By Coggin Heeringa, Interpretive Naturalist, Crossroads at Big Creek, Inc.
We at Crossroads are dreaming of a white Christmas so we can share the gift of walking (and maybe even skiing) in a winter wonderland. Nick’s Workshop (not to be confused with Jolly Old Saint Nick’s Workshop at the North Pole) is ready for the Ski-for-Free program to start. All we need is snow on the ground, deep and crisp and even.
Because I grew up singing traditional Christmas carols, mostly from snowy regions of Northern Europe, I imagined the Nativity occurring in the bleak midwinter. That image was imprinted on me because every year my family celebrated with a special German Advent calendar that was sprinkled with glitter.
So, was there actually snow on the first Christmas? Possibly. It occasionally snows in Judea, and most years, they get a few flurries. But did the birth even occur in December?
December 25 was not established as Christmas Day until the Reign of Emperor Constantine in the year 336. Some scholars believe that the date was chosen around the Winter Solstice, at a time when people already were holding celebrations. Some think otherwise. I’ll leave that debate to religious scholars.
Certainly, what we now celebrate as the holiday season is a meld of religious rituals, pagan customs and cultural traditions. I am told that, in addition to Hanukkah and Christmas, at least a dozen religious holidays are celebrated in December. But why? Why now?
Well, to take a line from “Camelot” way out of context, “When the world is black and gray, what time would be more ideal?”
This time of year, we long for Light and for Hope. In so many traditions, we light candles, feast with family and friends and sing songs while we hope for light to come into our lives.
This is the week of the Winter Solstice. Thanks to the lag of the seasons, we still must endure winter, but from now on, the days, little by little, will become longer. And light will return to Earth. And we can be sustained by hope, especially if we take the time to get in touch with nature.
Whatever your faith or beliefs or traditions, we at Crossroads wish you hope and joy and wonder this holiday season.
Our Night of Wonder, a luminary-lit walk of our Meadow Trail is scheduled for the Solstice night, December 21, from 4:30-6:00 p.m. In an addition to the tradition, the trail to the Astronomy Campus also will be illuminated, if skies are clear, and members of the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society will be on hand to share the wonders of the Door County night sky.
Crossroads at Big Creek Learning Center and Nature Preserve is located at 2041 Michigan Street. Crossroads is a 501(c)3 organization committed to offering education, conducting research and restoration, and providing outdoor experiences to inspire environmental stewardship in learners of all ages and from all backgrounds. We welcome your support! Become a member of Crossroads by mailing a contribution to P.O. Box 608, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235, or donate online at crossroadsatbigcreek.org.