I write this on 21st December, the Winter Solstice. Today is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and tonight is the longest night. Today, in Cambridgeshire, where I live, the sun rose at 8.08am and it will fall at 3.49pm. In Edinburgh, where my daughter attends university, the day is even shorter.
We rise in darkness; my husband travels to work in darkness and comes home still in the dark. His office has no windows and, if he does not take his lunchtime walk, he sees no daylight all day.
Darkness is relative. The sun may have risen at 8.08am, but it takes a long time to get properly light. My job as a Colour Analyst demands I work only in daylight, as colours are affected by artificial light – even by daylight bulbs. At this time of year, the light becomes good enough at 10.30am; at 1.30pm it has gone. Between one moment and the next, the colours dim, and I can no longer see to work.
Depression can seem like this winter darkness. Sometimes it seems as if everything just gets darker and darker and there is no light and no hope of light.
But today, as you are reading this, there are just a few seconds more light than yesterday. There will be a few more seconds of light tomorrow.
This turning towards the light is celebrated in many different festivals. Yule starts on the Solstice and lasts for twelve days; The turning of the year is marked by lighting a Yule Log. The warmth and light of the log symbolises the return of warmth and light to the world.
Hannukah is also known as the Festival of Lights; the celebrations revolve around lighting the candles in the menorah. The African celebration of Kwanzaa sees families gather for seven days. On each day a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara.
The Christian church lights candles during Advent, with the central white candle lit on Christmas day, symbolising the birth of Christ: the Light of the World.
Last Sunday was our Church’s carol service. As is traditional, we started in darkness, with just the chancel lights illuminating the choir as they sang the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City. The main lights came up as we all joined in with the second verse. Then came the first reading from Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”
I cannot remember much of last Christmas. It was a subdued celebration for us all because of Covid, but it was especially subdued for me as I was in depression. The darkness had descended in November and the light did not reappear until January.
That darkness did lift, however; the light did return.
Hold onto hope; all you in the dark: there will be light for you too.
Oh, I’ve just received a text from Himself: “The sun has come out. It’s amazingly cheering!”
Let’s all look forward to the return of light to cheer us.
A Moodscope member.
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