“Skammdegissfuggar” literally means: “Shadows of the short days.” It is an Icelandic word that, metaphorically means the darkness that can be cast into—or onto—the land as well as the Spirit in deep winter.
I learned this on Twitter from author, Robert MacFarlane, who makes wordsmithing and word-collecting a way of life. Pretty good life, I’m thinking, if you’re a lover of words, the images they evoke, and the stories they tell.
I’m discussing my title in reverse order to hopefully make a coherent whole of diverse, yet connected themes. I love this word, skammdegissfuggar, because it crafts an image of very real darkness and the implications of it for many of us this holiday season. Today is also the end of Hanukkah~Blessed & Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate this tradition.
Whatever tradition you celebrate, the encroaching darkness cannot be ignored, nor its impact on the collective psyche underestimated. Midwinter Eve~which is celebrated today~is that darkness incarnate. It is the time of Spirit. It is a time to contemplate those who have gone before and those who are no longer with us for whatever reason and to allow ourselves to miss them.
As our land is covered in darkness, so are our hearts for a period of time. I celebrate those who have gone before on the night of the Solstice~the longest night and shortest day~by setting an empty seat at the table. Stories are told of loved ones lost that brings them alive in our hearts. We do this at Thanksgiving as well. The Scots have a beautiful name for these souls~they are called, “flowers of the forest”, because they bloom now in the eternal forest of the collective heart.
The Solstice is celebrated the world over and, like the Equinoxes, are festival times for many. Maeshowe on Orkney is a Neolithic site that was built to illuminate the darkness with light at the Winter Solstice, which this year will be tomorrow. Here’s a link if you’d like to watch it.
Many Druids who celebrate the Winter Solstice, do so with sun rising the following morning. The bringing of light~also a Christian theme~happens with the growing daylight. Hope~Light~Life. All of that fits this YULETIDE for me and CHRISTMASTIME for many across the globe.
Which brings me to Santa. When I started this Blog, Norad’s Santa Tracker had the countdown to Santa at: 3 days, 9 hours, 33 minutes, and 36 seconds. Exactly. I, for one, can’t wait.
I believe in Santa. Always have. Even as a very young child, I knew Santa was real, even when I caught my dad dressing up like him. I built my own mythology that seemed internally consistent with every external inconsistency life seemed determined to throw at me. Didn’t matter. The logic held. Some things are right and true because they feel right and true. I believe in magic, and miracles, too, but that’s another Blog.
I must have been about three or four when I saw my dad dressing as Santa to hand out toys for the other children in our small town from his snowmobile pulled sleigh. He was one of many who assumed the role over the years. I told my dad I knew he was acting as Santa because Santa couldn’t be everywhere at the same time and he needed many helpers to reach those who needed him.
My parents tried to dissuade me of this delusion when I was about nine. It didn’t take. By then my concept of Santa had matured a little, but the broad strokes were the same. The fact that they didn’t believe didn’t change my mind. I’m sorry to say my explanation didn’t change their minds either. There was a Santa, he just died. Not even Santa can live forever. Before he died, he picked a successor. That was the new Santa. Same as the old Santa.
That was the last conversation I had with my parents about the topic. I didn’t budge. Neither did they. Stubborn mix of Scottish and Norwegian and head-strong child they believed too sentimental and naïve. The world would teach me differently.
Well it has. It has taught me:
- That there is darkness during the holiday. It is our job to be the light for someone…just one someone. Do it. Read to someone who is lonely. Shovel an elderly neighbor’s drive. It doesn’t matter how small or how big the act, illuminate. It matters.
- Honor the rhythms of the Earth. Light and Dark in balance. Dark is a time of contemplation, storytelling, rest. Light is a time of action, a time for planting and cultivation and enjoying the environment.
- If you want to make something real and keep it alive, add it to your heart and act on it. Santa lives because all of us, collectively, make it so. We give. We celebrate the thoughtfulness of finding the right something to give and giving it. Choose to be a giver, small or extravagant, anonymously, or dressed like Santa. Giving matters.
Happy Yuletide, Merry Christmas, Happy Haunkkah and every Blessing to you and those you love no matter what your holiday tradition you celebrate. #SantaLives and NORAD is keeping tabs on his progress!