Today is the Winter Solstice. I love this day, and not because the daylight will begin to grow longer after this day! Perhaps it is because I am a northern girl or a writer/reader girl that I revel in these long dark nights. Whether you love it or not, it is here. Tonight is the longest night of the year and a time for celebration.

I have celebrated this day for so many years I cannot even remember when it started. When did I start paying attention to the sky and planets and the stars? It must have started with childhood when my dad drove us out to skate on the pond in the country. There was an old bench where we could change into our skates and take to the ice … bumpy or smooth … it didn’t really matter. I do remember the color of the winter sky in those days. There truly is something quite magnificent in a winter’s sunset.

Perhaps it was the doing farm chores in the early evening, skating on the pond, walking in the woods. This year I am celebrating the Solstice with the four little grandchildren in Charleston, South Carolina. They have been with me for the summer celebrations wearing crowns, scattering rose petals, singing songs to the fairies, but we have never spent a winter solstice together. Tonight after dark, we will go out into the back yard. I came prepared with glow sticks for all of them and necklaces of Christmas bulbs to light the way to the tall oak trees in their yard. We will scatter more rose petals (yes, I brought them in my suitcase!) and say our chant: “Root to root, seed to seed, may all that we have, be all that we need.” Holly and Brianna will love this, but I doubt the 3-year-old twins will get much out of the celebration, except for the string of lights and the glow sticks!

Abe has a southern yard and it is full of nature. The oaks in his yard give way to long lives. The evergreens that grace his garden gates assure immortality. The garden yew means “death to the old year!” He even has mistletoe sprigs, which actually means peace and happiness. In addition, the holly bush is said to protect us from something. He has a beautiful rosemary bush. Perhaps you have a rosemary plant in your house. I know I dug mine up at the end of summer. Not only is it fragrant and beautiful (yes, I also decorated it for Christmas), but it is the herb of the sun. Even if you do not believe or want to believe these plants give off meanings, we sure do love them in our gardens! I point all of these out to the children.

After the celebration, we will go inside to cocoa and cookies and read books. The rituals continue long into the evening … just as it was for my children … just as it was for me.

Sunday begins Hanukkah. I have a wonderful song tucked into my suitcase for that event as well. On Christmas Eve, I will recite “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” to these four little ones. Again, I always did this with my children and dad with us.

On Christmas Day, between the gifts and the food, I will call my other sons since we will not all be together. I will then stand back to watch, to listen, to take it all in so I will not miss a thing.

I want to give way to the magic of children, the magic of the day, the magic of life. When the day is over, and they are lamenting that Christmas is over, I will tell them about my dad. I will tell them that every year on the night of Christmas the six of us children were so sad that it was all over. Oh, we had anticipated and waited so long. So very long. Before we all climbed upstairs to bed in our new Christmas jammies, my dad would snap his fingers and say, “It’s almost Christmas.” I can still hear him say it.

Later, when the day is almost over, I will quietly go out alone under the oaks and look at the beautiful Charleston sky at dusk. I will wait for the holy darkness to descend, and smile at the scattered rose petals.

Merry Christmas, my friends, Merry Christmas. Enjoy the magic.

Lou Ann Homan-Saylor lives in Angola at the White Picket Gardens where you can find her gardening or writing late into the night under the light of her frayed scarlet lamp. She is a storyteller, teacher, writer, actress and a collector of front porch stories. She can be contacted at locketoftime@aol.com.

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