It’s a little startling when I look out the window, late in the afternoon, these days.
It’s especially startling for a sun person like me, cuz, well…there is no sun.
Well, that’s not true; there is a sun…it’s just been working on bankers hours for a while. Or what used to be considered bankers hours. This time of year, bankers work longer hours than the sun.
Sure, it’s the holiday season and everyone wants to kick back a little and close up shop early, but hey…come on…the sun has been slacking off, little by little, for a couple of months now.
What…it didn’t think we would notice?
I guess the good news is that we’re finally at the tipping point…the Winter Solstice. It comes upon us at 12:30 AM EST tomorrow morning. That is—or was— the morning of Thursday the 22nd to those of you “late to the party”, future readers.
At that moment, the sun stops dead in its downhill tracks, takes a deep breath, says “Oy” and from that point forward starts its looooong climb back up that ol' temporal mountain, all over again; adding a little bit more daylight, one step at a time.
Sure, he’ll linger around at the bottom for a while; maybe sip on a smoothie…even grab a quick nap before moving on...but by mid-January, we’ll look out the window and notice…hey, it’s not dark at 5 anymore!
So, for that reason, Winter Solstice has long been known as a festival of light or a celebration of the return of light. It’s the genesis of all this big holiday hoo ha taking place right now in most every culture, all around the world…including Christmas and Hanukkah, and the lesser known Feast of St Lucia, which honors the Swedish Patron Saint of light, and Yule, which honors the Russian Patron Saint of bald headed actors who starred in the King and I, some time ago.
And for every celebration…of course, there’s some kind of party, and ours is this Friday night.
Our 11th annual in fact, in this house, with quite a few more preceding that in the various other dwellings we’ve inhabited through the years; including that refrigerator box I lived in that one year right after the Regan administration. But it was a “side by side” refrigerator box, with an ice maker, so it wasn’t as tight a squeeze as you would think.
Our Winter Solstice party, disguised as a Christmas party, is somewhat different than our crazy out of control Summer Solstice party, which I wrote about back in June, as well as its aftermath. This party is a little more sedate without all of that Druid raucousness, and Morris dancing. No mazes to navigate or naked fire dancing. In fact the only similarities to Summer Solstice, at all, are the cloaked mystics that we invite back, each year, because they kind of look like the Wise Men and certain Shepherds in the field where they lay.
But for the most part it’s just quiet hors d'oeuvres and limbo dancing to Burl Ives.
For the most part….
They say the idea behind all the holiday partying and carrying on started back in ancient times—maybe the 50’s— when all the folks back then, weren’t sure they’d survive the harsh winter that was nipping at their nose. So they slaughtered the cattle, emptied the beer and wine casks, decked the halls with boughs of holly, and partied like there was no tomorrow, which, as I said, they figured was a good possibility.
That’s also kind of why we started having this Christmas party a long time ago, ourselves. We figured, following tradition, the harsh winters would eventually take their toll and the guest list would shrink by attrition. However, we failed to take into account central heating and electric blankets, not to mention modern pharmaceuticals and supermarkets…so, instead, the guest list has actually increased over the years.
But the more the merrier….
There’s also some history that says the ancient Roman’s, those crazy little merrymakers, during what they referred to as Saturnalia, would reverse the social order at this time of year as the “Masters” would host great feasts, becoming servants to their “slaves”, who were given the freedom to do and say what they liked. A “Mock King” was also elected to oversee the revelry.
Unfortunately, this tradition never took off at our party since it would have required the men, tearing themselves away from the beer cooler and TV, to wait on the women; at least according to how they see their roles. The women see it a bit differently, with which I tend to agree. Besides, the women pretty much always do and say what they like anyway, so no one saw an upside.
Of course once I heard about the “Mock King” thing, I thought I was the natural choice to take on that assignment. But it turned into a nightmare as the other guest took it to mean mocking the king, which ruined the whole thing, plus I later read that the “Mock King” was traditionally sacrificed at the end of the night, so the following year, I graciously passed it on to one of the cloaked mystics.
I know, what you’re thinking…what kind of host does that make me…pawning off my potential human sacrifice on some poor unsuspecting mystic?
Hey…he’s a mystic. He should have seen it coming.
Besides, who was gonna clean up the mess afterwards?
Well, yeah…Z…but who’ was gonna help her once they finally woke up in the morning.
Solstices can be very demanding.
For "A Hometown Christmas Story" visit the The Freelance Retort Sat. Dec. 24th.