The Winter Solstice is such a special time of year. Not only is it the shortest day of the year, but it marks the first day of winter and was cause for huge celebration by our ancient ancestors.
The most awesome Winter Solstice experience I ever had was on the solstice of 2001. It was before my husband and I had children, and we decided to take a Christmas driving trip down to New Orleans. We live in Illinois, right by the Wisconsin border, so it was quite a trek.
Earlier that year, I had read a lot about the Native American settlement at Cahokia (near St. Louis). There is a museum and park there full of Indian mounds. The largest mound, called "Monks Mound", is one of the largest pre-Columbus ancient monuments on our continent. (Only two pyramids in Mexico and one in Peru are larger).
Archaeologists discovered a wood henge at the Cahokia settlement. This is basically the same concept as Stonehenge in England, but this henge was made of wood posts (so it is called "Woodhenge"). Although the posts decayed and are no longer there, archaeologists were able to find pieces of them buried in the ground. So, they recreated it. The theory is that Woodhenge was created as a type of calendar, with posts marking the spot of the rising sun at it's different points throughout the year (the solstices in particular).
As you would probably imagine, one of the posts marks the Winter Solstice.
So, back to my story....
My husband and I left for our trek to New Orleans in the middle of the night before the solstice. I had read online that the sunrise on Winter Solstice would be marked by a silent gathering at Woodhenge, and anyone could attend. It just so happened that this area was right along our way to New Orleans.
It was awesome. A silent memorial. To stand in the Woodhenge and watch as the sun rose along the re-created Winter Solstice marker, with the huge pyramid-like mound towering in the background, was something I'll never forget.
I do have a picture of that sunrise, but it was taken 8 years ago on an older digital camera. I have a print, but no idea where to dig for the backup of the file. But you can imagine. If you wish to learn more about the Native American settlement at Cahokia, here is a link to the official museum: http://cahokiamounds.org/
Happy Winter Solstice!