Monday, December 21, 2009

observing the Long Night

Last night we had our little Long Night ceremony, where we turned out the lights and lit our solstice lantern and told stories and sang songs and kept our fire burning bright through the longest night of the year. I thought I'd share some of the details of our night with everyone, as I've had some questions about exactly what we do on this night before Yule. I'll apologize in advance about the poor quality of the photos -- The Map Man took them both with natural lighting and with a flash, but while the flash photos were in better focus and showed detail better, all of the magical quality of the candlelight was lost, so I decided to just go with the natural lighting pictures.

We started with a fire in the fireplace and a single candle (only because I otherwise would have been unable to read, and I don't have these stories memorized, as much as I would like to). I read the story "Festivals of Light" in which a boy searches for wax for his family's solstice lantern on the Long Night, coming across families preparing to celebrate/celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa along the way.

In the story, each family gives the boy some wax for his lantern, and each family punches a row of holes in his can for the light to shine through. I prepared a can in advance with 3 rows of holes, then covered them with construction paper, and as I read the story, I revealed the rows as we came to them (as well as adding wax -- there was already a quantity of wax melted into the bottom with a wick embedded so that I could light the lantern when it happened in the story), so that by the end of the story our lantern shone as brightly as the boy's.

The story ends by singing "This little light of mine" as the boy and his mother head out for their lantern walk. We continued humming the song as we dressed and sang one more round as we headed out for our lantern walk. The boys took turns leading the way with our solstice lantern.

When we got back, I lead our solstice litany, which I lifted off another Mom a couple years ago. I won't repost the entire thing here, but it's absolutely lovely, starting with darkness. I read about the "wheel" of the year turning and the darkening of the earth, and the return of the light, and I light a single candle, our "sun candle" (this year it was a candle that J had hand-dipped).

Then I read a series of 14 short statements, first about the darkening, then about the return of the light, and after each statement, the boys (and the man!) respond, and I light another candle, until we have 15 candles burning brightly and lighting the once-dark room.

Then we break out the popcorn and the sleeping bags, and I read "King Winter" from the Enki Kindergarten Nature Stories collection as the kids get settled into their "beds" by the fire for the night.

Then I dragged out my guitar and sang seasonal songs until the kids fell asleep.

And off they slumbered into the Long Night.

It's still not daylight yet, but The Map Man had to get up and head to work, despite this being a "holiday" for him (we'll celebrate when he gets home this evening). J's still dozing in his bag. Zoo Boy just joined me in bed as I was typing this out, and I'm feeling drowsy yet again, so I'm going to finish my observation of this long night and drift back off until dawn.

Happy Winter, everyone!


Jenn said...

Beautiful! I thought it was tonight though :( We'll celebrate tonight anyways. My boys are wishing we had a fireplace like you. My Monkey commented on how cozy your boys looked.

michelle grimes kindig said...

Lovely!!! Your boys are so lucky to have you!!
Happy Solstice!

Harvest Mom said...

Jenn, there's a lot of confusion about which night is techincally the "Long Night", it depends on what time of day the solstice actually occurs, which varies. But we celebrate Yule on Dec 21, so it makes logical sense for us to observe the Long Night the night before, as it's a more somber observance then followed by the festival of Yule (would seem backwards the other way around to us). I don't think either way is any more "right" than the other, and you'll find folks observing it on either night.

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Harvest Mom said...

To whomever keeps posting on my blog in non-English: I'm sorry if I'm uneccessarily deleting your comments, but without knowing what is actually being said, I don't know that it's appropriate content for my blog. Given that the digital tag has the word "adult" in it, I'm assuming it's just spam, but I didn't want anyone feeling insulted if I'm removing perfectly reasonable content -- if you post in a language I can read, I can make a more informed decision.

Thanks! :) Happy Winter!