The winter solstice was yesterday. Even in the modern world, we feel it on some visceral level. Imagine what it was like just a hundred and fifty years ago. Without electricity, furnaces, or grocery stores, living in a farmhouse with a couple of oil lamps for light and a cast iron stove for cooking and heat. When winter settled in and the days grew short and all the food you had to see you though was what was already stored.

Think back further, to what life was like for century after century. After the harvests, when the cold and the darkness dominated the world. The days grew short and the sun was weak when it was there at all. When the days turned and began to grow longer again, though it could not be felt, each day moved toward light and spring and a new growing season.

When Christianity was expanding, they overlaid their celebrations on the old ones. Easter for the spring equinox, All Saints Day for the fall, and Christmas for the solstice. It is now so a part of of our cultural heritage that we don’t think of it.

Here, on the shortest days of the year, we gather with family, we decorate with lights and evergreen trees, we cook and feast, and even though it seems like there is so much darkness, we celebrate the coming of the Light into the world in a most unlikely way.

In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer.
–Albert Camus