The Holly and the Ivy
It’s the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year when it’s cold — well, it used to be before climate change; today it’s 55 degrees in Central, PA — and dark, and most of us schlepp off to work in the gloom and return home from work in the same, barely noticing the sun. We need something to help keep our spirits up.
[Outside at Longwood Gardens]
For centuries people prayed to [their] God [of choice] to bring back the light.
“The world is cold and dark,” they cried, “and we are scared.” The wolves howled and the icy winds blew and the people didn’t have the benefit of electricity to keep their night fears at bay. Instead, they were forced to take the low-tech option of sitting around the campfire and telling stories.
The Celts talked of the Oak King who ruled the summer solstice. When autumn passed on toward winter and the Oak King dropped its leaves and fell into slumber, he was surpassed by his twin brother, the Holly King who ruled the forest with his evergreen leaves and bright red berries.
Year after year, the brothers fought for control of the earth with each one taking the crown at the moment his power was the greatest — then losing ground each day thereafter until he was depleted, bested by his brother once again until the next solstice. Round and round, year after year, the brothers’ drama played out while the rest of us gained 55 seconds of light each day from the winter solstice to the summer, and lost it again from summer to winter.
So rejoice! The sun will soon return. In the meantime, enjoy all that modern man does to keep the night terrors away. We have gotten quite creative over the years.
And here’s a wish for a little snow.