Yesterday was the winter solstice. While the solstice has significance in many religions, it has always been a powerful secular symbol to me. The solstice is literally the darkest day of the year. While a powerful metaphor in itself, darkness and cold have real consequences. There is seasonal affective disorder, the cold prevents me from doing a lot of my favorite outdoor activities, and there are even links between emotional warmth and physical warmth.
Winter is also a dark time in other ways. December is prime breakup season. The winter holidays are a stressful time for many people. The new year is often a source of disappointment as we inventory our goals from the previous year and realize how short we’ve fallen. There is often family drama. For atheists, this time of year can be especially isolating as overt displays of religion reach an all-time high, especially among those who have religious families.
The solstice has meaning before me because it means that, though the world is wreathed in maximum darkness, every day for the next six months will be slightly, imperceptibly, but undeniably brighter. It means that every day is the brightest it’s been since December 21st. It means that we have 365 full days before the world is ever this dark again. To me, the solstice marks the turning point from things getting worse to things getting better.
Last weekend, I attended Brighter Than Today: A Secular Solstice in New York City. It was a celebration of secular values through music and storytelling. While I had some criticisms of the event, I truly enjoyed being able to spend the solstice with a group of like-minded people (including my partners and some of my favorite people from the community) celebrating secular values like togetherness, hope, and beauty. I recommend that anyone who can make it next year, do so.
I want to wish everyone a happy solstice, and to remind you that no matter what, tomorrow will be brighter than today.