Despite the snow and sleet that has been falling on us here in Cascadia for the last week now, today is officially the first day of Winter.  At 12:04 PM on Sunday, the days will start to become longer again.  I am sure that this can come none too soon for most of us.

This is as good a time of year as any to celebrate the year that was, and to look forward to the year that will be coming soon.  Historically, this was the point in the ancient times where folks would see out the old year and honor the coming of the new year.  While our modern calendar puts New Year’s Day on the first day of January, today might be a fine time to start looking at what new goals you night have for the year.About a week before the first of your friends asks you about your new years resolutions, you can use the occasion of the newborn solstice to actually come up with a constructive and well thought out answer to that question.

Whatever your situation, it cannot hurt to come up with a plan and some goals for the future year.  I find that it is easier to shop when you have a shopping list.  It is also easier to improve yourself and to meet your goals when you have a “shopping list” of sorts to help you organize the steps to those goals.

Ancient cultures celebrated the holiday called Yule at the time of the Winter Solstice:

  • Yule was a time to remember and be thankful for the successes of the old year.  It was also a time to reflect on what experiences the old year had brought.  It was a time to thank the Gods for the bounty that had been received during the year.
  • It was a time to gather together with family and friends to extend that friendship through to the next year.  One tradition associated with this was the giving of a simple gift, although it was more important simply to gather together.
  • It was a time to look forward to the lengthening of the days in the coming of the new year.   This was a time for the rebirth of the world itself, a rebirth of the bounty that God would provide in the Spring, and a rebirth of relationships.  It was a time to look forward to the great things that would happen in the future.

You and I certainly don’t celebrate Yule in exactly the same way as our ancestors, but it seems to me that there are a lot of good things that can come from the ideas that were celebrated then.

It is said that the modern celebration of Christmas is similar to that of the ancient Yule celebrations.  In our culture, our Christmas traditions today are still very similar.  We gather around, we exchange gifts, and in the Christian tradition, we celebrate the rebirth of God.  This is simply the evolution of our culture to our standards of today.

If I am disappointed in one thing, however, it is how Christmas has been trivialized into a gift giving and receiving orgy where greed has a larger place in the holiday celebration than the concept of a new beginning.

Have fun, do what you will, but be sure to spend a few moments today reflecting on the ideas that have been celebrated on this day for thousands of years.  I guarantee you will be a better person in the attempt.