Hi, I'm Pippa Jay, author of scifi and supernatural stories to engage your emotions. Are you all excited for Christmas? I may be celebrating something a little earlier...
Aside from Christmas itself, the winter solstice is my favourite day at this time of year. Why on Earth would the darkest day of the year and the first day of true winter be anyone's favourite?!
Well, not only do most of the Christmas traditions come from this pagan holiday, but it means after today...the days start getting longer again. Yay! Of course, we still have a couple of cold, dark months to go before we're back to spring, but those few extra minutes of daylight each passing day can make all the difference, even if in reality it's more the thought than any actual sunlight thanks to the traditional gloomy British weather.
The solstice marks the point when the sun is at its most southerly point, directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. Technically that will take place at 22:23 GMT today. Here, the winter solstice is still a major pagan festival celebrating rebirth, with many visiting Stonehenge to watch the sunrise. Many of the things we now associate as Christmas traditions have come from the pagan holiday, including Christmas trees, Yule logs, and mistletoe - evergreens such as holly and mistletoe being symbols of everlasting life.
It has also been the inspiration for a story that I'm working on. After struggling with the concept of Christmas in Spaaaaaace!, I went back to basics. Since many of our modern holidays came from pagan origins based around seasonal changes (which in turn have planetary causes), I figured that while holidays like Christmas might not survive in its current form, perhaps colonizers of other planets would go back to astronomical events. Landing Day, of course, but whatever the planet it would have its own solstices and equinoxes that could be used for celebrations new or old. So instead I wrote a winter solstice story (and maybe one day I'll actually finish it!).
So while Christmas is the big holiday for my family at this time of year, I will raise a glass of hot berry cordial to toast out the day as I look forward to those few extra minutes of even the murkiest daylight tomorrow, and maybe use the cold and gloom to help me finish that solstice story.