Winter Solstice and the New Year by Sharren Reil

Winter solstice chart

Our celebration of the New Year on January 1st is not an ancient phenomenon. Many believe that the first recording of this celebration is in Mesopotamia c. 2000 B.C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox in March. A variety of other dates tied to the seasons were used by various ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians began their new year with the fall equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice.

In pre-Christian Rome under the Julian calendar, the New Year was March 1st. This calendar had only 10 months until the second king of Rome, Numa Pontilius, added the months of January and February. The New Year was moved to January because that was the beginning of the civil year. The Julian calendar had January 1st officially instituted as the beginning of the New Year. Many countries now use the Gregorian calendar, and the year starts on January 1st. Whatever calendar is used, we all seem to want to celebrate the end of one cycle and the beginning of a new one.

Just before our present New Year, we have the winter solstice, also known as the hibernal solstice. I know it as midwinter, or the longest night. I spent many years living in the bush way outside Dawson City, Yukon, and spent most of the winter with just a few hours each day of daylight. The winter solstice was a time of excitement as it meant we were climbing back into the sunshine. The further north you live, the more dramatic the daily increase is in the length of each day.

I think both the New Year and the winter solstice are reflective events where we can take stock of our lives, our believes, and our intentions. It is a time of darkness, cold, and introspection. A time to think of the past, plan for the future, and curl up with a good book by the fire. I have some titles of books about starting over and new beginning for you to curl up with. Enjoy the quiet before the returning sun wakes up our world yet again…


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The theme of this story is one of finding your destiny. It is a theme as old as the hills, yet rings true today. This book is available in both branches.


Love in the Time of Cholera by Cabriel Carcia Marquez

This books examines social norms and how they impact of personal happiness. Again, this theme is as relevant today as ever. Perhaps the norms are more hidden now, but they impact our choices and decisions. This book is available in Haileybury.


Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

This is a great tale of betrayal and redemption. The D.V.D. is available in New Liskeard.


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This very popular book looks at the themes of abandonment and isolation and the search for connections and love. The book is available in both branches.


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

This book is about the search for family and a sense of belonging. The book is available in Haileybury.


The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbough

I loved this story of pain and forgiveness! As an avid flower gardener, I was very interested in all her research of the ancient language of flowers. It is a lost art but learning the meaning of many common flowers was moving for me. This book is only available through our interlibrary loan program, but I had to include it!


Wild by Cheryl Stayed

This is an ancient theme of the redemptive power of travel. A three month hike helps a woman confront her demons and come to peace with herself.

However you mark the returning daylight or the New Year, I hope you do so with compassion for yourself and a touch of humor for this, our human condition.