26th of December,
What is Winter? A time to fear? A time for
darkness and death? No. Winter is merely part of
the endless cycle of sleep and awakening, dying
and rebirth. The trees know it: they don't die
each year. They merely sleep through the
coldness and put out new leaves in the spring.
The birds know it: they come and go by the
seasons. The snow is merely a blanket that
protects the earth, insulating it against the
cold and providing it with moisture in the
spring. The darkness doesn't last throughout. It
ends in the middle of the winter, with the
solstice in December, and the light returns even
in the deepest cold of winter. No, Winter is
nothing to fear.
Are there folktales of Winter that see it as
just another part of the natural cycle? Yes, too
many to list here.
A Russian folktale tells of a girl abused by
her stepmother, who has her left out in the
winter forest to die. Morosko, Old Man Winter,
appears, approves of the girl's politeness to
him, and rewards her with wealth. Another
Russian tale personifies Winter's melting into
Spring in the story of Snegourichka, the Snow
Maiden who comes to live with an old couple one
Winter, but melts away in Spring. This story so
intrigued the nineteenth century Russian
composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov that he wrote
an opera about her.
There are small folk beliefs: in British and
American folklore, there is the harmless spirit,
Jack Frost (possibly from the Norse Jokul
Frosti), who paints the leaves and windows with
And it can hardly be considered coincidental
that so many religions down through the century
have held celebrations about the winter
solstice, from the current Christmas and
Channukah (which have nothing in common save for
being holidays of light) back to ancient customs
such as the Norse Yule and the Roman
Listen to the Winter. Hear the wind's
shouting die and the soft whispering of the snow
begin. Remember that the cycle continues, and
enjoy what was, what is, what is to come.
Entire Contents Copyright
2004, Josepha Sherman.
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