Ever blink wide awake in the wee hours of the morning with all kinds of frightening thoughts running through your head? It is an eerie experience and very lonely because everyone else it seems is fast asleep and it is dark, made blacker by the anxiety of it all.
Now transfer that to whole communities of our ancestors who saw the days growing dim and the nights longer and longer. The winter solstice was like a universal anxiety attack in the darkness. Just think how scary it would have been in that time long before the Hubble telescope and its computer enhanced photos of far away galaxies to feel the blackness descend. Then, if that weren’t bad enough, once every four or five hundred years, the good old reliable moon would fade away that same long night, just as it will tonight.
Looking back from their perspective, its easy so see then why since the beginning of time humans have been lighting up everything they could as the winter solstice approached. We have created menorahs, Diwali decorations, Advent wreaths and, heaven help us, inflatable red-nosed reindeer. Its not that we are afraid of the dark or is it?
“O come thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.”