_Just after noon on December 21st the axial tilt of the planet aligned perfectly away from the sun - creating in the northern hemisphere the longest night of 2013. The "official" first day of winter actually marks the turning of the year. The night of the 22nd will be a few minutes shorter, and every day after that shorter still. Until gradually the long days of summer return. Still, as the old caveat goes, the days will lengthen and the cold will strengthen. Winter is not over, but the solar groundwork is being laid.
The pagans seemed to believe that a good party helped encourage the sun to return, so Monica and I invited a couple dozen friends over for a solstice bonfire. Monica put a few roasts in the big slow cooker, made up black beans and rice, roasted potatoes and vegetables, and we spread out the bread and olives, nuts, cheese and wine.
Five families came with kids and visiting relatives in tow, and everyone was in the mood to enjoy themselves this mid-winter night. I opened a bottle of the dandelion wine, which was sweet, so we called it dandelion port. But I think it needs more time in the bottle and we will try it again at the equinox. The rhubarb wine, on the other hand was surprisingly fine, crisp and clear and refreshing. One of our friends was transported back to her girlhood in England when her father used to bottle rhubarb wine and store it in the cupboard.
There was a bonfire in the stone circle, and I had told people about the old tradition of throwing in notes or items symbolizing all the things that you wish good riddance! to along with the passing year. This was embraced by adults and kids alike, and many notes were scrawled and consigned to the fire, along with a shopping bag of reports and a few wooden items.
As the fire blazed and the beer and hot mulled wine was being drunk, I looked around at all of the shifting conversations - intense or banterous - enflickered by the wind-stirred flames, and I felt a great pleasure at having done my part to bring it all together.