Yes, today is the Winter Soltice for this year. The word "winter" comes from an old Germanic word that means "time of water" and refers to rain and snow -as well as low temperatures- of the season in middle and high latitudes. In the Northern Hemisphere, it is commonly regarded as extending from the winter solstice (the year's shortest day), December 21 or 22, to the Vernal Equinox, the start of Spring. The word "winter" came into English circa 888. The soltice is one of the two times of year when the Sun's apparent path is farthest north or south from the Earth's equator. In the Southern Hemisphere the situation is exactly the opposite where the Winter Soltice is June 21 or 22. The word "soltice" is from Latin solstitium, from sol "sun" and sistere "to stand still" as it is regarded as a point at which the Sun seems to stand still. It was first used in English around 1250.
One of our customs during this time of year ie. Christmas is to decorate our home with traditional evergreen boughs, trees, ornaments. Being part Swedish and German we love to put up things that remind us of that heritage that we have collected. Speaking of "counting blessings", this is one that I love to "count" every year. My wonderful wife will not let me put a picture of her in this blog and so I'm putting some of her beautiful decorations in it. She "decorates" our life, always has. Her inner beauty shines through and with her lovely appearance and her "artistic accents" I feel I have a true blessing in this way. We used to put up the "live" tree together after we went to cut it down. I would cut off an inch of the trunk and get it in the sugar water and screw in the clamps. She would make sure it was straight. Then we'd do the lights and I'd help with the ones too high for her and the "angel" on the top. Now, we have two, smaller, artificial trees (pictured here). One is all red, green and has traditional straw ornaments from Sweden. The other is filled with her collection of Lennox tea cups, bows etc. We try to have this all done by today, which was also my mother's birthday. The presents go into the trunk of our car on their way to our sons' home in Laguna Niguel...and Ontario. We also like the small figurines of kids in a snow scene. Needless to say, we have no snow, no cold weather either this year...near 80 degrees.
Another Soltice tradition for me is finding and listening to the seasonal music. I have already published two posts on my two favorite local choirs. Last night I heard probably the best concert I've ever heard by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir from Temple Square. I used to listen to them every Sunday on the radio before church. They are the best in their immense sound with that massive organ. This time, most of their songs were without sheet music, memorized. The first song was a departure for them with live dancers coming down the aisle from everywhere, just so beautifully staged using the whole massive tabernacle...exiting up through the choir. The hand bells intersperced throughout the choir played by members was so effective in "Ding Dong Merrily on High" Audra McDonald, Toni winning soprano, came out and did five familiar carols. The best in my opinion was "Children Go where I Send thee." Then there was a single ballerina doing the Nutcracker's Sugar Plum Fairy. It was so precise and elegant. "Whence is that Goodly Fragrance Flowing" was new and mezmorizing to me. Lovely. Then a real shocker, "Betlehemu" a Nigerian Carol with all the drums (16) and movement by the choir (swaying), clapping and responsive "shouting"(Eng. sub-titles) So not what you'd expect from the M.T.C. Then more familiar carols/sing-along (yeah right) with Audra with the best at the last..."Deck the Halls" with a different, syncopated up beat. Then a gem of a Polish carol "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly". I saved the tivo recording just to hear it again. Then the spoken Christmas Story (Luke 2) by Peter Graves and the accompanying orchestra and choir and the finale "Angels We have heard on high" Fantastic! Standing "O's"
I have yet to listen to St. Olaf's Choir from Trondheim, Norway. I can hardly wait. Bob