lanterns will line the steps to greet our guests, fresh candles top every flat surface. Dinner’s on the stove, and I’ve just finished the peppermint bark, which is good – because I think I have a friend or two who only come for the wee package of it they’ll find in their pockets on the way home.
The friends who come tonight are women and mothers, knitters too, in fact, and I feel like today I open my home to people who are the cradle of their homes. People who make things. Sweaters, dinners, presents… people… they’re powerful, wonderful women. (They’re a little twitchy this time of year, but that’s nothing that candlelight, a little knitting time and a glass of wine can’t fix.) We’ll celebrate our unbelievable good fortune tonight, that we’re warm, that we’re full, that our children are whole and safe, that the light is all around us, and that there will be more of it tomorrow.
So many people can’t say the same this evening, and I’m going to skip gifts for knitters today, and suggest that this day, we think of a gift for someone with less. I don’t know how much you have, and maybe all you can give is a few dollars, or even a little time – you’ll know best what speaks to your heart, and what you can manage. We give to charity this day, it brings a little more light into the world, even while it is the longest night. Who we give to varies, according to what we’re grateful for, and what we wish other people had. This year, it’s MSF – because we’re so grateful to have outstanding, affordable health care, and because we’re so impressed with the incredible work and risk that the MSF teams have undertaken on the front lines of the Ebola outbreak. We’re giving to Because I am a Girl, because we have three educated, healthy daughters. We’re giving to PWA because they do so very much good, and what the hell. I’m riding again. We’re giving to World Birth Aid, because on that map of maternal morbidity – I live in a country that is coloured blue. There’s no safer place to give birth, and a clean birth kit can change that for another woman, so another family can have their mum with them, like I have mine, and my family has me.
Happy Happy Solstice, dear ones. Light a candle. Namaste. Peace.
(PS. Luis hung up the reindeer. He has no sense of decorum.)