Most people today in America are familiar with the Twelve Days of Christmas carol, detailing twelve days of more and more elaborate gifts, much to the delight of modern retail to encourage us to shop more for the holiday. It is an English folk song and possibly there is a correlation between each of the twelve days, and the upcoming twelve months, but if there was any deeper insight, or folk custom coded into the song, it appears to be lost or garbled to us today. The overall concept of the song, if not the direct inspiration, is based upon the twelve days of Yule.
The chart cast for the moment of the Winter Solstice — when the Sun enters Capricorn — is predictive for the three months ahead, and when the chart is cast for the capital of a country, it is predictive for that entire country. As we spiral in towards the next solsticial shift — from dark to light here in the northern hemisphere, and from light to dark in the southern — we are caught up in planetary energies that demand change, and change often demands the destruction of the old before the new is birthed. It is the light within us — our inner Sun — that gives us the vision, energy, courage and strength to build anew in a world in which hi-tech warfare, critical levels of environmental pollution, catastrophic climate change and resource depletion promise a future very different from our present. The challenges are clear, and the Solstice chart offers us insight into the personal and spiritual strategies we can use to meet these challenges with grace, compassion, and courage.
Winter Solstice is a perfect excuse to wind down for the year. It is happily emphasized since I am on Winter Break for school– hibernating more and going out less. For the last seven years and counting, I have held some sort of Winter Solstice gathering for friends and sometimes family. I have hosted sit-down traditional dinners and the more informal drinks and appetizers only fiesta. We have mulled spiced-wine together, played an old parlor game entitled, "The Minister's Cat," and lit candles. One of my favorite theme ideas was putting a spotlight on the sun: I served spicy Indian food for snacks and the soundtrack featured all songs mentioning the sun. There are a seemingly endless supply of these to choose from.
This year, I am taking some advice from an Indianapolis food blogger, featured in the current issue of Midwest Living. Her article, "Holiday Party Tips From Annie Marshall: Eat Drink and Be Merry," is a great approach to a more relaxed get-together. From hanging treats on an "edible cookie tree," to her insistence on serving a signature drink for the event that you can make a nice big batch of in advance, Marshall knows her stuff. Here is her recipe for Cranberry Margaritas:
I love this time of year...though I could do without the single to negative digit temperatures. A lot of my traditions haven't changed from what I did as a child in a Roman Catholic household but I do have some additions. Below, in random order, I list some of my holiday traditions.