"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag
Three Days to Christmas: The Return of the Light

Three Days to Christmas: The Return of the Light

From The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice by Carolyn McVickar Edwards:

“On March 31, 1880, thousands of people gathered in Wabash, Indiana, the first American municipality to be lit by electric lights. Bands played, guns fired salutes, and then the lights sprang to life. A hush fell over the crowd. Some people groaned and fell to their knees.

“They’d moved from dark to light, and no amount of jaded neon expectations more than a century later, can completely obscure, even for us, the wonder of that vigil. For we, too, whether consciously or subliminally, even in the midst of our wildly wired lives, keep that same vigil each year at the winter solstice.

“Solstice: from the Latin sol stetit meaning sun stood still. For six days in the northern hemisphere’s December, the sun ceases its southerly crawl on the horizon and appears to rise and set in almost the same spot. The ancients watched this quiet drama with drawn breath. Would the sun begin to move again? Would the light grow anew on the great wheel of life? Would life itself continue?

“A few millennia and several hundred generations later, our own deepest questions, though not so literal as those of our ancestors, are nonetheless profound…. At the moment of winter solstice, we stand at the brink of external and internal change….

“Now, at the winter solstice, we ask ourselves: What are the private and shared natures of our inner and outer boundaries? What is our place in the great cycle? What are the actions and restraints required of us? Since time out of mind humans have marked the externally vital crossing from dark to light….

“Though we now light our world with bulbs and take for granted not only the external day but often even our food, we still make of the return of the sun’s light a joyful metaphor for social and personal renewal.”

From The Puffin Book of Christmas Poems by Wes Magee:

Carols drift across the night
Holly gleams by candlelight
Roaring fire, a spooky tale
Ice and snow and wind and hail
Santa seen in High Street store
Television… more and more
Mince pies, turkey, glass of wine
Acting your own pantomime
Socks hung up. It’s Christmas time!

From “Christmas Lights” in Christmas: A Short History from Solstice to Santa by Andy Thomas:

“Christmas tree lightbulbs have been around since the 1880s, replacing the somewhat dangerous tradition of clipped-on candles, but as cheaper and better electrical lights became available to the American public, not only did trees but entire houses start to illuminate December nights. The world would soon follow suit — the occasionally garish results of which are seen each year. And yet, within them, the seasonal message of light in the darkness remains, and, done tastefully, these displays can be magical.”


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