Winter days are short. Bright sunny winter days are in short supply. So why when then sun shines do we shut it out? Probably to stop folk like me from whiling away the office hours by staring out of the window. Mind you, the view really isn’t that inspiring, just the office car park. Not sure what I really expect to see though? herds of wildebeest roaming the prairie? the Niagara Falls? To be honest I would have settled for the car park.
Apparently, the solstice fell on a nice clear winters day but who could tell. And they say work place depression is on the rise - no shit, Sherlock.
Out of the darkness comes light, so they say. Even though I was late and missed the actual solstice by a day I ran up to the top of Clachnaben to watch the sun set and I was rewarded with stunning skies, reds and pinks and blues and although the pictures below are pretty good given they were taken with just a phone they don’t in any way capture the intensity of the colour and the dazzling brightness that I was met with as I summited the hill against the back drop of the black mountainsides.
I took a lot of photos. I stayed until I had got pretty chilled, I was shivering so much I was taking blurry photos before it occurred to me it would be a good idea to put a jacket on before reluctantly turning around and descending the hill slowly in the encroaching darkness. I went on to a party thrown by a hill runner for a lot of other hill runners who themselves had gone to the summit of Morven in the dark. Now that’s a good way to celebrate the solstice. In fact, I’m all in favour of replacing the commercial hell of Christmas with solstice celebrations, bring back standing stones, mistletoe and druids! Basically, any form of celebration that doesn’t involve going to Union Square to actually have to buy something.
I wonder what would really happen if we were to celebrate the solstice or yuletide instead of or (heaven forbid) as well as Christmas? It would almost certainly be hijacked by commercialism if the chance to make money out of it presents itself like so many other little traditions have been. Do you think B&Q would stock various types of yule log to cater for all tastes and sizes of house? Only to be undercut by cheaper versions from Aldi or Asda? Maybe you would also be able to buy Plastic Living flame style yule logs which could be put in the attic and carted out every year. Maybe you would be able to buy a mini Stonehenge for the back garden.
Throughout the world there were all sorts of variations on the theme of celebrations of the winter solstice ranging from the chinese Dongzhi Festival, the Scandinavian Feast of Juul to my own personal favourite, the Roman feast of Saturnalia which basically amounted to a week-long bender. If anyone is thinking of re-enacting the Feast of Saturnalia then I believe, according to roman custom, that there was the necessity for a human sacrifice to close the celebrations. After the last two weeks I've had that’s not an entirely unappealing thought right now.
Even then I suspect M&S would be desperate to convince us that no Roman party would be truly complete with out a knocked down price Vienetta and a box of Ferrero Rocher.
Happy Solstice folks!