The Warm Light on the Darkest Cold NightWhen my son was young one of his favorite programs was an animated series called “Little Bear”. It was an adorable series about the adventures of a group of animal friends. One episode was all about a winter solstice celebration. All of the animals got together on the winter solstice for a feast. They sang a cute song and hung treats on a tree outside for the snow angels, which turned out to be deer and squirrels from the forest.
At the peak of my son’s love for Little Bear we lived in central Pennsylvania and by December 21st that year we had a good covering of snow on the ground. We decided to have a winter solstice celebration just like Little Bear so we put together a special meal and we got some healthy treats for the snow angels. It was a lot of fun singing the winter solstice song and hanging treats for the snow angels on a tree in the front yard. Elias was excited to see the treats being enjoyed by birds and squirrels for the next couple of days. This became a family tradition for several years, even after Elias was a little too old for Little Bear.
The winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is the shortest day of the year. It’s cold and dark. If you are a devout lover of summer like me it takes a little effort to sing “The night is cold, the snow is new, Elias loves the winter and I do too!” But if you are carrying a happy little boy around on a snowy night while he hangs unsalted pretzels on a tree you sing. The look on his face makes it easy to mean what you are singing too.
The winter solstice isn’t the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the darkest and usually very dreary. In many ancient cultures people had celebrations around the time of the winter solstice because people like to try to make the best of things. There wasn’t much else to do and it was a good excuse for a party. Christians adopted the largely pagan practice and made it a celebration of the birth of Christ. Jesus was most likely not born on or around the winter solstice but they settled on a December 25th celebration anyway.
In many ways it’s fitting to celebrate the birth of Christ during the darkest, coldest, and bleakest time of the year. Jesus came to bring us hope, life, and light. The world can be a very dark and hopeless place. The news brings us more of that every day. The media and social media are filled with despair, contention, and negativity. There is very little light and we are all lost in the cold night. We need the warmth and light of God’s love. We need Jesus. The good news is that he did come, even if it probably wasn’t in December. That is indeed cause for celebration any time of year.
Happy winter solstice, from Little Bear and me!