Shoosh! Here we go, headlong into the heart of darkness and the pageantry and spectacle of the holidays. The Winter Solstice is chugging down the tracks and will be at the station on Saturday, December 21. That’s the shortest, darkest day of the year. Or for you night dwellers, it’s the longest night of the year, a good thing.

How long or how short, you ask? On December 21 official sunrise in Fraser will be at 7:21:41a.m. and the big yellow ball will be out at 4:41:47 p.m.. You think that’s bad? At the North Pole there will be no sunrise on December 21. That means no sunset.

Those exotic folks at Stonehenge said that the solstice marked the death and rebirth of the sun. The Big Chief’s face still stares into the heart of the Winter Solstice, mute testimonial to deep knowledge. I can only imagine their drum circles. Prehistoric cultures sure knew how to put their backs into celebrations. From light fire dancing to tossing virgins into volcanoes. Everyone participated.

I’m going to a solstice celebration this year. There will be a bonfire, beverages and strange rituals. On last year’s solstice it was ten degrees below zero here in the nation’s icebox. Hopefully that won’t happen again. I will have to switch my costume plans.

Astronomical phenomena is one of the few things shared by all cultures. It is what it is. Science.

Almost every culture notes the solstice. Iranians celebrate by feasting, family and reciting poetry. Hindus in India come out for this holy day and dunk themselves in holy rivers. Can’t do that here. Holy rivers lead to holy shivers!

I’m a turn toward the light kind of person so I’m excited to see the days getting longer, even if it’s only a few seconds at a time. I cringe inwardly on the Summer Solstice, when the days start getting shorter. When the days start to lengthen, a small seed, about the size of a baby Who from Whoville, starts to germinate and infuse my frozen soul with tendrils of hope and wonder.

Last month I traveled the country and was surprised to hear radio stations playing nothing by Christmas songs … and that was in early November! Broadcasters down South are fighting the war on Christmas by beating people down with Silent Nights and advertisements for My Pillow.

I’m jaded. I prefer my Christmas music delivered by a diverse group of carolers, including kids, young adults and a variety of octogenarians, right outside my front door in the early evening of Christmas Eve.

For years I would ring the bell for the Salvation Army during the holidays outside the City Market in Carbondale. I’d bring friends along and we’d keep it interesting by making up our own carols and adapting traditional numbers to make us all laugh. When I think about of it, some of those numbers were pretty saucy …

“I will be your ho ho ho

If you give us dough, dough, dough.”

Don’t laugh. It worked on most people. They appreciated the twist on tradition. Some folks would try to ignore us or pretend they didn’t have any money. There’s nothing more disheartening than seeing rich people pretend that they don’t have any money but I’m here to tell you that it happens every day. If I knew the charity evader I would follow them outside and knock on the window of their Range Rover. I wasn’t there to fail.

Even though I’d like to get some presents, namely a Baby Yoda, I’m well aware that the best things in life are not things at all. Giving it all away without expecting anything back is an acquired skill that pays back again and again. That’s what I’m aiming for this holiday. Making someone else feel good. Equanimity. Celebrating the success of others. Yes, that’s it.

So if you see me out there in a red Santa suit, ringing a bell in the cold, either pull out some cash, join in the choir or cross the street. For the fickle shall not pass without monetary molestation.

Steve Skinner wishes you the very best. Reach him at