Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter Solstice Services 2015: The Christian and the Pagan

Each year I do a brief run down of winter solstice services in the church. The Episcopal church has top billing because out of all the "mainline" denominations, they seem to be especially prone to this sort of syncretism.

First up is repeat offender, St. Brigit Episcopal Church in Frederick, Colorado.
"Áit Caol (pronounced atch qweel) – Gaelic for A Thin Place. Please join us as we celebrate the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. Áit Caol began in 2012, and this will be our fourth Winter Solstice Service. These services are created to offer the community an experience of God through a unique liturgy, which combines ancient tradition with contemporary language. They include specially designed meditation areas, reflecting the Scriptural lessons, and sacred music with an ethereal sound.
If you’ve never attended an Áit Caol service, this is a great time to start! The services have been featured in the Colorado Episcopalian and often attract people from as far as 50 miles away."

Next up is Saint Anne's Episcopal Church in Minnesota,
"Winter Solstice Service: Honoring the darkness, welcoming the light with scripture, poetry, silence and song. Afterwards we'll have a bonfire, cookies, and cocoa. Monday, December 21, 7 p.m." 

And you can't forget the grandaddy of them all, The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine NYC,
"People practiced special rituals intended to entice the sun’s return. Bonfires and candles, with their imitative magic, helped fortify the waning sun and ward off the spirits of darkness. These symbols live on in our modern seasonal customs: the candles of Hanukkah and Christmas are kin to the fiery rites of old, which celebrated the miracle of the earth’s renewal.
These traditions reflect our need to come together in times of extended darkness. We celebrate not only the rebirth of the sun, but the community of life on earth.
Paul Winter’s Winter Solstice celebrates the spirit of the holidays within the extraordinary acoustics of New York’s greatest Cathedral. A dazzling extravaganza of music and dance, these performances offer a contemporary take on ancient solstice rituals, when people gathered together on the longest night of the year to welcome the return of the sun and the birth of the new year. The event has become New York’s favorite holiday alternative to the Nutcracker and Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular."

“An immersive, multimedia extravaganza, as grand and expansive as its location.”
– The New York Times
“Feasts for the ears and eyes”
– Wall Street Journal
“We dare you to keep a smile off your face as Theresa Thomason belts gospel tunes and the giant earth ball soars to the ceiling of the spectacular Byzantine cathedral.”
– Gotham Magazine
“Fueled by Winter’s soaring soprano saxophone, the annual concerts unfold as a spectacle of theatre, dance and music from around the world.”
– National Public Radio

Next we have to check out the Unitarian Universalists, First Parish in Hingham, MA, Unitarian Universalist, known as Old Ship Church,
"Winter Solstice Poetry Circle:This season's Crossing Time is the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year which heralds the return of light. Leave the busyness of the holiday rush and come share and replenish creative energy. Bring a poem to read or speak or simply come and listen. The choral quintet Crossroads will perform some winter carols and poetry set to music. Come and bring a friend. All are welcome.
Next up is the Unitarian Universalist Society of Fairhaven,
"Tuesday, December 22 at 7pm. We each take a candle, walk the spiral, letting go of the attachments of the year. We light the candle from the chalice in the center of the spiral, then retrace our steps as we ponder the possibilities of a new year and find a spot to lay the candle along the spiral. After all candles are lit and placed, we experience the magic of light and possibility. If you wish to help build the spiral with us, bring your winter greens at 6 pm."
And we have the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, Kennebunk, Maine.
“Spirit of Darkness,” 7 p.m., winter solstice celebration with drumming and dancing.  Free and open to the public. All ages welcome. Bring drums and finger foods to share along with a nonperishable food for the York County Shelter Programs and the Community Outreach Services.

And it would be non-inclusive of me to leave out the pagans of the Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve in the southwestern Wisconsin.

"Pagans today can readily re-Paganize Christmastime and the secular New Year by giving a Pagan spiritual focus to existing holiday customs and by creating new traditions that draw on ancient ways. Here are some ways to do this:"
  • Celebrate Yule with a series of rituals, feasts, and other activities.
  • Adorn the home with sacred herbs and colors. Decorate your home in Druidic holiday colors red, green, and white. 
  • Convey love to family, friends, and associates. 
  • Reclaim Santa Claus as a Pagan Godform.
  • Honor the Goddess as Great Mother. Place Pagan Mother Goddess images around your home. You may also want to include one with a Sun child, such as Isis with Horus.
  • Honor the new solar year with light. Do a Solstice Eve ritual in which you meditate in darkness and then welcome the birth of the sun by lighting candles and singing chants and Pagan carols. 
  • Contribute to the manifestation of more wellness on Planet Earth. Donate food and clothing to poor in your area. Volunteer time at a social service agency. Put up bird feeders and keep them filled throughout the winter to supplement the diets of wild birds. Donate funds and items to non-profit groups, such as Pagan/Wiccan churches and environmental organizations. Meditate for world peace. Work magic for a healthier planet. Make a pledge to do some form of good works in the new solar year.
For those who continue to try to justify these services as either too deep for me to get or too harmless to pay attention to, let me leave you with a bizarre winter solstice prayer complete with flaming pentagrams in the video below.

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