In honor of the winter solstice, Longwave Yoga’s December theme is rebirth. As we approach the darkest day of the year, Mother Nature asks us to move inward to both observe and let go of the areas in our lives that do not serve. This affords us the opportunity to be open to new beginnings after the solstice has passed and the sun is reborn yet again. In other words, the solstice is our time to set intentions for the rebirth of our own lives.
History illuminates a longstanding relationship between the winter solstice and rebirth. For instance, the ancient Romans’ festival Saturnalia began and ended in accordance with the solstice. Honoring the agricultural deity Saturn, the ancient Romans honored their God and the increasing light that would shine upon their fields and crops. Even Christianity has roots in winter solstice celebrations. Many historians believe that December 25 was selected to celebrate the birth of Jesus because it coincides with the rebirth of the sun.
Hindus and yogis across the globe also partake in winter solstice recognitions, such as the modern Hindu celebration Pancha Ganapati. The five-day event is dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the Destroyer of Obstacles and Lord of New Beginnings. On December 21-25, during Pancha Ganapati, families come together to invoke Ganesha, mend their past mistakes, and bless their relationships. Each day is dedicated to renewing a different type of relationship. These relationships are arranged in widening circles to start with remedying intimate relationships and broadening into other partnerships.
The individual days of Pancha Ganapati have different traditions. However, each morning is the same. The family decorates the altar and offers prasad (generally an offering of food) to Ganesha. After the family has chanted, they share sweets and place small gifts for each other on Ganesha’s altar. The remainder of the festivities are as follows:
December 21 (Yellow):
The family gathers in an effort to create vibrations of love. In the morning, the whole family decorates the shrine yellow and asks for Ganesha’s blessings. Each family member takes a turn to make amends for past mistakes, insults, and harm they may have caused. Once forgiveness is sought and apologies delivered, each person takes a turn to identify and share his or her family member’s most admirable qualities.
December 22 (Blue):
This day is dedicated to restoring friendships. In the morning, the entire family redecorates the shrine with blue adornments. Friends then meet to exchange gifts and apologize for past offenses. If friends or relatives are long-distance, it is customary to call or write them on this day to ask for forgiveness and to let go of residual tension.
December 23 (Red):
Business relationships are not forgotten during Pancha Ganapati. Day three is devoted to restoring balance and harmony with co-workers and business partners. Gifts are offered to colleagues, customers, and employees. Additionally, outstanding debts are settled, and business disputes are relinquished. The family decorates Ganesha’s shrine in shades of red.
December 24 (Green):
This day is dedicated to cultivating art and talents in various forms. Family and friends come together to decorate the altar in green and share their unique artistic gifts. Additionally, the group comes together in satsang to discuss philosophy.
December 25 (Orange):
Spirituality is the intent of the final day. The family focuses on the benefits of spirituality and charity while re-decorating the altar a final time in hues of orange. Also, on this day, the family opens all of the gifts that have been placed upon Ganesha’s altar throughout the celebration. Celebrants understand the gifts to be part of Ganesha’s presence in the home.
Pancha Ganapati holds the space for observation and growth within relationships. Over the span of the five-day event, celebrants humbly acknowledge what relationships in their lives need growth. And by the passing of the solstice, those relationships are born again, prepared to face the coming year with an open heart and new life.