“Dark is the hour, long the night.” –Walter de la Mare, Christmas Eve
In the northern hemisphere, Winter solstice is the longest night of the year. In northern and middle Europe, it is a time of dark and cold. “Solstice” comes from two Latin words meaning “sun stays,” and describes the day when, from an earthly perspective, the sun seems to pause in its journey along the horizon and begins to retrace its steps. Winter nights grow steadily shorter, and days longer.
Solstice is a holiday that reminds us that even though we’re deep in darkness, and it seems endless, the days will get warmer, lighter. It’s the holiday that reminds us to have hope, even if we’re feeling despair.
December 25 is Christmas in the tradition of the Latin/western Christian sects (it’s celebrated on a different date in the Eastern Orthodox ones). Christmas is the story of a couple who are second-class citizens in their own land, occupied by an imperial nation, oppressed both by the might of the invaders and the powers of their own co-opted religious leaders. Poor, without rights or privilege, the woman delivers a child who is considered divine.
In the belief system of the nation that ruled them, Rome, December 25 was the birthday of the sun god, Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun.
Christmas is a holiday about the appearance of wonder; the spark of the miraculous.
On January 5, twelve days after the birth of wonder, the mythology tells us that three wise kings from the Far East came to where the mother and baby were. The offered the impoverished family gifts of incense and gold. This is Epiphany, or Theophany in the Eastern Orthodox calendar.
The common definition of epiphany is “revelation,” a discovery or a moment when something is acknowledged. “Theophany” means the manifestation or appearance of God (usually to a person).
Epiphany is the holiday of acknowledging the wonder that has been brought forth.
What spark of wonder will you allow to come forth this dark, cold month? And how will you honor it, or acknowledge it, on Epiphany? What gifts will you pledge to bring, to honor your own spark of the miraculous? Will you decide to speak of your own creative work, your connection to the divine, unapologetically, with pride? Will you set aside some time to honor it, each day? Will you share your creativity at open mikes, by submitting your work to publishers, by displaying your art?
The mythical kings brought gold, frankincense and myrrh. What will your three kings bring?