Saturday, December 14, 2013

notloB Music's Annual Guide to Winter Solstice Celebrations and Events

This is our third or fourth guide to Winter Solstice celebrations and events. A week or three before the Solstice a thread is created in "Celtic Music in New England", where any member can add news and information. Append your news there or here.

The Shortest Day

If a Martian PhD student were to observe the patterns of public celebrations on earth, she would find a flurry of activity towards the end of December. With her knowledge of astronomy she might quickly identify the activities as related to the solstice but if she crunched the data in her Martian cell phone she might find material for a thesis on what links together a number of tribes,nations and religions on earth. 

The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, occurs around the 21st of December and takes its name from the Latin sol - sun, and sistere - to stand still. The ancients observed that for two or three days the sun seemed to stay in the same place before resuming its arc of travel through the heavens. The Roman sun god was Sol Invictus and he galloped his fiery chariot across the sky for roughly 364 days before stopping to water the horses and then starting over. This pause or inflection point has been noted by many different cultures around the world as a significant bench mark in the cycles of life. There is prehistoric evidence of interest in this date such as the alignment of stones at Stonehenge and elsewhere that function as decent solar calendars, and several examples of early codices that mark the winter solstice as important. Sometimes there is what seems to be a deliberate alignment such as at the time of Pope Gregory when the church calendar was revised to give prominence to December 25th as Christ's birth, neatly layering the feast of the "Unconquered Son" over the "Unconquered Sun."

In the Northern hemisphere with its cold winters, the dying of the light was a matter of great importance and attention to the mysterious transition from the death to the prebirth of the year has been at the center of Yuletide celebrations and feasts for centuries: 

"Everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world 
Came people singing and dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive."

At Revels we do our best to keep the year alive - Susan Cooper's poem is our best manifesto: 

"We carol, feast, give thanks
And dearly love our friends.
And hope for peace.
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!" 

Paddy Swanson 
December 2013

BY SUSAN COOPER So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!

The Christmas Revels ~ In Celebration of the Winter Solstice
16 Performances
December 13-27, 2013
Show length about 2.5 hours
George Emlen, Music Director 
Directed by Patrick Swanson
Sanders Theatre, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Buy Tickets Online 
See the full schedule

The 43rd annual Christmas Revels takes us to Galicia in Northern Spain, an area with a strong sense of Celtic identity where, since the Middle Ages, pilgrims have walked the Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James). Our story follows Everyman, a allegorical character summoned by a mysterious figure who tells him his days are numbered.  He must go on a journey to the end of the earth to be there for the shortest day. Needless to say, colorful encounters - and glorious music- abound!

Filled with evocative Spanish music, exciting dance and magical stories, our celebration includes a treasure trove of Galician processionals, songs and carols plus many Revels touchstones audiences enjoy every year including Susan Cooper's classic poem, The Shortest DayDona Nobis Pacem, the Sussex Mummers Carol, a seriously funny Mummers play, and Revels' signature piece, the joyous and participatory Lord of the Dance.

CUUPs (Covenant of UU Pagans) Yule celebration
Saturday, December 21

First Parish Cambridge Unitarian Universalist.
Harvard Square, Mass Ave at Church Street

From Fred Small, senior minister at First Parish Cambridge Unitarian Universalist.
"On Saturday, December 21 at 7 pm in the Barn Room,  the Pagan Earth centered festival of light held at the time of Winter Solstice. Common to almost every world culture, many of our present day traditions come from this ancient Spiritual practice. With a Yule log as the center of our Circle we will meditate together, sing Yule songs and share in the joy of the Winter season. We will honor the sacred wisdom and strength in all of us to survive and renew our Spirit through each turn of the Seasons. Join us as we remind each other to respect and honor the gifts of Earth and life itself, especially it's material blessings and simple happinesses. After the Circle Ritual, we'll enjoy holiday treats brought by all who participate. Come if you can and leave when you must! For more information, please email"

Winter Solstice service featuring Aine Minogue
December 19, 7pm 

First Church in Boston, Unitarian Universalist
Marlborough at Berkley

"Usher in the season with our Winter Solstice service on 12/19 at 6 PM featuring world renowned harpist Aine Minogue!"

Check the websites of your local Unitarian Universalist parish. Services we are aware of:

From The First Church in Belmont, Unitarian Universalist: "Our scheduled service for Dec 22 at 7pm is:(Multigenerational) THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS Today, in many manifestations, we celebrate the victory of goodness over evil, of life over death, of light over darkness. We will light Kwanzaa, Advent, Hanukkah and Solstice candles. First Parish's is at 4p on the 21st."
From First Parish of Watertown: "We are having ours Sunday the 22nd at 7pm. Waltham First Parish's is at 4p on the 21st."

Winter Solstice Gathering at the Old Manse
December 21, 6pm-7:30pm
The Old Manse 
269 Monument St, Concord, MA 01742

(978) 369-3909

From the good folks at the Emerson Umbrella:
"Take a break during the hectic Holiday Season and join the Musketaquid crowd on Saturday, December 21 at the Old Manse from 6pm-7:30pm for a Winter Solstice gathering! Sing-along with Voices for the Earth, eat S'mores over a blazing fire and Celebrate the longest and darkest night of the year!"

In the Berkshires...

Solstice at Starseeed ~ Celebrate Joy ~ 
Saturday, December 21  
11:30am - 9:00pm
Celebrate this year's Solstice in an intentional way with other kindred spirits.  
Starseed Healing Sanctuary and; Holistic Retreat Center

672 Chapel Road 
Savoy, MA 01256
Phone: (413) 743-0417

Let us come together in community. Enjoy delicious food and enlivening company. Commune with the land. Enjoy music and song; meditation and ceremony; gift-making and gift-giving; gift-purchasing and fun-raising. We are out to have a good time. Come Join Us!
Solstice Fun-Raising: We have a beautiful program with many festivities planned for the Solstice.Come Friday for Gifting of the Open Heart and stay overnight. Spend the morning the sanctuary. Gather for a powerful Solstice meditation and ceremony to receive the new solar light. Enjoy a Starseed-hosted lunch. Purchase beautiful and meaningful gifts. Create a wreath of your intentions for the new year.  Enjoy a holiday potluck supper followed by a celebration which includes offerings of music, song, poetry, dance, and laughter. Settle down for a restful sleep in sanctuary.  Join us for any of all of this. Throughout this event there will be music and song offerings by talented friends of Starseed, including, Sarah Pirtle, Giovanna Spies, and Elisabeth Taylor. We invite you to bring your offerings of music and song as well. 

Out of state...


Live at the Hop logo 
4 East Wheelock Street
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755
Through December 16 Revels North in celebrating the shortest day of the year with a spectacular journey to Southern Appalachia, where Native American, African and European traditions combine in astonishing music, dance and folktales. More than 75 talented local adult and child singers and dancers are joined by singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist  Pete Sutherland, formerly of the folk trio Metamora; Ontario-based old-time music duo Sheesham & Lotus; and North Carolina-based singer Suzannah Park, of Village Harmony and the Starry Mountain Singers.


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