Tag Archives: Christmas Tree

Winter Solstice: an evocative poem

Tonight we will  flick drops of malt whisky onto our fully lit and decorated tree on the night of the Winter Solstice. Midwinter magic has returned!We do this every year – and every year I remind family members present for the ritual that this tree has a very ancient pedigree. Looking for a poem which captures both the feeling and the history, I found this one to share with you, wherever you are this night:

Ancient Akkadians honouring their Tree of Life

Ancient Akkadians honouring their Tree of Life

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!

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200 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Susan Cooper 2013

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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The year 2011 begins……with Dylan Thomas and ancient Akkadians !

I am gazing through our wide bay window towards the shadowy hills, as city lights illuminate a cold, rainy early January night.  A very bare bay window. Where have all the jewels of multi-coloured reflection gone? Back to the ‘Otherworld’, the Romantic in me thinks. Waiting, waiting for another year……

Today we took our Christmas Tree down. This day is always ‘throat-slitting day’ in the calendar of our New Year. We rarely wait for Epiphany to carry out this doleful task. After New Year’s day is over, the richly decorated, multi-coloured glowing beauty of our tree ceases to bring us comfort and magic in the heart of winter, and stands before us reproachfully (as we imagine), waiting to be dismantled, recycled. We cannot bear to prolong this post-festive inevitability. And now it’s done.

Here I stand, in the bare, empty, dusted, wiped, hoovered space left behind. What comfort is to be found in this bleak moment? My husband has the right idea.He is off to the pub with my brother – the third tree-dismemberer.

I stand, and stand, remembering the magic, remembering how we flicked some malt whisky on the fully lit and decorated tree on the night of the Winter Solstice. We do this every year too – and every year I remind my  family members present for this ritual that  this tree has a very ancient pedigree. Consider the following quote, from :     http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmas_tree.htm

“……The Prophet Jeremiah condemned as Pagan the ancient Middle Eastern practice of cutting down trees, bringing them into the home and decorating them. Of course, these were not really Christmas trees, because Jesus was not born until centuries later, and the use of Christmas trees was not introduced for many centuries after his birth. Apparently, in Jeremiah’s time the “heathen” would cut down trees, carve or decorate them in the form of a god or goddess, and overlay it with precious metals……”

 

 

The need to bring comfort and cheer and significance to that cold dark time in the Northern Hemisphere, when the Sun’s warmth seems a distant longed-for memory, is a very ancient one. This thought comforts me, as it does every year. I like to feel part of the ancient river of humanity as I stand here in my 21st century bare bay window.

Dylan Thomas’ famous line from the poem “And death shall have no dominion” comes to mind:

‘Though lovers be lost, love shall not……’

This tree may have been sacrificed by us, but its spirit lives on in that bare window space, inhabiting another world, waiting to be given form yet again when the seasons turn and we feel yet again a powerful need to affirm that the life force is still with us – just gathering its strength in the dormancy of winter.

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500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2011

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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