December 21-Winter Solstice
Music is a fair and glorious gift of God proclaims Ecclesiastes and no other time holds the gift of music as Christmas. Carols, choirs, children’s voices all remind us we as musical people are blessed with a true and innate gift of spirit. As we fully enter the holiday season, it’s important to recognize and respect how different cultures celebrate the closing of the year.
This season is built around ancient celebrations of the winter solstice which falls on or about December 21. Before the birth of Christ, the Roman Empire already celebrated December 25 as the birthday of various pagan gods. Most of our symbols of Christmas are of pagan origin. And pagans, of course, are closely tied to the earth, our primary source, our first father and mother and teacher.
Nature makes its way indoors at Christmas as we bring Christmas trees, poinsettas, and holly into our homes. We light fires and burn Yule logs, which is a traditional Scandanavian ritual. In ancient times, after 5 weeks of darkness, scouts were sent to the mountaintop to look for sunlight. When the light was discovered peeking over the mountain, the scouts would return to their homes to burn a Yule log and spread the joyous news that light had returned to the earth.
The birth of Christ, the enlightenment of Buddha, the numerous sun celebrations of ancient Rome and Ireland, Judas Maccabee’s miracle of eight days of continuous fire without enough oil to sustain the lamp, all symbolize the entrance of light and hope into the world after a time of darkness.
Create your own light this holiday season. Mark the month with your gift of music to others. Sing in the choir, offer your services as a musician to a church or synagogue or non profit organization. Learn a few carols and play at a school for children. Be aware of spreading good cheer as you entertain at holiday parties and functions. Try to remove yourself from the commercial concept of Christmas and focus on bringing the light, love energy and joy of your musical gifts to a weary world. “Look at the faces in the dancehall at the moment the music strikes up,” says Herman Hesse in Steppenwolf, “how eyes sparkle and faces begin to laugh. That is why one makes music.”