Years ago I happened to be in Ireland during the celebration of the Summer Solstice, which was truly a magical experience as folks lit bonfires on beaches and hillsides in every town in the countryside. This year, just a day after my birthday on Saturday, December 21, the first day of winter, was time to reconnect to my Celtic roots. This event in Manayunk would be my first celebration of the Winter Solstice and held in a nearby neighborhood in Philadelphia. Fire plays an important role in the Winter Solstice, too. The Druids believed that at this time of year the sun stood still for twelve days, starting the tradition of burning the Yule log to banish evil spirits and preserve light during the darkest days of the year.
Manayunk (pronouced man-ee-yunk)
The Lenape Indians, the first settlers in the Philadelphia region, named the area, translated means “place to drink.” Located in the northwestern section of Philadelphia, the town lies on the banks of the Schuylkill River. Canal View Park on Main Street stands in recognition of the first canal started in the United States and was the scene for the solstice celebration. A tow path follows the canal. Victorian storefronts and mill buildings line Main Street where eclectic shops and a variety of restaurants offer many opportunities to enjoy holiday shopping and eating. Santa made several appearances, extending greetings to all who strolled along the Main Street. The Mummers added to the merry mood playing holiday favorites.
Birds of Prey
Before the winter solstice events, Damien Ruffner from the Schuylkill Center gave an informative lecture and presentation on local birds of prey, including a Red-Tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, and Barn Owl. Having the chance to view and photograph each raptor up close was amazing.
Why does it seem as if the birds are actually listening to the lecturer?
Drums, Torches and Fires Celebrate the Return of Light
As the torches along the canal were lit and the wood pilings on the oil drum set ablaze, the ceremonious drum circle, a Native American tradition, began the rhythmic pounding. The audience was encouraged to make affirmations on wishing sticks, which were added to the bonfires. For 6,000 years our ancestors have celebrated the return of lighter days with friends and family to honor earth’s seasonal rhythm. Feeling connected to family and community, including all the creatures that share our planet, I thoroughly enjoyed the Winter Solstice celebration of harmony with nature and the ancients.