How to Celebrate Winter Solstice

What is it about this time of year?

Cooped up for the winter, photo by Adelia E. Ritchie

Well, there’s plenty of football, for starters. My guy adores football 24/7, especially college games, and especially bowl games. I think there are about 41 college bowl games altogether. Approximately. For any guy who enjoys spending maximum time in his internal “nothing box,” this is the best possible time of year for goofing off. The annual countdown to the next football season begins the day following Superbowl. We’ve been anticipating this for many months.

And the weather. Plainly speaking, it sucks out loud. After a four-month summer and fall drought, now it rains a little bit every day, sometimes heavily, sometimes only a heavy mist. And it’s just cold enough to provide the perfect excuse for not getting out there to clean up the garden. Besides, by the time I get around to thinking about the garden, the sun has already gone down.

Speaking of darkness––it’s delicious for sleeping late, but the chickens are hopping mad by the time we let them out to feed on a winter morning. And then suddenly it’s time for lunch, and then it’s dark again — barely enough time to cram in a couple of naps.

Frozen Buddha, photograph by Adelia Ritchie

And what possesses people to wear glittery, sparkly, twinkling cheap Chinese trinkets to the office? <Shudder> The nurse who gave me a flu shot last week was so lit up — reindeer “antlers” and a bright red plastic nose — that I wondered what goodies she might have found in the medicine cabinet. Those matching Santa hats in restaurants, scary Instagram photos of a dozen people in matching red plaid pajamas, and enough blinking lights on houses, in yards, city streets, even boats, that Martians can watch Santa’s annual expedition without a telescope.

Fair warning: the next person I hear whistling ‘jingle bells’ will be whacked with a bag of broken candy canes. Please. Just make it STOPPPP!!!

The presents are all unwrapped, put away, stacked in the closet for regifting, returns, exchanges, or GoodWill. Leftovers are already turning green in the back of the fridge, the hordes of guests, family, visitors, and friends have all crawled away, many with insufferable hangovers. Dishes are washed, dried, put away. Candy and cookies eaten, scented candles stashed for another year.

Ungnomed Feather Man, photo by Adelia Ritchie

At my house, we don’t really participate in the Christmas hysteria — no tree, no decorations except for my red-feathered Santa-gnome that presides over the dining room table. He’s cute, silly and fun, even whimsical, which is what this holiday should be more about.

It’s not at all about some poor migrant woman, pregnant to bursting — yet still a virgin, right? — forced to ride across the desert on a donkey for who knows how many days and nights (in her condition!!) to give birth — without a midwife! — on top of a bale of straw. Please. This is not something I wish to commemorate by decorating my house with a thousand points of light.

More appropriately, from now on, we plan to make this holiday be about the winter solstice — a new beginning, where the days get longer by a second or two each day — and a celebration of the coming spring when the earth will be renewed, moods will soar, birds sing, frogs peep, and life begins again.

The champagne will flow, and this tune by Pharrell Williams will play until everyone is up dancing and singing! Happy Solstice 2019!

A long time denizen of the Pacific Northwest, scientist, educator, artist, farmer, chicken wrangler, editor & writer at

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