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Winter Solstice                   

I should point out though, that the idea of Christmas has waxed and waned throughout history, and the current “goodwill to all men” version only really surfaced about 170 years ago. In our house we tend to celebrate as if it were Christmas without the nativity and a few days early! We have a ham as that is a very ancient tradition, and I have been down to visit Stonehenge for the sunrise and sunset. The argument for this being the main alignment is that there is an avenue that leads from the river Avon up to Stonehenge. If you stand on this avenue at sunset on the solstice, the sun sets in the middle of the stones. (This feels more natural than being inside the stones at summer solstice and looking back along the avenue to the sunrise.)

In terms of colours and decorations, we go for dark greens, reds, golds – in short anything bright that is likely to lift the spirits. I try to get out and collect greenery – particularly holly and ivy. I've already discussed the significance of Holly, and Ivy can be taken to represent the Goddess. Also, fir, whether in boughs or as a Christmas tree, is important because it stays green across the winter. All these plants are seen as holding life in trust while all around is sleeping.

The hardest thing I find in celebrating the Winter Solstice in the modern world is that I see it as one of eight equally important seasonal festivals. In my mind it should rank  the same as Lammas and Imbolc. But in the modern world it has become a huge, commercial monster, dominating media and consumer culture from October onwards. So, in our house, despite the fact we have children, we try to rein things in a bit, while still celebrating and feeling the joy that the festival brings.

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