This year we had 9 friends join us, which was quite nice given that this year our celebration was in the middle of a work week, and some had a drive of more then an hour to get here during a rainy and stormy day.
We ate a hearty meal together, and then gathered in the living room in front of our fireplace. I opened reading the following text (written by me, but many thanks to Fen Labalme for some of the better phrasing):
We have come together this evening to celebrate the end of the solar year. Today the darkness arrived early, and tomorrow it will leave us late, giving us the longest night.M then guided us through two rituals. Girst we each wrote on three different pieces of paper "Five things that we are thankful for", "Five things that we we wish to bring into our lives", and "Five things we wish to release". The last everyone was given an opportunity to burn the last list in our fireplace if they chose to.
When night triumphs over the day, people of many cultures share a tradition of lights and candles. We share food with our neighbors and we tell stories — all to help drive the dark away. The winter’s solstice marks a point in time where we share together that we have made it this far, that we have survived the days of darkness. For tonight, we are not alone, and new light is just within our reach.
The winter’s solstice is is a time of turning tides, for one earth cycle to end another to begin. It a time for endings, but it is also a time for beginnings. It is a time for looking both forward and backward, and to look at other turns of the wheel for the direction our lives have gone. It is a time to bid a fond farewell to the paths not taken — and to do so without regret — before we look ahead to the future. It is a time for reflection and change.
In the quiet stillness of this night, reach deep inside yourself and feel the pulse of darkness, of all that which has held you back. Now is the time to let it go and choose to be free. Look to the growing light, rejoice with its birth, and breathe the invigorating air of new opportunity.
Tonight, join with your friends and rejoice as we awaken and welcome the dawning of the new sun, a new year, and sing of our own rebirth. May the coming of the new light bring joy and peace to all!
Next M led us through a guided meditation where we thought over each month of the past year, reviewed our relationships from the perspectives of forgiveness and love, visualized what gift the universe had to give us, and left room for that which is new to come into our lives.
After the meditation ritual, we read poetry to each other, sung songs, or told stories. I offered two poems, one written that very solstice day by yezida called Prometheus Shall Rise (I only read part 1). I loved the immediacy of a poem written the same day brought to me over the web from someone that I don't even know.
In contrast, the second poem was "I Died as a Mineral" by the 12th century poet Rumi:
I Died as a MineralI found the Rumi poem when reading a blog post by Farah Marie Mokhtareizadeh where she also talked about the Shebe Yalda, which is the Pharsi (Iranian/Afghan/Persian) solstice celebration that turns out to be very similar to the one that M and I have been holding for years:
I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar
With angels blest; but even from angelhood
I must pass on: all except God doth perish.
When I have sacrificed my angel-soul,
I shall become what no mind e'er conceived.
Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence
Proclaims in organ tones, 'To Him we shall return.'
Tomorrow is the Shebe Yalda, which is Pharsi for the Winter Solstice or “rebirth of the Sun.” It is a joyful time as it is the turning point in the year where the night is the longest and the light only grows stronger. It is celebrated as a joyous holiday where family and friends join round a Korsee (large brass ornate table), drink chi (tea), tell stories or read poetry and eat pomegranates, watermelon and apricots until the sun returns to us after her sweeping sabbatical. There is much joy in this celebration as it is a time where there is an exceptional sense of idealism as trust grows stronger after each hour of darkness and finally when the light descends upon the full and trusting heart it shines brighter, bolder.I was really pleased by the poetry, storytelling, and song brought by my other guests. W told one of his famous silly but wise Mulla Nasruddin stories, K sung two of his songs on guitar, and others brought poems from many different cultures and centuries from the 11th to present.
After the poetry and songs we broke into conversation, catching up with other, and nibbling on desserts.
After our guests left for home M and I lit a candle in our bedroom which we left glowing until dawn.