Winter Solstice and Santa Lucia at Yule

The return of the sun this Winter Solstice day is a calendar milestone with an important impact on top of the northern hemisphere. The day has been celebrated for over ten thousand years throughout the world. Interpretations of the event has varied from culture to culture, but most have held recognition of rebirth, involving holidays involving light or candles, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations.
The end of the darkest period of the year is of course one important reason to celebrate in the Nordic countries. In Oslo (at 60°North) the capital of Norway, the sun rises at 09:19AM and sets at 3:12PM – to give you an idea, I took a picture from our neighbourhood around 3PM today with my Nokia mobile phone:
Winter Solstice and Yule in Norway #1
The Sun about to set in the horizon.

The celebrations are also direct connected to Yule, sometimes pronounced “you all” or “jol”, in Old Norse meaning “Feast” or “Wheel”. In the old Almanacs, the symbol of a wheel was used to mark Yuletide. The idea behind this is that the year turns like a wheel, The Great Wheel of the Zodiac, The Wheel of Life, of which the spokes are the old ritual occasions.

Winter Solstice & Lucia Celebration:
Now you maybe ask; what’s the connection? Well, I did a research for this post and found some you might like to know too – and of course I gladly share:
In Scandinavia, the solstice was celebrated with the Lucia Day, but when the Julian calendar was abandoned in favor of the Gregorian, one kept Lucia Celebration date for the 13th of December and came out of synchronization with the winter solstice. Observe also that on this day one should not work with something in a round shape or bake a cake! And also that the Yule ale should be completed by 22 December so you would not have “solstices” in it.

I know that in most of the rest of the world you say Christmas about the coming Holiday, but remember Yule has many pagan elements and more pagan history in its foundation and pagan rites than Christianity and has been celebrated since the beginning of time in the Northern Hemisphere. Many of the cultures located in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate Yule, all with a common theme, the birth of a God by the Goddess. Most of these Gods are associated with the Sun or with death and re-birth. Maybe not so strange when you know the fact that the days from now on will be longer – not to mention warmer! – Even if there is beauty in the view of the nature at this time. Like in this photo, also taken in the neighbourhood at Winter Solstice, also around 3PM, but in 2006:
Winter Solstice and Yule in Norway #2

We are still eagerly looking forward to the shift to longer days and the coming of spring, especially now at the darkest point in the travel around the sun. I hope that wherever you are and whatever you celebrate you remember also the celebration of the earth and the coming of spring – and may all your Christmases be bright if not white!