Personal Blog of Mark Hoskins – Anarchist Writer and Community Organiser
The solstice was a significant celebration for our ancestors for a few reasons. It was a good time to celebrate, because the days were shorter and there wasn’t much agricultural work that could be done. It was the time when the last cattle were slaughtered so that they wouldn’t have to be fed in the cold of January, so the last time for months there would be a plentiful supply of meat. It also heralded the end of darkness and the return of light. From this point in, the days get longer and soon the sun would impregnate the fertile river valleys allowing their bounty to be exploited, giving life for the rest of the year.
It isn’t hard to see why the solstice should also be a significant celebration for workers today. The winter months are hard. If you work anything approximating to nine to five, when you get up, it’s dark and cold. When you get to work, it’s barely getting bright. It’s dark when you’re leaving work and getting home. The only time you get to step out into daylight for a decent stretch is at the weekend. This goes on for months. My commute takes about an hour. From Monday to Friday I don’t see the place where I live in daylight. I get thirty minutes for lunch, and that’s pretty much the only daylight I see.
The reduction in available sunlight reduces our vitamin D intake. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), affects many people and causes depression in the winter months. The solstice and the return of light represents the rebirth of hope. It’s not quite spring, but at the dark dreary zenith of winter, we’ll take it. It can also be a symbol of hope for a future, where we work less without worrying about our financial security, where the daylight belongs to us all.
Every hegemonic imperium has shaped the midwinter festival in its image. The Romans had Saturnalia, a week long festival where everything was permitted and social norms were reversed. Christian churches appropriated it and turned it into Christmas, a celebration of the birth of Christ. Capitalism remoulded it in its own image, as a carnival of commercialism. It’s high time that we workers, the majority, celebrated things that matter to us. Happy Solstice. Long live the light.