If you have ever heard me (Vie) talk about what living in Greece is like, then you already know that there is almost always some sort of national holiday or celebration going on.
And even those of you who are not already familiar with the staples of the modern Greek lifestyle, should recognize that in Ancient Greece, even intellectual gatherings involved a copious amount of drinking. After all, the etymology of the word “symposium” is “to drink together”. 🙂
Having said this, you should not be surprised to hear that the winter solstice was a time of merriment in Ancient Greece. But would you have guessed that the winter solstice celebration was in honor of Poseidon, the god of the sea?
Yes, indeed! In Athens, and other parts of Ancient Greece, there was a month that corresponded to our December/January that was named Poseideon. Think about it… It makes perfect sense that the time chosen for his festival would coincide with the season the Greeks were least likely to set sail. 🙂
The winter solstice festival of Poseidon was celebrated in Athens and other cities of ancient Greece with large bonfires and a lot of wine and cake. The wine should not surprise anyone but what about the large bonfires and cake?
First let’s talk about the cake – any time the Greeks had wine, they used to add a lot of fat and meat (or even fish) to prevent them from getting drunk. So “cake” is NOT to be taken literally as in today’s concept of cake. Think more in terms of a meat pie or a cheese pie. Can you say yummy?!
Now, about the large bonfires – the large bonfires symbolize the creation of light to balance the darkness caused by the “failing” sun. The dark loses its power in the presence of the light.
So the result is a big party, a big celebration, to remind every one that no matter how bad or dark things may get, life is always worth enjoying.
Legend has it that the popularity of the Poseidonia on the island of Aegina (where we hold many of our trainings 🙂 ) was so high that they were extended to two months long.
In every culture, solstices are important ritualistic days designed to celebrate the changing of the seasons and a new energy. In fact, solstice in Latin means “the sun stands still”. The Sun standing still is a metaphor for the day the Sun appears to reverse direction and a new solar cycle begins.
Astronomically, the solstice happens twice a year when the tilt of the earth’s axis is most inclined toward or away from the sun causing the sun’s apparent position in the sky to reach its northernmost or southernmost extreme.
For those in the northern hemisphere the winter solstice is the day of the shortest period of daylight, known as the darkest day of the year. It is the time of the year that we have the opportunity to remember, reflect upon and study deep into our soul. We may not like everything that we find, but that is perfectly fine as long as we decide to own it. Only then, we shall find the strength to change it.
Whether it is the candlelight, a bonfire, a journal, or wine and cake that we choose, taking responsibility, exercising our ability to respond to the darkest elements of our soul, will help us move on to a richer human experience.
Hear even more about the ancestral celebrations of the winter solstice and how it can help us today by listening to our podcast episode: The Winter Solstice for a Strong Mind – Feasting, Fasting and Community
Happy Winter Solstice! Na’maste kala! May we all be well, adapt and thrive!
– Tim and Vie
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The Paleo Ayurveda & Spartan Yoga Podcast. 20ish-min Episodes. Seasonal. On Thursday’s. You can find us on all major platforms, including iHeartRADIO, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify.
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