“Late lies the wintery sun a bed,
Frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and the a blood red orange, sets again”
This sample from the poem “Winter Time” by Robert Louis Stevenson evokes warmth about this magical time of year.
Winter Solstice or the December Solstice is either on December 20th, 21st, 22nd, or 23rd. It is when the North Pole is tilted furthest from the sun, directly over the Tropic of
Capricorn. It is a astronomical phenomenon marking the day with the longest night of the year and the shortest period of day light.
The Winter Solstice this year will fall on Friday 21st December, leading us through the gateway to Christmas celebrations.
Winter Solstice is seen as midwinter, which musters up the longing for warm, crackling fires, quiet corners with a book and suppers with friends after a bracing walk across this beautiful Downland that creates an ever changing canvas to Deans Place.
A short walk from the hotel, along the River Cuckmere and up onto the Downs takes you to the giant of the South Downs; The Long Man of Wilmington. Steeped in Pagan
history there will often be celebrations to mark the “Feast of the Unforgotten Sun” with rituals of rebirth, which morning walkers can watch with nostalgic enthusiasm. These midwinter celebrations date back more than 7,000 years to Neolithic times. The solstice ceremonies are founded on a belief that the falling light will never return without praise, worship and festivities.
Many midwinter traditions we now associate with Christmas, including the ubiquitous Christmas Tree, yule logs and romantic mistletoe also hold their roots to the ancient Winter Solstice festival. Druids used evergreen trees, mistletoe and holly as symbols of everlasting life. However, the cutting of the trees and bringing them into our homes to decorate was a tradition started much later by the Victorians.
Yule is the name given to Winter Solstice in Scandinavia. The Yule log was an entire tree brought into the home and burnt on the fire with great ceremony. This tradition began around the 12th century. The largest end would be burnt on midwinter and the rest fed to the fire throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas. This custom spread all across Europe manifesting in different ways. Now, of course we hint to the tradition with an indulgent chocolate yule log or “Buche de Noel” which is enjoyed often over the Christmas period.
“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again” – Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.