By this point in the year, you’re likely feeling the effects of the sun’s waning presence in your day. It’s dark longer than it is light out and your body can feel that. It’s hunkering in as your busy summer energy has faded and your low and slow winter energy takes root. It’s around this time of year where many of us also feel as though the sun has abandoned us. Will it ever come back? Or will we just slip slowly into more and more darkness? Both are true. Obviously, we all know the sun will make its way back into our lives relatively soon. But also, the darkness won’t reach its peak until December 21 this year - our winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. This date marks the official astrological start of winter, as it’s the shortest day and longest night of the year. However, the sun-worshipers among us can hold on to the hope that this also means the sun and its longer days begin to return to us after this date, and the days grow longer and longer until the summer solstice in June.
Solstice celebrations and observations have always been crucial elements in ancient cultures. In this context, ancient can mean anything pre-electricity, as we were once beholden to natural light cycles. In farming and many other jobs where you work with the land, many of these natural rhythms and limitations still rule our days. By now, the plants have really started to slow down their growth. Their energy shifts more into their roots in order to make it through the long cold winters. The sun-loving plants have died back, while the root crops tend to bulk up in both size and taste. This is why root vegetables are such a big part of our winter menus. Luckily, with a few inventions of the modern era (lights, row covers, and greenhouses), we can continue growing food (though limited) throughout the winter, extreme weather depending.
However, just like many other animals, we feel the call of the low, slow energy of winter. We feel our energy falling and appetites rising. Many people begin to feel the guilt and shame of the dreaded holiday weight around this time of year. But really, it’s completely natural to slow down and eat more this time of year. First, it’s your body’s natural defense against the cold, dark days we’re experiencing. While at the same time, food is meant to be shared and enjoyed. It’s meant to nourish us on a quantitative level through the chemical components that feed our cells as well as through the qualitative aspect of coming together to share a meal and to feed our social appetites. Back in the days before supermarkets and longterm-storage, communities had to come together and feed each other in order to make it through the winter. Obviously, Covid has put a wrench in a lot of our holiday plans, but baking and sharing (and Zoom-calling) can still be done safely as a way to show support to our loved ones during the next few darkest days of the year.
WINTER SOLSTICE BONUS: 2020 has admittedly been a dumpster fire of a year, but also one with many silver linings and this year’s winter solstice is one of them! On this year’s winter solstice, December 21, Jupiter and Saturn will appear closer to each other and brighter than they have in over 800 years. It’s called the “great conjunction” or “Christmas Kiss.” You may have even started to notice it already as you look up at night in the southwestern sky. While in many ways this year was a wash for a lot of us, this can be a lovely little parting gift - one we may not have noticed as much if this was any other ordinary year.