A crowd assembles just off the street leading to a forest outside of Wiesbaden. The air is cold but the mood is cheerful, excited – even giddy. As the steely sky darkens, the crowd begins its journey through the trees, over the puddles, and into the high meadow where solstice will be celebrated by those gathered as well as those within earshot.
Nearly fifty of us came from near and far to welcome the sun back and to revel in the year’s shortest day. We started in, many in disbelief that shortly, we would be trekking back out in darkness. Many of us mentioned how bright and warm the day was for the “shortest day of the year.” So, we walked in a long loose line, through the woods.
The high meadow did not disappoint. The Yule Hedge was adorned with birdseed, ribbons, and balls of suet to keep the birds and forest critters fed in their hard times. As well, we visitors did what we could to stave off the cold – Michael Zink and John Keating were thinking of us when they packed the cognac and Eierlikore.
Later, we would laugh again when John mentioned the exact time of sunset as 4:26. Surely dark wouldn’t fall so early or so quickly – but it did. Sol, the original Old Faithful, took his bow at the predetermined time and sank below the trees behind the high meadow. We gathered into a circle and lit our candles. Watching the flame of one lone candle spread to illuminate so many others was as symbolic as any of the rituals of that evening. We were radiant in the light we held and we celebrated with a hearty session of shouting, “Welcome Yule!” into the night before beginning more traditional songs of the season,
“O Tannenbaum,” and “Deck the Halls.”
Still holding our lit candles, we made our way back along the path, our lights spreading out like a constellation through the forest. We had gone into the dark to bring back the light and returned.