Thursday, December 15, 2005

Winter Solstice Party

Winter Solstice Party
Jara Ahrabi

My mother is a hot weather person who calls it “nippy” if the temperature dips into the 60s. She bemoans the October Daylight Saving Time change and the short days of winter and loves loves loves summer and heat and sun and the beach and the outdoors (but not camping) and tennis courts, baseball games, and bike rides. When I was growing up, we had one family saying: You can’t keep summer from coming. It was something of a gray-sky, breezy-day mantra. Mom kept this thought close to her heart and on the tip of her tongue all winter, which, fortunately for her since we lived in Houston, Texas, was not a long or cold season. You can’t keep summer from coming.

Recently I read 10 Principles for Spiritual Parenting (Doe and Walch). It suggests that parents can help children feel more connected to the natural world and to other people via celebrations and family traditions. In thinking about starting a new tradition or holding a new celebration, I consulted the calendar and thought back on my own childhood. I decided we would throw a Winter Solstice Party.

The Winter Solstice takes place on December 21st (or the 22nd, depending on the year.) This is the day of the year during which, thanks to the position of the sun and earth, we experience the fewest hours of daylight. Growing up, my mother would sometimes announce this fact on December 21st and give thanks aloud, for every day after this there would be increasing amounts of daylight.

My son and I spent the afternoon of the 21st decorating our house. “We” cut paper snowflakes out of little white squares of paper and hung them from the ceiling on lengths of ribbon. We hung extra strings of Christmas tree lights around the living and dining room. We lit candles in all the rooms of the house. When it got dark (not much after 4 p.m., as might be expected on the shortest day of the year) we did not turn on any electric lights other than those on our Christmas tree and the other strands draped over the bookcase and the curtain rods and the chandelier (which was swaying precariously).

We have a bachelor friend who has a standing invitation to happy hour at our house (which runs until bedtime!) and he picked this day to call on his way home from work and drop in. When he arrived and my husband got home, I mixed margaritas (in honor of summer). We ordered a pizza later and drank a bottle of wine while our son entertained us with various musical instruments and toy trains. Our little party was a success.

We plan to do it again. I envision that some years we might invite a dozen or more friends or family members; some years we might not. Some years there might be extravagant fare; some years it might be take-out pizza. Some years we might use the occasion to study astronomy; some years we might study snowflakes; some years we might not study. But perhaps we will always use the day to celebrate darkness and the universe and winter and the cold and the absolutely glorious certain coming of summer.

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