Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy Happy Happy New Year!

From the top of Sugarloaf Mountain no less. We hiked it before returning home from family Christmas celebrations.
Island View
Before the traditional Christmas and New Years parties we participated in a much older rite of celebrating the longest night of the year: Winter Solstice. Out here, the community has many traditions built around the two Solstices, the summer Solstice being a three day event and the winter Solstice an all-night meditation, long dance, and celebration. It was a very spiritual experience that I shan't discus further, but would instead like to consider the New Year.

The Gregorian calendar has dominated the passage of our time since the Middle Ages, making way for new Christian holidays in the place of old pagan ones. Thus the Winter Solstice has been replaced by the celebration of Christmas on the 24th and 25 and New Year on the 31st.

The traditional solstices marked a turning point in the community's life and were celebrated by all the same manner their Christian counterparts now are in the the West(and the began holidays too in some countries, like the national celebration of summer Solstice in Finland). Depending on ones position on the globe the Solstice marked either the beginning of winter, or its midpoint. In neolithic times starvation often plagued communities midwinter and thus Solstice was a feast, often of meat, a tradition that has followed us to the present.

The long dance, and dancing out the sun too, seems to have been a universal theme something that presented itself in celebrations ranging from Native American ceremonies, to the Roman Saturnalia. A variety of magic rites were practised, to ensure good luck, bountiful harvests and happiness, for the next lunar year, and still remain in some cultures.

While the celebration of Solstices is (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere) is an ancient tradition, dating back to the neolithic times, the New Year has not always started in January.

The Celts believed that the new year came in the beginning of the dark time of the year, on the fall Equinox, which they called Samhain. Starting on, as we know it All Hallow's Eve, they celebrated for three nights, feasting on the harvest of the previous year, in preparation for the dark times ahead.
Other cultures still have their new year at a different time from the commonly adapted Western date. The Chinese New Year falls between January 20th and February 20th, depending each year on the moon and the sun. Red decorations and family visits are a tradition, as well as the now ubiquitous New Years fireworks.
The traditional Russian New Year falls on the 14th of January according to the Julian calendar, and though modern Russia has adapted the Gregorian Calendar, the Russians still acknowledge the old date. This means they get two New Years celebrations (They also have two Christmasses-lucky!)

Many cultures celebrate their new year in March and April, around the time of the Spring equinox. In spite their British influence, many Indians celebrate New Year on april 14th, 15th and 16th with variety of names for the different festivities.

Regardless of the dates and the traditions of celebrating the coming New Cycles in our lives, is worthy, not only of eating and drinking, bringing light into the darkness and making merry with one's friends and loved ones, but also in the introspection that a New Year has always brought with it. Our silly promises to start taking care of ourselves, or realise our dreams, this coming year, are symbolic of the changing of seasons, of the old that must be left behind and the new that must be embraced.

Loafin' Around
So Happy New Year to all of you lovely readers!

7 comments:

  1. ...and a happy new year to you!! What beautiful scenery!

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  2. What a post, I love them like this one where I can learn lots. Such lucky cultures! You live in a magical place, and from your smile in the picture you can see you acknowledge that every day of your life :). Happy new year to you too! And may all of your resolutions become wonderful afirmations.

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  3. Very cool post. I love history. It is amazing that I knew none of this, other than Chinese New Year was sometime in February. Have a wonderful first week of the new year! I look forward to each new post. Your blog is pure magic!

    Natalie xx
    (aka The Wandering Writer)

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  4. Happy New Year Millakins! Getting to meet and hang out with you and Charlie on our trip was for sure one of the highlights of 2009 for me!

    Lovely photo of you, lovely sentiment at the end, all around lovely post :)

    I need to get my new year's post up. I wish I could say it was going to be as educational and poignant as yours but as I'll be featuring kareoke, bacon wrapped hot dogs, and naked lady shot glasses... I think it's safe to say that won't be the case ;)

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  5. Happy New Year! Lovely lovely lovely post :) I enjoyed reading & getting some solstice education at the same time.

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  6. Thank you so much for this post Milla, I love learning about this kind of stuff. I've longed been enthralled with the pagan notion of the dark time being the beginning- the year starting on Samhain, the new day beginning at nightfall.

    Graham and I met & fell in love in about one second. On Halloween night 2005 we stayed up playing with a number of Tarot decks with a very magical friend of ours. It all pointed to the two of us making a sort of bond. The next day our friend set up a handfasting ceremony for us. It was beautiful. We had been together about 3 days. We later realized that that date (Nov 1st) had been Samhain, Day of the Dead, All Souls Day, Dewali in India, and the new moon. We hadn't planned it at all, and yet it was perfect and so very auspicious. We conceived our daughter after ingesting some very powerful and enlightening mushrooms in a redwood forest two weeks later. Four years later, here we are. A new beginning indeed.

    The images you included are beautiful too. I so enjoy your blog and am very happy to be back in a place in my life where reading blogs for fun is possible again :-)

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