Sunday Dinner: In Peace

Christmas Eve morning in our garden

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“In the end, only three things matter:
how much you loved,
how gently you lived,
and how gracefully you let go of things
not meant for you.”
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Gautama Buddha
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“There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.”
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Gautama Buddha
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“The day the power of love
overrules the love of power,
the world will know peace.”
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Mahatma Gandhi
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“Truth is the same always.
Whoever ponders it
will get the same answer.
Buddha got it.
Patanjali got it.
Jesus got it.
Mohammed got it.
The answer is the same,
but the method of working it out
may vary this way or that.”
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Swami Satchidananda
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“You are the community now.
Be a lamp for yourselves.
Be your own refuge.
Seek for no other.
All things must pass.
Strive on diligently.
Don’t give up.”
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Gautama Buddha
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

*

“As you walk and eat and travel,
be where you are.
Otherwise you will miss most of your life.”
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Gautama Buddha
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“For the good of the many,
for the happiness of the many,
out of compassion for the world.”
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Gautama Buddha
~

 

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Solstice Sunset

Powhatan Creek at sunset on Winter Solstice.

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Today we celebrate the Winter Solstice, that time of year when days are short and nights are long.  Our day in Williamsburg, Virginia, began at 7:17 AM with sunrise, and ended at 4:53 PM as the sun set.  Our day was nine hours and 36 minutes long today.

But, as I look at a table of sunrise and sunset times, I notice that yesterday, and everyday since last Sunday, has been exactly the same length.  The difference is that the sunrise was a minute or two later, but so was the sunset!  In fact,  our earliest sunset of the year, at 4:49 PM, occurred on December 2 this year.  The sun has been setting a minute or two later each day since the 12th, when sunset occurred at 4:50 PM.

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Sunrise continues to come a bit later each day.  Today the sun rose at 7:17, but by Saturday it will rise at 7:18, and on Christmas Monday it  won’t appear until 7:19 AM.  The sun will continue rising a bit later each morning until December 31,  when it rises at 7:21 AM.

It isn’t until the 13th of January that the rising sun reverses itself and comes up a minute earlier, at 7:20.  By January 13, the day will have grown to nine hours and 50 minutes, as the sun is setting at 4:50 once again.

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Each day between now, and December 27, will continue on at exactly nine hours and 36 minutes.  That means that we will have a run of 11 days of ‘the shortest day of the year,’ of only nine hours and 36 minutes of daylight.  As the sun sets a minute later, so the sun also rises a minute later, in perfect choreography, until December 28, when the day grows by a minute to nine hours and 37 minutes at last.  On New Year’s Day, our daylight will have grown to nine hours and 38 minutes, with sunrise at seven 21 and sunset at 4:59.

Perhaps this very long run of short days and worsening weather is why we need the brightness of the  holidays to cheer our souls and help us through this extended period of darkness.  I feel grateful for every light display I see along the way, as darkness gathers in late afternoon, and the wind bites with cold.

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I relish these early evenings, too.  Watching the sky turn bright with sunset color, and seeing our beautiful trees silhouetted against the deepening sky is a breathtakingly beautiful way to end our day.  Except it isn’t the end of the day, is it?

The early sunset may send us indoors, but we enjoy the long, quiet winter evenings together.  We may hear the owls calling to one another in the ravine.  I make tea, fix snacks, and work on holiday chores.   I paint and sculpt, read and crochet.  It may be long past midnight before I give up the day for sleep, knowing that morning will dawn quite late on the morrow!

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We are in the darkest part of the year: Yule.  And that has been amplified this week with the new moon on Monday.  Settling comfortably into darkness, we gather with friends and loved ones, forming our intentions and making our wishes in anticipation of the year’s turning and return of longer days of sunlight.

Some light a Yule log and keep it burning until the days grow longer once again.  Some light candles to warm winter’s long nights, or light lamps.  Here, we string Christmas lights and enjoy their nightly glow.  We keep them up and burning deep into January, when we can feel the year has turned and days have grown longer once again.

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Tonight, we went out to watch the Solstice sunset.  We left soon after four, camera in hand, and enjoyed a beautiful late afternoon drive on the Colonial Parkway.  We were driving west towards Jamestown, and the sun was brightly blazing even as it dipped towards the horizon before us.  I had to wear my shades and still shield my eyes against its intensity.

We may have made a detour…. there may have been mint ice cream involved…

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Suffice it to say, we were running a bit close when we headed back to the Parkway to photograph the setting sun.  Seconds count, and that fiery orb had already dipped below the James River before we were in position.  But the sky was still ablaze, and the new moon hanging in a pristine sky, growing brighter with each passing minute.

Winter Solstice is one of my favorite days of the year.  We have celebrated this day since my own little one was tiny, with special food, and gifts, and music and merry-making.  It marks the passage from weeks of preparation to conscious celebration of the waning of one year and fresh beginnings of the next.  I envy friends born on this special day, and always keep it as the beginning of our Christmas celebrations.

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My mind turns to The Holly King of legend, who shines brightly in our barren, wintery woods.  Aglow in bright red berries, hollies shine through mist and snow and gloomy winter days.  Winter is their prime time, when the oaks and other hardwoods have gone dormant and dropped their leaves.

I wish you a happy Solstice and a Merry Yule.

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These are special days, and I hope you keep them well.  With love shining brightly in our hearts, we journey through these last days of 2017 and find our way into a new solar year.  May peace and happiness journey with you, and may 2018 offer you fresh possibilities, new opportunities and abundant joy.

Woodland Gnome 2017

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The James River

Winter Solstice: “Let There Be Light!”

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“Namaste.

It was a Nepalese greeting.

It meant: The light within me bows to the light within you.”

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Jennifer Donnelly

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“Find the light. Reach for it.

Live for it. Pull yourself up by it.

Gratitude always makes for straighter, taller trees.”

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Al  Young

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“It may be that you are not yourself luminous,

but that you are a conductor of light.

Some people without possessing genius

have a remarkable power of stimulating it.”

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Arthur Conan Doyle

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“Gardens are made of darkness and light entwined.”

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F.T. McKinstry

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“May every sunrise hold more promise

and every sunset hold more peace…”

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Umair Siddiqui

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Merry Yule!

Happy Solstice! 

And the Blessings of Yalda to you and yours!

 

Solstice in Blossoms

Daffodils blooming here on December 20....

Daffodils blooming here on December 20….

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Happy Winter Solstice to you!

Our morning was filled with bright sunshine and blue skies.  It has been unusually warm here today.   The clouds moved in this afternoon, but the nearly full moon rose early, and is shining brightly in a huge corona through the misty, drifting haze.

It was still in the mid-50s at 7 PM  here; a little above the usual mid-day high for us in December.  But the garden is loving it!

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December 21, 2015 flowers 018

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Yesterday morning, my partner told me about an odd flower he had spotted.  He had picked it up where the rain had beaten it down into the lawn.  He said it looked a little like a Daffodil.  But isn’t it much too early for Daffodils in December?

And he was right; on both counts.  When I finally went out to look in the afternoon, the setting sun illuminated those yellow blossoms so sweetly.

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We had gone out to chase a few rogue deer who somehow snuck into the garden.  And rounding the corner, there were golden roses proudly blooming on a climber which normally blooms only in the spring.  It had re-awakened to share a few special winter blossoms with us.

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December 21, 2015 flowers 022

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Even after a cold snap this weekend and frost on Saturday morning, the flowers keep coming all over the garden.  We have Camellias and Violas, Snaps and roses.  And now this golden Daffodil, too….

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This Camellia normally blooms each spring. Do you see the open Forsythia blossom in the photo? If it is 80 here on Christmas Eve, as is forecast, I expect this shrub to begin leafing out by New Year's Day....

This Camellia normally blooms each spring.  Do you see the open Forsythia blossom in the photo? If it is 80 here on Christmas Eve, as is forecast, I expect this shrub to begin leafing out by New Year’s Day….

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Indoors, our Amaryllis has bloomed in record time.  And such blossoms! 

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December 21, 2015 flowers 007

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This is the special, huge, bulb I brought home form The Great Big Greenhouse in Richmond.  What flowers!  Only the first stem has bloomed so far, so we have at least four more blossoms to open this week.

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December 21, 2015 flowers 001

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It was fine, until I moved it for better photographs.  That upset the balance, and the stem and leaves were flopping over by early evening.  Hindsight, right…?

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But now I’ve staked it with a coil of copper wire and a green stake from a peony cage.   The flowers are standing up proudly again, so pretty in the morning sun.

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These final ‘blossoms’ are not flowers at all; they are our ornamental cabbages, with their outrageously ornate leaves.  They appear quite happy with our mild December weather.  They will hold up to snow, but too many bitterly cold nights will show up on the leaves.

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This afternoon, we  finally brought  our Christmas tree indoors, and its fresh aroma has begun to fill our home with that special fragrance of Christmas.  I hope to get lights on it later this evening.

But these last days before Christmas are full ones. 

The beauty of our Solstice blossoms invites us to slow down; to appreciate the beauty, and not get completely lost in the flurry of  endless tasks and errands.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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Winter Sunrise

December 12, 2015 sunrise 001

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“In the beginning…
when ray and day hadn’t yet come into existence at all,
there was a kind of radiance that illuminates universe.
That radiance is the light of knowledge and goodness.
That radiance will persistently and consistently shines brightly
even after all the stars and moons in this vast universe died out.”

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Toba Beta

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December 12, 2015 sunrise 004

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It continues an odd sort of December:  bare, but warm.  The leaves are mostly fallen now, exposing the intricate lace of bare branches against the sky.  Endlessly fascinating, this living filigree which shifts and changes from one winter to the next.

There were enough cold and frosty nights to wither most of the last of autumn’s perennials; but not all. 

In sheltered places flowers still bloom.  A few golden Susans and scarlet sage flowers linger still. 

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December 12, 2015 sunrise 002

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The season began its shift, then reverted. 

We haven’t had a frost now for more than a week.  And afternoons are balmy.  Each day grows shorter still.  But what gorgeous days of bright sunshine glinting from evergreens and berries.  Camellias and roses pump out bud after blooming bud.

We keep burying bulbs in the damp and yielding Earth.  And they have begun to grow.  Fresh green spikes poke up through the mulch and newly fallen leaves; over eager, perhaps, in this phantom spring.  Swelling buds on Forsythia and Magnolia bear witness to the garden’s confusion.

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December 12, 2015 sunrise 007

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And the garden calls us out day after day.  It called to me this morning before the sun had even crested the horizon.  And I went out into the damp and misty morning looking for the beauty of this new day.

Winter sunrise grows more precious as each day grows that much shorter.  We’ve almost glided down to the bottom of the year, still losing a few more seconds each day. 

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December 12, 2015 sunrise 006

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The sun returns a few moments later each morning.  But it returns, and its warmth adds sweetness to these brief, golden December days.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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December 12, 2015 sunrise 005

 

 

“A Forest Garden 2016” gardening calendar is now available, featuring some of our favorite photos from 2015. 

Write to me at woodlandgnome@zoho.com for details.

 

Winter Sun

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Winter sun:

Blue returned to frosty sky,

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Glinting off garden’s evergreens,

Warmth pouring through the windows

Taunting us outside.

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The birds reappeared at sunrise,

Gliding tree to tree,

Breaking their fast on fat frozen berries.

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Calling and chattering they praised the fine day,

Glad to have stayed here awhile,

Glad for sun warming feet and feathers.

 

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Winter’s wind still blows so cold

Despite sun’s optimistic shininess.

 

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We raced the sun today;

Its trek from horizon to horizon so low and quick.

Its golden light so brief before night settled once again.

We savored each hour like good chocolate.

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Setting again by only mid-afternoon.

Gilding the trees in gold,

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Transforming the forest to a tapestry of bright and shadow.

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Glinting off water,

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Dyeing the sky bright yellow, pink, and orange.

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Briefly blazing before bowing down again

Below the rim of the world;

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Leaving gathering purple darkness in its wake;

Moon still not risen,

Stars glimmering like ice crystals in a frozen sky,

Cold blows in from the river.

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A damp blanket of darkness descends into the garden.

Light and warmth retreat inside.

We twist on electric candle flames in each window,

Tiny golden lights against the night.

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

 

 

Winter Solstice

Grape Mahonia

Grape Mahonia

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Today is the winter solstice,the shortest day of the year.

We will enjoy just over nine hours of daylight today in Williamsburg, which is still five hours more than those in Iceland will see.

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Orchid in bud

Jewel Orchid in bud

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The sun hugs the horizon on these short, winter days, ascending to its lowest point in the sky all year, before falling back towards the sunset.

Instead of rising in the east, as it does at the Spring Equinox, the sun rises in the southeast at the furthest point along its seasonal journey.

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A walk in the garden finds evidence of buds and new life everywhere.

A walk in the garden finds evidence of buds and new life everywhere.

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Here, it rises 30 degree further south than it will in March.  Likewise, the sun sets in the southwest at Winter solstice, at its furthest point from due west.

The further north one observes from, the more the points of sunrise and sunset converge in the southern sky, and the lower above the horizon the sun appears at noon, if at all.

In the far north, the Winter Solstice is a time of darkness as though the sun has withdrawn from the world.

And yet today is the turning.  It is the beginning of a new solar year as the sun begins its return.

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Cane Begonias are blooming now indoors.

Cane Begonias are blooming now indoors.

 

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We are fortunate that at Winter solstice we are actually closer to the sun than we are in winter.  Even though the Northern Hemisphere is turned away, we are over 3 million miles closer to the sun than we will be in June, due to our elliptical orbit.  We are getting less solar radiation than we do in summer, but our close approach to the sun almost compensates for our shorter days, keeping our middle latitudes energized.

 

Christmas Cactus is blooming right on schedule.

Christmas Cactus is blooming right on schedule.

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And, we are surrounded with the promise of new life, a fresh beginning, a new year to live, and a new opportunity to nourish abundance and joy in our lives.

A simple walk around the garden offers abundant evidence of the seeds, buds, cones, and fruits which hold the promise of new life.  Even in winter, the trees are alive with birds and squirrels.  The deer graze in the ravine, and geese fly overhead calling to one another.

 Happy Winter Solstice.

We offer you our best wishes for good times, good health, good fortune, and abundant love

at this time as we celebrate the return of the sun, the turning of the year, and the festivals of light.

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All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013-2014

Finding the Moon

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Again this morning, I was up and moving well before sunrise.  In fact, I was at the computer, watching for lightening skies through the window blinds when I was summoned.  “You have to see this!” my newly risen partner called. And when I followed the call, what beauty filled the skies.

December 20 sunrise 010It was a pink and golden dawn.  I found the camera and took photos of the trees silhouetted  against the sunrise skies towards the east.  But then,  looking around a bit more, was thrilled to find we had a 360 degree panorama sunrise this morning.

The sky was beautiful towards the north and west as well, where the waning moon was nestled in the branches of a tree.  Finally, I had found the moon.

Our shortest day of the year is tomorrow, with the sun not rising until nearly 7:30 in the morning, and setting before 5 PM.  The moon won’t even appear until after 8 PM.  The tea time hours darken so quickly this time of year, with night descending over the landscape with firm finality.  December 20 sunrise 012

I was on the road yesterday, racing to be at home before darkness had settled on our rush hour streets.  I was delayed leaving by only a few minutes, but still drove the last 20 miles in ever deepening twilight, straining against the glare of headlights to weave through traffic and find the way home.  My reward was the beauty of Christmas lights in front yards along the way.

As we approach this longest night, every minute of daylight seems that much more precious; and every brightly wrapped tree and lit window more appreciated.  It is a good time to gather with loved ones to celebrate the many joys and blessings of the year.December 20 sunrise 015

This solstice time is full of beauty and promise.  As surely as the sun and moon follow their tracks through the sky, so our days will lighten and lengthen yet again.  The buds will swell, seeds will sprout, and the new year will unfold.

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape, the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. 

Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.”

Andrew Wyeth

December 20 sunrise 017

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

PaintThe Sky  (Forest Garden)

Christmas in Colonial Virginia

Sunset on December 2, on the James River near Jamestown Island.

Sunset on December 2, on the James River near Jamestown Island.

Our Christmas is an amalgamation of many diverse strands of meaning, custom, and tradition.  The first English colonists who ventured to Virginia on behalf of the Virginia Company of London brought their traditions and customs with them.  And those customs were already an odd mix drawing bits from the ancient world of the Neolithic Celts, the Greeks and the Romans; all molded into the contemporary post-Reformation culture of urban England.

Keep in mind that the early Virginia colonists were a mix of gentlemen, craftsmen, and soldiers; who came to Virginia as a business venture to find gold, as the Spanish had further south, and to look for that elusive trade route to the rich markets of Asia.  Unlike their Puritanical cousins who settled further north along the coast 13 years later, they were not a particularly religious lot.  Members of the Church of England, they came in search of profit.  Unsuccessful in those early attempts to find gold or other valuable minerals, they eventually settled on turning a profit from agriculture and trade.

Hungry deer can be found all along the Parkway

Hungry deer can be found all along the Colonial Parkway.  Though game was plentiful, early colonists rarely left their fort to hunt due to the threat of attack from the local native tribes on whose hunting land they had settled.

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And so their traditional English Christmas celebrations from Christmas Eve until Twelfth Night were about good food, plentiful drink, merry making; with a church service to mark Christmas Day.

Going back to the beginning proves a useful way to understand where we find ourselves today.  And the “beginning” of our Christmas can be found all around the planet in the celebrations of the return of the sun after the winter solstice.

Even Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland are built to track the movement of the sun.  The winter solstice sunset is perfectly framed in the great trilithon at Stonehenge.  Visitors arriving at Stonehenge from the Avenue look directly into the sunset on the winter solstice.   Sunrise on winter solstice, from December 19 to 23 sends a beam of light down the passage at Newgrange to illuminate the heart of its chamber.  Newgrange was constructed around 3200 BC; Stonehenge sometime later over a period of several centuries.  Archeological evidence has been found which indicates that feasts were held at Stonehenge to mark the winter solstice.

Winter solstice celebrations are about reversals.  Most simply, the sun reverses in its path across the horizon and in doing so, rises higher in the sky each day; illuminating the Earth for longer and longer days.  The “re-birth of the sun” with its promise of survival for another year lies at the heart of the celebration.  The Romans called the festival “Deus Sol Invictus” or the festival of the Undefeated Sun God.

Sunset fills the sky a little earlier each day.  By December there is little left to eat except for fish and game near Jamestown colony.

Sunset fills the sky a little earlier each day. By December there is little left to eat except for fish and game near Jamestown colony.

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At the time of year when days are short and cold, food scarce, and weather fierce, people gather together in extended families and communities to celebrate the return of the sun.  They hope their family will be among those who survive the winter and greet a new year.  This has been true since Neolithic times, probably before, and certainly was true in Colonial Virginia.

Animals slaughtered in December won’t need to be fed from precious stores of grain during winter.  So meat is abundant for feasting.  Fermentation of beer, ale, and cider is complete so strong drink is available.  Yule logs are lit in the hearth and parties with games and song continue through the long nights.  This was the original celebration at the solstice.

At the solstice, when the sun reversed direction, it became common for people to reverse their roles as well.  The “Lord of Misrule” from Rome’s Saturnalia survived in English custom and came with the early settlers to Jamestown.  Dressed in colorful costumes with lace, ribbons, bells, the “Lord of Misrule” and his merry company led the festivity and songs.

Christmas of 1606 found the first Jamestown colonists still at sea on their small ships.  They didn’t land at Jamestown Island until May 14 of 1607.  Their first Christmas in Jamestown found them hungry and at odds with the local native tribes.

Captain John Smith went to Chief Powhatan’s seat of government at Werowocomoco to trade in hopes of bringing much needed food home to Jamestown.  Instead, he was held prisoner for a time while he was questioned by the chief about the colonists’ intent.  The colonists, fewer than half of those who had arrived in May, huddled against the cold in their settlement over that first Christmas.

Canadian Geese on the James River yesterday afternoon.

Canadian Geese  are abundant on the James River .

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Little written record is left by diarists about those first Christmas celebrations in the Jamestown colony.  We know that the colonists would have found an abundance of evergreen holly, pine, cedar, mistletoe, and magnolia to cut for decorations if they wanted to brighten their living quarters.  They had a minister and a church was among the first structures built in 1607, so a Christmas service most likely was held.

Christmas 1608 found Captain Smith and his men in Kecoughtan, modern Hampton, again on a mission to trade with the local natives for food.  A fierce storm was blowing and he stayed with the natives living there for about a week, during which they feasted on seafood and other native foods.  Smith recorded in his diary, “There, the extreame wind, raine, frost, and snowe, caused us to keepe Christmas amongst the Salvages, where wee were never more merrie, nor fedde on more plentie of good oysters, fish, flesh, wild foule, and good bread, nor never had better fires in England then in the drie warme smokie houses of Kecoughtan.”

Brackish water surrounds Jamestown Island, and there is no spring or well.  When drought left the James even saltier than usual, the colonists suffered without fresh pure water to drink.

Brackish water surrounds Jamestown Island, and there is no spring or well. When drought left the James even saltier than usual, the colonists suffered without fresh pure water to drink.

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The few records we have indicate that the winter months were especially brutal on the early colonists, and that Christmas was remembered mainly with religious observances and carols.  Surely a Yule log was lit for light and heat in the drafty shelters where the colonists lived together.  We remember the winter of 1609-1610 as “the starving time” when all but 60 of the 500 colonists perished.  They were prepared to abandon the colony and return to England when ships arrived in June bringing fresh supplies, a new governor, and a new group of colonists.

Once the colony grew stronger and more secure, more English customs were reinstated.  One of the much loved customs from home brought to Virginia was “The Lord of Misrule”, who presided over the festivities.  Dressed in a bright costume, he led the music making, games, feasting, drinking, dancing and revelry on Christmas Day.

Jamestown Island is surrounded by marsh.  The early colonists didn't know that cattails growing in the marsh can be eaten.

Jamestown Island is surrounded by marsh. The early colonists didn’t know that cattails growing in the marsh can be eaten.

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Back home in England, tensions over Christmas were already apparent.  The Church of Scotland had banned Christmas in 1583.  They recognized its strong roots in ancient “pagan” cultures, and that most of its customs came from the Roman holiday called “Saturnalia.”

During the week long celebration of Saturnalia masters and slaves changed places, with the masters serving their servants a feast.  Every home was decorated with greens, herbs, fires and candles.  Normal rules and standards of behavior were generally relaxed during a week of parties, gaming, merry making, feasting, drinking and celebration.  Government, schools, and many businesses shut down.  Gifts were exchanged, music made, and bands of carolers even ran naked in the streets with their “Lord of Misrule.”

In fact, when the Roman government decided to adopt Christianity in the mid-Fourth Century CE, they promised converts that they could keep their Saturnalia celebrations.  The Gospels don’t record a year or date for the birth of Jesus, but the new Roman church adopted the date of December 25 in 354 CE.  This was the traditional date for the birthday of previous “Sun Gods,” or “Sons of God,” including Horus, Cernunnos, and Mithras.  These gods were annually “reborn” on December 25, several days after winter solstice; when the days grew visibly longer once again and the sun was reborn in the winter sky.  Early church leaders, including St. Nicholas, believed they would gain more converts by keeping the festivals people already enjoyed.

Christ’s Mass, or Christmas, a fixture in the Roman Catholic Church, was not celebrated enthusiastically by the protestant church leaders in Scotland and England.  Christmas was banned in England by Oliver Cromwell’s government in 1652.  The Puritan Massachusetts Bay colony banned the celebration of Christmas between 1659 and 1681.  Celebrants could be arrested, fined, and punished for any observance of this “pagan” holiday.

Evergreen pine, holly, cedar and magnolia were readily available in the forest to craft Christmas decorations.

Evergreen pine, holly, cedar and magnolia were readily available in the forest to craft Christmas decorations.

Christmas was never outlawed in Virginia, and it was observed with feasting, music and revelry throughout the colony’s history.  It was a far simpler affair than it is today, however, and barely rated a mention in most surviving diaries.  There were church services, and communities came together to mark the day.

During December, I’ll continue to post about the history behind some of our favorite Christmas time traditions here in the United States.  Later this week we’ll take a look at some of our favorite Christmas decorations.

On Christmas night all Christians sing
To hear what news those angels bring;
News of great joy, news of great mirth,
News of our Saviour King’s own birth.

The Sussex Carol, traditional English  

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

Where You Shine the Light

November 18 2013 WC and Parkway 018

Light makes all the difference

After a long summer season of bright, seemingly endless days, these late autumn days feel suddenly truncated.  Now the bright midday sunshine is precious, and noticed.  Sunny days are precious, as so many now are overcast and damp.  tree  on parkwayThe sun seems to move so much more quickly as we approach December.  A sunny afternoon shifts so suddenly towards twilight, and then darkness.

Sunrise arrives so much later now.  It is a race to open the blinds and welcome every possible photon of light into the house.  Sunset follows far too soon.  “Where did the day go?” I find myself asking as darkness settles in a little earlier each evening.

A simple trip out for some shopping in mid-afternoon, begun in brightness, ends in dramatic sky gloom as heavy dark clouds gather around the setting sun.  November 18 2013 WC and Parkway 012A sky worthy of stopping to photograph, if one hasn’t left one’s camera at home.  One lonely beam of golden light found its way through both cloud and winter bare branches to say goodnight as we unlocked the side door, parcels in hand.

I am more aware of the light as we move into this darker time of the year.  I notice not only its fleeting nature, but also how it changes everything as it comes and goes.  The landscape feels almost manic-depressive  as its mood shifts depending on the angle of the sun.  It’s all in where the light is shining, and where it’s not.

Where the light is shining determines what we see, and how much.  I suddenly feel a need to stop everything and clean on sunny mornings when the bright light catches in the spider webs  that have gone unnoticed on dull days and long dark evenings.  I search out lamps to read the fine print on labels and to illuminate my crocheting.

November 18 2013 WC and Parkway 010As the days grow shorter I’m eager to dig out the holiday lights; to decorate dark corners with lighted holiday houses, light candles, and to stuff a spare vase in the hall with a string of twinkle lights.  I want to illuminate my world to make up for the gathering darkness outside.

December, now only days away,  is  the season of lights.  As each day grows shorter, we each make our little effort to bring more light into our personal world.  Whether we are preparing greeting cards for distant friends and family, setting out sparkling holiday decorations, planning gifts for loved ones, or entertaining friends; we all do our best to illuminate those people and places most dear.  We light a fire in the hearth, we bake, we light candles at dinner.November 18 2013 WC and Parkway 013

Where we shine the light of our love and attention makes all the difference in the world.  It determines what we see, how much we understand, and how we  feel.  It makes the day dull or bright.  It allows us to get things done, to accomplish goals, fulfill dreams, and makes our world sparkle with love.

As the sun grows dimmer and more distant each day, the inner light in our minds and hearts must grow ever brighter to compensate.

This is the lesson winter offers us year after year.

November 18 2013 WC and Parkway 021

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

“Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space.  It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. 

It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.”  Michael Strassfeld

 

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