The winter solstice will happen tomorrow night.

But for the first time in 465 years there’s a moon eclipse too. The last time that happened, Henry the VIII was king and  got with the wife killings to number 4:  Anne Cleeves. The summer of that year, England declared war on France.

So, in the interest of having people know when to watch, I am posting this some hours early. This is what’s happening tonight

.The times are EST. (2:41 starts changing color, total for 73 minutes, culminates at 3:17 AM)

The colors are real and you can see a slide show here

I will wake up to see at least the beginning of the amber phase (the moon is in the Earth’s shade, but some light still reaches it hence the unusual color)

Being solstice the moon will be very high in the sky – and if you live in North America you’re in luck (assuming the clouds don’t mess this up for us)

Then on to solstice celebrations – that will culminate at 6:38 PM EST – which is the astronomical time of the solstice.

My favorite thing about the solstice is its unconditional nature.

There’s nobody keeping lists on you to decide whether the light will come back for you or not.

The sun has been said, shines the same on the king as on the beggar. And the solstice brings the light back for all, even those whose means of existence are frozen and cut. It’s democratic. And it’s certain. And it inspired Christmas and all the other major celebrations this time a year.

I have been looking for inspiration in ancient celebrations elsewhere. This caught my attention

In Ancient Greece, the winter solstice ritual was called Lenaea, the Festival of the Wild Women. In very ancient times, a man representing the harvest god Dionysos was torn to pieces and eaten by a gang of women on this day. Later in the ritual, Dionysos would be reborn as a baby. Fortunately, by classical times, the human sacrifice had been replaced by the killing of a goat and eventually the women’s role had changed to that of funeral mourners and observers of the birth. At this time, wine miracles were performed by the priests. Priests would seal water or juice in a room overnight and the next day they would have turned into wine. The miracle was said to have been performed by Dionysos.

Hmmm… Some balance has been lost since the old ritual ceased to be performed.

I found one from the old country I didn’t know about

In Romania, there’s a traditional Christmas confection called a turta. It is made of many layers of pastry dough, filled with melted sugar or honey, ground walnuts, or hemp seed.
In this tradition, with the making of the cake families enact a lovely little ceremony to assure the fruitfulness of their orchard come spring. When the wife is in the midst of kneading the dough, she follows her husband into the wintry garden. The man goes from barren tree to tree, threatening to cut each one down. Each time, the wife urges that he spare the tree by saying:

“Oh no, I am sure that this tree will be as heavy with fruit next spring as my fingers are with dough this day.”

The gardener in me loves that one.

We will however do something involving darkness and light and 6:38 PM.

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