Today marks the astronomical milestone which is the the Winter Solstice. In practical terms, it is the shortest day of the year, the longest night of the year.
The Holly King is at the height of his power today, but henceforth until Midsummer’s day, the days lengthen and, at the Vernal Equinox, the tipping point when the day and night are of equal length, the Oak King deposes him and reigns. . . until the Autumnal Equinox, when the Holly King deposes him again . . .
The Holly King is the pagan core over which Father Christmas/Saint Nicholas accreted, and our current midwinter festivities are but echos and re-echos of midwinter celebrations that stretch back to the dawn of time. We may have changed the reason for the celebration countless times over the millennia, but we still celebrate the yearly triumph of light over darkness and the return of the sun.
And while the twin aspects of Cernunnos tussle back and forth as to who is to rule the year, the Eternal Goddess, a young maiden at the spring of the year, the gravid mother in summer, lies wearily down an old crone in Winter’s bed at the year’s end. In Scotland, the Goddess of the year’s end is the Cailleach Bhéara, the veiled old woman.
The wheel of the year is always turning; each season gives way to the next. Winter is the time of rest, of hibernation, of renewal. Soon enough, winter will give way to spring. It is a thought to bear in mind through the cold weather yet to come.