I am reprinting last year’s Writing in Time as I attempt to finish my WIP by Dec. 7.
Christmas overshadows every other December holiday in America. Yet the winter solstice is the reason we celebrate Christmas in this month. Both the history and nature of the shortest day of the year can provide ideas for using the winter solstice as writing inspiration.
Many ancient cultures, according to The Christmas Encyclopedia by William D. Crump, figured out which day in the northern hemisphere had the shortest amount of daylight, all without the help of computers. Babylonians, Syrians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, pre-Christian Celtic and Germanic tribes celebrated this time of year. Egyptians commemorated the birth of Ra, the sun god. Babylonians and Syrians saw the solstice as a symbol of returning fertility to the land. During the Celtic and Germanic holiday of Yule, noisy celebrations warded off evil spirits that roamed in the darkness.
In a brilliant move of counter-programming, the Catholic Church decided to celebrate Jesus’ birth in December and compete against pagan holidays. We still use some of the pagan traditions. Christianity has given them new meanings to pagan customs, like lighting candles and decorating with evergreens.
The juxtaposition of the most hours of darkness and the happiest holiday on the Christian calendar makes a great symbol for the journey of a character. As December grows darker, the character experiences more and more adversity, hitting bottom on the day of the solstice. Then on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, hope is restored. The day with the most darkness is also a fitting setting for the climax of a thriller or mystery. The hero and villain confront each other on a night when evil seems to be at the height of its powers.
For speculative fiction, a villain reaches her most powerful state during the winter solstice. The hero, whose powers are at their weakest, must come up with a way to stop the villain from taking advantage of the solstice.
How can you use the winter solstice as writing inspiration?