About a dozen years ago I got together to celebrate the winter solstice with a good friend and former housemate of mine. We went to Sol y Luna restaurant in downtown SF, and I decided to drink Tequila Sunrises to celebrate the lengthening days.
I only made that mistake once.
Some errant typist had misspelled his name as “Brtan” on an address list, which I would notice when I picked up the mail, so I still call him Brtan, for auld lang syne.
Brtan is a self-described pagan (“I believe in all gods”) of New York Irish background, and since then we’ve settled on beer as a gentler celebratory slosh for our attempts to take back the solstice celebration from the religious unilateralists–those who believe only in their own god and who have all too often attempted to coerce others to believe in their god, too.
So come winter or summer we toast daylight’s turn around, and the times we’ve gotten together at my house for the winter solstice I’ve dug up as many candles as I could find, scattered them around, and lit them, too. We’ve never really settled on a specific rituals for our holiday (except for getting a little lit ourselves). Alameda has a street where every house (and I mean every house) decorates, and some of them go gangbusters — so we usually go there for a walk, and that’s fun.
Once I found an interesting article on how the Celts used mistletoe, and it’s prophylactic properties, as an excuse to fool around (hence we still kiss under the mistletoe). But we’re all pretty monogamous here. So that one was little more than a conversation starter, then died out as a relic of the pagan past, and left us still wondering if there might be anything to do beyond socializing and a pleasant stroll.
So Brtan and I had lunch today at a place called “Soluna” — no relation to Sol y Luna, which is long gone, now. (And we had nothing to do with its demise; but I do remember one very good HarperCollins holiday celebration there). Good sandwiches, a nice glass of ale, and some kvetching to solve the world’s problems, too — it was fun.
For summer, we never have settled on anything other than a toast, which reminds me of Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, wondering what one does to celebrate the longest day of the year.
Of the two solstices, we get together for the winter solstice more regularly. This might seem counter-intuitive — after all, the longest day of the year is more conducive for being outside and enjoying the sunshine. But here’s the thing — of the two, the winter solstice is more hopeful. The days are then getting longer then. While it’s nice to have all this light (and oh, I enjoy having dawn come before 5:30), it’s also a little bittersweet to realize the days now start getting shorter.
After lunch, I noticed how stubby my shadow was, with the sun overhead. We had a good meal together, and toasted another solstice. Despite our complaints, we both have a lot of blessings to count.
And still one conundrum: What does one do to celebrate the longest day of the year?
Happy summer solstice, everyone!