It’s Winter Solstice, when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted the furthest away from the Sun as it is all year. Today is the shortest day of the year and tonight the longest night.
Many of our Western traditions at this time of year come from the twelve-day winter solstice celebration observed in Scandinavia and Germany, called Yule. Some of these customs include the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath, and the Yule log.
The Yule Log is interesting. The tradition of burning the Yule Log is a Nordic custom that dates back to medieval times. Originally, the Yule Log was an entire tree that folks cut down and brought into the home. Why anyone would want to burn a big tree in their house, I dunno. But it certainly seems more exciting than our modern Yule Log tradition, which consists of several hours worth of video footage of a fireplace with a burning log accompanied by holiday music.
The only Buddhist celebration for this time of year that I know about is “Sangamitta”, which commemorates the entry into the Buddhist sangha of the daughter of famous King Ashoka, Sangamitta, and her brother, Mahinda. This Theravadin tradition is held on the full moon day of December.
The bad news is that tomorrow is the first day of winter. On the positive side, before very long the sun will begin to rise earlier and the days will be longer, and best of all, it is only 83 days until Daylight Savings time.
I’m sure you already know all this stuff. But, I’ll bet you don’t know the net weight of winter. That’s a fun fact I learned years ago from the late poet Richard Brautigan:
The Net Wt. of Winter is 6.75 Ozs
A month ago I bought a huge tube
of Crest tooth paste and when I put it
in the bathroom, I looked at it
and said, “Winter.”
The poem is from Brautigan’s collection of poetry Rommel Drives On Deep into Egypt.