It’s the Most Magical Time of the Year
Today, Dec. 21, is the winter solstice. It is either the shortest day of the year, or the longest night, depending on your point of view.
The winter solstice kicks off the 12 nights of the Yuletide (Dec. 21 to Jan. 1). The ancient Germans believed that during this period, a host of ghostly hunters known as the “Wild Hunt” would ride across the night skies. They were led by Odin, whose many roles included the god of the dead.
The hunters mimicked the sounds of howling winds and storms as they swept up the souls of the dead as well as any unlucky live person and animal who crossed their path.
The Yuletide feast was a sacrifice to secure blessings from Odin and the other gods for abundant crops and livestock in the spring.
I’m originally from Singapore, where there are only two seasons: miserably hot with possible thunderstorms, or slightly less hot with possible thunderstorms.
As a child growing up on a tropical island, I was introduced to winter in books such as Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising, and C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
One scene in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will always stay with me. When Lucy pushes through the coats in the wardrobe and finds herself in … Narnia. She crunches over the snow and sees a lamppost. A faun steps out from the trees into the light.
What a wonderful gateway into The Chronicles of Narnia. I realized then, as I hope millions of children continue to do, that books are the key to magic and wonder.
The Dark Is Rising also takes place in the winter. In fact, the book starts on the eve of the winter solstice, right before a bad snowstorm. It’s the first book I read—and my favorite—of Susan Cooper’s amazing five-book series.
The book allowed me to experience winter through Cooper’s beautiful writing. And it sparked my love for mythology and folklore.
By the way, Cooper’s series is so popular that there is even a Facebook group that hosts an annual worldwide readathon of the books starting around the end of November. Check it out!
Stay warm, and enjoy the magic of the season.