My December Solstice on this #Creepfest I bleed ink and walk with Christmas Spirits

Today I am honoured to be hosted by two #Creepfest Authors in honour of December Solstice…

Find out why I bleed ink … all over Jessica McHugh’s “No Vacation from Speculation”

Find my Ode to December Solstice and the Ghosts of Christmas’s Past … with Ruth Barrett’s “Spirited Words”

I thought I would share a little insight on December Solstice or Night of the Midnight Sun in honour of both the event and #Creepfest…

December Solstice usually occurs between 20/12 and 23/12 every year. This year it falls on the 22nd. This solstice celebrates the return of light and the continuing circle of seasons and life. Here are some ways that cultures around the world have celebrated the Solstice…

  • Yule is also known as Alban Arthan and was one of the “Lesser Sabbats” of the Wiccan year in a time when ancient believers celebrated the rebirth of the Sun God and days with more light. This took place annually around the time of the December solstice and lasted for 12 days.
  • Yule: The Feast of Juul was a pre-Christian festival observed in Scandinavia at the time of the December solstice. Fires were lit to symbolize the heat, light and life-giving properties of the returning sun. A Yule or Juul log was brought in and burned on the hearth in honor of the Scandinavian god Thor. A piece of the log was kept as both a token of good luck and as kindling for the following year’s log.
  • In England, Germany, France and other European countries, the Yule log was burned until nothing but ash remained. The ashes were then collected and either strewn on the fields as fertilizer every night until Twelfth Night or kept as a charm and or as medicine.
  • In Ancient Rome the winter (December) solstice festival Saturnalia began on December 17 and lasted for seven days. It was held to honor Saturn, the father of the gods and was characterized by the suspension of discipline and reversal of the usual order. Grudges and quarrels were forgotten while businesses, courts and schools were closed. Wars were interrupted or postponed and slaves were served by their masters. Masquerades often occurred during this time. It was traditional to offer gifts of imitation fruit (a symbol of fertility), dolls (symbolic of the custom of human sacrifice), and candles (reminiscent of the bonfires traditionally associated with pagan solstice celebrations). A mock king was chosen, usually from a group of slaves or criminals, and although he was permitted to behave in an unrestrained manner for seven days of the festival, he was usually killed at the end. The Saturnalia eventually degenerated into a week-long spree of debauchery and crime – giving rise to the modern use of the tern saturnalia, meaning a period of unrestrained license and revelry. 
  • In Poland the ancient December solstice observance prior to Christianity involved people showing forgiveness and sharing food. It was a tradition that can still be seen in what is known as Gody.
  • In the northwestern corner of Pakistan, a festival called Chaomos, takes place among the Kalasha or Kalash Kafir people. It lasts for at least seven days, including the day of the December solstice. It involves ritual baths as part of a purification process, as well as singing and chanting, a torchlight procession, dancing, bonfires and festive eating.
  • Many Christians celebrate St Thomas’ Day in honor of St Thomas the Apostle on December 21.
  • In Guatemala on this day, Mayan Indians honor the sun god they worshipped long before they became Christians with a dangerous ritual known as the polo voladore, or “flying pole dance”. Three men climb on top of a 50-foot pole. As one of them beats a drum and plays a flute, the other two men wind a rope attached to the pole around one foot and jump. If they land on their feet, it is believed that the sun god will be pleased and that the days will start getting longer.
  • The ancient Incas celebrated a special festival to honor the sun god at the time of the December solstice. In the 16th century ceremonies were banned by the Roman Catholics in their bid to convert the Inca people to Christianity. A local group of Quecia Indians in Cusco, Peru, revived the festival in the 1950s. It is now a major festival that begins in Cusco and proceeds to an ancient amphitheater a few miles away.
  • Aside – One of my favourite books deals with the legends of the Solstice as well as other ancient stories that permeate early European cultures…          
  •   Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth

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Related articles on the Solstice

My book art gallery

I was browsing in a bookshop on Saturday which of course can have me lost for hours. People have been known to send out search parties for me or to send in survival packs of food and water. But it struck me how much my book buying habits have changed since I bought my Kindle. I have a library full of books in my house and those are just the ones that I could fit into my office. Books spill out of every drawer and on top every table in my house. I bought an extra bedside table just so that I could have one bedside table for my books that I am currently reading and another bedside table for bedroom things. There is not a place in my house where you will not find a pile of books.

On top of always being a book buyer I also have that most old-fashioned of things: a well used library card. So there is also a special place designated in each room just for the library books so that they don’t get confused with my own books. I love borrowing books from the library. There is something about the smell of the pages as I open the covers that is like an aphrodisiac to my senses. I love imagining who has read the book I am reading. Reading a library book is like a reading two stories: there is the story in the book and then there is the story of the book’s travels and whose hearts and minds it touched.

When the Kindle first came out I was determined that I was not going to get one. I could see the advantage of less packing space for books when traveling but I could not imagine curling up with an electronic device. But eventually I succumbed and bought a Kindle. I bought it mainly because I was doing a lot of traveling in my job and also as a confirmed travel-junkie I thought it would be an intelligent purchase.

I used it very sparingly in the beginning as my mind had to get used to reading on this device. But it did not take long and I was addicted. Now my Kindle has pride of place alongside my books on my bedside table. But owning this Kindle has changed my book buying habits. Before the Kindle I spent a lot of money on all books of all genres and styles, whether fiction or non-fiction. (Um…you did get the fact that I am book junkie from the beginning of this post, didn’t you?) But after the Kindle I am still buying books but the type of books I am buying on the Kindle and the type of books I am buying from bookshops has changed.

Now I am turning my library and bookshelves into my own personal art gallery. I am buying beautifully illustrated hardcover books. I am perusing second-hand book shops and hunting out leather-bound early editions. I am searching out books by my favourite authors and building collections of their published works. I am buying more art books and “coffee table” books. This is all thanks to my Kindle.

For the Kindle naysayers (I was one of them not too long ago) the Kindle has not stopped my book buying. The Kindle has refined and cultivated my book buying to book art now. I am hunting out expensive one of a kind editions and buying the more expensive hardcover books now. Before the Kindle I bought indiscriminately like a junkie would. Now I consider myself a connoisseur.

The books that are turning up on my book shelf now are no less artworks than a framed Picasso or Monet. But unlike those artworks, these artworks of mine are interactive and invite perusal. You have to pick them up and open the covers to appreciate them even further. The indiscriminate book buying is still there but it is now reserved for Kindle purchases. But those books that I can read over and over again and the ones I love looking at are still bought for my bookshelf. My personal library has now become my own art gallery. But in this art gallery you must touch the art, feel the art and explore the art.

Owning a Kindle or other ebook reading device does not need to mean you have to choose between ebooks and books. Instead buy a Kindle to refine your book buying tastes. Become a book connoisseur. Build up a treasure trove of limited editions and beautifully illustrated hardcover books. Buy illustrated leather-bound books. Turn your library into a book art gallery. You can have the best of both worlds when you own a Kindle. Owning a Kindle does not mean the death of printed and bound books. Now your books can become collectors items.

How has your book buying changed with the advent of ebooks?

All images (except the Kindle image) are borrowed courtesy of Fuck Yeah, Book Arts on tumblr…Do yourself a favour and visit this site for beautiful and unusual posts on Book Arts.