This is the 11th year that Amy Martin and her Celestial Rhythm Celebrations have honored traditions of light and dark with Winter SolstiCelebration. This ceremony of earth-based beliefs and rituals started with a couple of hundred people gathered at a venue on White Rock Lake. Then it moved to the First Unitarian Church. When the celebration outgrew that place, it moved to its current home at the Cathedral of Hope, the gay and lesbian congregation at Cedar Springs and Inwood roads.
But Winter SolstiCelebration isn't just for people who mark "other" in the religion box on census forms. Though 65 percent of the participants in last year's demographic study consider themselves "earth spiritualists," which includes Native Americans, pagans, Wiccans and more, between 10 and 15 percent are Christians, who supplement their biblical beliefs with a love of the earth. The rest of the pie graph is filled with Buddhists and, Martin says, people with their own systems such as "The Church of the Imaginary Friend."
All of these find a place in Winter SolstiCelebration. The rituals, performances and traditions draw from many different belief systems. The main speaker this year is Lama Dudjom Dorjee, who will be accompanied by members of the Karma Thegsum Choling Tibetan Buddhist Center performing Sanskrit chants translated into English. There will also be dancing, drumming, poetry, storytelling, video and the saying of names of those who have passed. But the highlight is when the three days of the solstice's dark period are condensed into three minutes of complete darkness and silence followed by "bringing back the light" with an Egyptian temple fire dance and the audience participating by turning on their flashlights (candles became too messy with the wax cleanup). The service ends with drumming, dancing and passing through sun and moon gates, which, Martin says, can be a little overwhelming to newbies who aren't used to 700 people divided into two circles dancing to primitive drumming. The calm returns when everyone grabs slices of bread and cookies that have been made by participants and other benefactors and sits in the cathedral to literally break bread and talk, making the one time a year that many solo-practicing spiritualists get to spend time with other like-minded people. Grab a flashlight, bake some cookies and dress in celestial clothing to go with the cosmic theme, and experience a noncommercial holiday treat. As Martin says, after a decade, they still haven't managed to make money yet.