Winter Solstice &
The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper
So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseaching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can here them
Echoing, behind us – listen!
All the long echoes sing the same delight
This shortest day
As promise wakens the sleeping land.
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends, and hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year, and every year.
“All The Long Echoes Sing The Same Delight”
RITUALS THAT CONNECT US
From the very beginning of time, there is the sun. We see it in spring, summer, autumn and winter. We notice some days are long with light and warmth, and others are dark with bleakness and cold. In the darkness we invent rituals to remind us of the light, to bring in the new year, to represent a new beginning, to herald the rebirth of life.
These rituals become traditions that we celebrate, whether or not we remember where they came from. Many rituals are celebrated with food to represent good fortune in the months to come. In Asia long noodles represent longevity. In Spain twelve grapes are eaten at midnight as the clock chimes to symbolize the months ahead. Round foods of all kinds evoke the year’s turning. In Greece a pomegranate is broken open; the more seeds, the more good luck awaits. Fish are prized for three luck-related reasons: their scales resemble coins, they always swim forward, and schools of them symbolize abundance.
Here are a few of the traditions that are celebrated during this time of year.
- Las Posadas December 1 – 24
- Saint Nicholas Day December 6
- Bodhi Day December 8
- Chanukah December 10 – 18
- St. Lucia Day December 13
- Winter Solstice December 21
- Yalda December 21
- Pancha Ganapati December 21 – 25
- Christmas December 25
- Kwanzaa December 26 – January 1
- Oshogatsu January 1
- New Year’s Day January 1
- Eastern Russian Orthodox Christmas January 7
Diwali - Festival of Lights
Although there are many versions of this five day celebration, the common thread is the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. Held during the end of October or early November, Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists. It marks the beginning of the New Year and is the biggest and brightest festival, celebrated with feasts, family, friends and fireworks. Homes are decorated, legends are spoken, and prayers are shared. On the first day rows of candles or oil lamps called diyas are set up, and rangoli designs are created. Day two is for shopping and cooking. Day three is the darkest day of the lunar calendar and the diyas are lit and fireworks set off. On day four families share meals, and on the final day the bonds between brothers and sisters are celebrated.
September 18-20 - September 27-28, 2020
rōSH (h)əˈSHōnə yawm -kip-er
לְשָׁנָה טוֹבָה L'shanah tovah
To a good year
The Jewish High Holidays, among the most religiously significant dates in the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are a blend of joy and solemnity. Celebrated according to the Soli-lunar calendar, in which the months begin on the new moon and last either 29 or 30 days, this period of the “Days of Awe” falls on different dates each year. Rosh Hashanah (literally “head of the year” or New Year) begins this time with prayer, the shofar (ram’s horn) blasts, and celebration. A week later Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) focuses on fasting, prayer, and seeking forgiveness. With their blend of feasting and fasting, atonement and forgiveness, and celebration and renewal, these Jewish holidays, observed both at home and in the synagogue, welcome a new year’s season that is both liberating and spiritually uplifting.
JUNETEENTH - joon·teenth
(a combination of “June” and “nineteenth”)
Also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Cel-Liberation Day
Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, is the oldest US celebration commemorating the end of slavery. Although Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation becomes official on January 1, 1863, not all slaves in Confederate territories are immediately free; it isn’t until June 19, 1865 that the last slaves, living in Texas, are informed of their freedom. The reactions range from shock to jubilation, and the African American celebration, coined Juneteenth, is born. It is a time for reassurance, prayer, food (barbecue!), and gathering of family.
Today this African American holiday celebrates Emancipation, racial progress, and ancestors, highlighted by family gatherings and good eats. Milwaukee hosts one of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in our country. The Juneteenth flag’s star represents new freedom and the red-white-blue colors communicate that the slaves and their descendants are all Americans. Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday in 47 states, and activists are currently pushing Congress to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday.
Ramadan Mubarak "Blessed Ramadan"
April 23 - May 23, 2020
Ramadan is celebrated in the Islamic calendar’s ninth month. It is a month-long time of fasting between dawn and sunset with special opportunities to reflect on faith and history. Muslims believe that it is during this time that the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the prophet, Muhammad. Families and friends gather to pray and share in suhoor or meals before sunrise and evening iftars to break the daylong fast. At the appearance of the new moon Ramadan ends with a joyful three day feast called Eid al-Fitr, which includes traditional meals, sharing of gifts, prayers, and acts of charity.
Chinese New Year - Spring Festival
Chun Jie / CHUN gee-EH
Spring Festival in China celebrates the beginning of the lunar calendar or new year. The festivities take place in January or February for fifteen days from the evening preceding the first day of the year through the concluding Lantern Festival. Fireworks and anything red are used to ward off the mythological monster, Nian, who is afraid of loud sounds and reddish color. The celebration is a time to honor ancestors and gather for feasting. It is, also, a traditional time to clean homes, seeping away bad luck, and to give money in red paper envelopes, called hongbao, for good health and happiness. Processionals and parades fill the streets with giant dragons.