Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Fires Against the Night
Tonight, dear readers, is the beginning of winter. It is the winter solstice. The moment in the celestial passage of our Earth as it hurtles through the heavens caught in the pull of our Sun. An eternal cycle of seasons that mark the lives of the men and women who pass their fleeting lives on our tiny world.
Tonight, dear readers, is the longest night of the year.
But we, in our beautiful and impulse imaginings, have learned not to fear this rule of darkness. Each culture throughout time has found a way to push back against night. We, as humans, have tracked the seasons and the stars since we were able to look upwards to the sky. Stone age peoples, with their eyes full of the unfettered heavens, built fires against this deepest night. The bronze and iron ages brought oil lamps and crosiers of embers against the darkness.
The Germanic Celts named this night Yule. It was a night for great fires, both in the hearth and in the common, that were laid in retribution for the lost light. It was tradition for a log of substantial size to be set aside each year to season throughout the year. On the night of the Yuletide celebration, this log was placed in the hearth and set alight. The celebrations began at the first flicker of flame and continued until the log was completely burnt through. A party, if you will, in defiance of the night.
These traditions were passed from generation to generation for these past millennia to modernity. Lights of every kind bedeck our homes and hearth. Fires, both electric and traditional, burn in hearths across the world. Millions of colored lights drape from tree and eaves give bright hope for the coming sunrise. Candles of every shape and scent burn soft radiance into the swaddling dark forging a pocket of borrowed daylight. Our celebrations may not end when the Yule log fades, but our defiance against the night continues.
Hope and light to you all, my dear readers, on this the longest night of the year.