Winter Solstice

At this very special time of the year — a time of change and renewal that many cultures around the world have celebrated for thousands of years — we here at Xsense find ourselves reflecting back on the seasonal traditions that we hold dear.

First, the solstice. No one’s really sure how long ago humans began recognizing the winter solstice and heralding it as a turning point — a moment in time that, after many days of diminishing daylight and lengthening darkness, marked the imminent return of the sun. Cultures around the world have, for centuries, performed solstice ceremonies. At their root: an ancient belief that light would not return without direct human intervention — either via celebration or vigil.

Even the Neolithic peoples, whose lives were tied to the nature of the seasons and cycles of harvest, were deeply attuned to the turning skies. Many of them had the skill to pinpoint a celestial event like the solstice. Over 10,000 years ago, they watched the movement of the sun and the moon. They celebrated both — with fertility rites, fire festivals, and offerings and prayers to their gods and goddesses. And they marked each by carving notches into bone that appear to delineate the cycles of the moon and sun.

Not unlike our very earliest ancestors, we mark the changing of the seasons via a wide array of cultural traditions — from feasting and gift giving through baking and sharing treats that have deep and particular meaning to us all. Everything from the scent of evergreen boughs to the sight of, say, candles flickering inside a frosty window has the power, at this time of year, to strike a deep and resonant chord within each of us.
For my family and I, Christmas traditions are rich and varied but distinctly German. They all have their roots in the ancient Nordic ‘Jul’ festivities — which were all about bringing greens in from outdoors, creating warmth and light in whatever way possible. Oh, and baking seasonal sweet cookies and treats!

The recipes I use have been handed down over generations and have tended, over time, to resurface only during the time of Advent (the four weeks before Christmas). My understanding is that this is tied directly back to the fact that “sugar-baking” was usually only done by the bakery guilds in early Germany and that, as rules were relaxed during Advent, the average family was allowed to step in and bake their own cookies and sweets at home and to share with friends and loved ones

Even the ingredients we tend to use at this time of year (from sugar and peppermint to allspice and cinnamon) have deep cultural significance and have been seen, at various times and by various societies, as being curative, restorative and distinctly festive.

It’s a delightful and vivid time full of meaningful traditions and resonant experiences to be shared with family and friends. We here at Xsense wish you and yours a beautiful, authentic holiday season. And until next year, we wish you continued health, connectedness, and prosperity.

Tell us about your favorite traditions on our facebook page.

Just for fun, we’ve posted a few of my favorite traditional German Christmas cookie recipes for you on our blog.  Enjoy!

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