The Times‘ Cara Buckley gets extra credit for going to Grand Army Plaza in the pre-dawn dark of Sunday to observe a Winter Solstice ritual conducted by “self-styled urban shaman” Mama Donna for 17 locals. Mama Donna’s acolytes stood at the cold crossroads, smelled burning herbs, yelled to “let all their bad energy out,” and had their foreheads christened with oil and orange stickers “to symbolize the coming sun.” Hardcore; respect.
The evening before, Prospect: A Year in the Park photographed the early sunset as it cast “its longest shadows of the year into the Vanderbilt Street Playground.” On Sunday the Parks Department co-sponsored with the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park a Bronx Solstice observance in which “vistors lit candles on little wooden ‘boats’ which were then launched on the shore of the lake. But they didn’t go far, since the lake was practically frozen.” That night, the Paul Winter Consort performed at a “Whole Earth Winter Solstice Celebration” at St. John the Divine.
Meanwhile in Rome even the Pope got with it, connecting the Christmas story to the Solstice (“Christ is the son of grace, who, with his light, transfigures and ignites the expectant universe”) and noting “that St. Peter’s Square is also a meridian with an obelisk that casts its longest shadow on this day.” Why war on Christmas when you can just integrate it? Happy winter carnival!