This fall we have set up a greenhouse made out of old windows in the garden. My goal was to finish it at the darkest day of the year. In norwegian we call this a "lighthouse" it seemed appropriate to open a house of light when the sun is at it lowest,  and a great way to mark the winter solstice on.

Astronomers consider solstice to be the first day of winter. I have learned to like the dark, but I love the sun. And now I rejoice that the dark autumn is over, that the winter is coming, and the return of light. 



People in the northern hemisphere have always marked the sun's "rebirth" at the winter solstice with different festivals celebrating the return of the sun and the light.
Long before Christianity we celebrated winter solstice, and today's Christian Christmas celebration has taken up many elements of the different cultures and festivals of lights . The Norse Vikings called it Jól (midwinter blot). The Celts celebrated Yule (meaning wheel as in sacred circle / cycle of nature). Druids lit bonfires to celebrate the sun's return. Romans also had their festival of lights "Saturnalia" in honor of Saturn. And Jews celebrate Hanukkah, at this time of year.
Common to the different cultures was the celebration of hope.  Hope for light and warmer days to return.  Peace, tolerance, love and joy would dominate the celebrations.
At a time when different ideologies and religions seems to create a lot of anxiety, I believe it is a good idea to consider what unites us. Light is life, and independent of cultural background and religion, we are all dependent on the sun.

I wish you all a wonderful start of the winter, and a happy holiday no matter what religion you do (or do not) belong.

PS: I will write more about the glass house later.

Christmas Custom The origin; published in Stavanger Aftenblad 12 November 2009.