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Text by: Jacque Crosswell Watene

Dear Polite Society Magazine Reader,

For as long as there has been written history, and perhaps even further back in time, people all the world over have celebrated the winter season. Thousands of years before the biblical account of the birth of Jesus Christ, civilizations carefully watched and meticulously tracked the Sun's place in the sky in relation to Earth. These people, it is said, worshiped the Sun, which appeared to be sinking lower and lower in the sky until finally the fiery orb would reach a plateau around the 21st of each December. On this day, the Sun descends to its lowest point in the sky and remains there for three consecutive days. On the third day, the sun begins its slow ascent by small degrees until it finally reaches its peak in the afternoon sky on or around June 23rd, or Summer Solstice. Our ancient ancestors depended wholeheartedly on the Sun for survival - for warmth, for food, and especially for the seasons that would enable crops to grow. For this reason, the idea of their life-source ascending back high into the sky was reason for worship and much celebration. This was a time that seemed to lend a mysticism to the air with the cold chill on the wind bidding families to stay close indoors, the promise of another spring and summer as the Sun slowly ascended, and all of life going dormant while awaiting the first spring rays of light and warmth to coax it back to life. We call this time the Winter Solstice, and it is celebrated to this day by many people in every part of the world.

What is it about this time of year that compels us to celebrate? Is it the warmth we feel in our hearts when drawn close together as we take shelter from the frozen air? Is it some ancestral instinct in our blood and DNA leftover from those ancient days of yore when we celebrated the rising sun as a deity? Is it the joy and anticipation of the gifts that lay beneath the tree or menorah, or even in the hands of a dear one? Perhaps the sparkling decorations, holly berries, and mistletoe are the mesmerizing culprits, weaving that certain holiday spell into our spirits. Whatever the reason, one would be hard-pressed to deny the midwinter season is filled with magic.

© Kevin Parker Photography

This magic can be felt by all, but especially by children. They seem to embody this magical feeling, with their wishes and unwavering belief in things unseen. In a way, we all become very much like children when we take this magical feeling into our hearts and then share it with others. There are so many different ways in which to share and honor the joys of the winter season. In this issue of Polite Society Magazine, we share with you some our favorite holiday pastimes, from a fancy, yet simply executed, four course progressive dinner, to cozying up with a good book suggestion from the In Our Library section, to recipes for a delicious bowl of hot soup. Follow us into the home and hearth of the mythical goddess Hestia, as she teaches us how to transform the mundane tasks we perform as keepers of the hearth into pure enchantment and magic. We are delighted to take you with us on a tour of Germany at Christmastime and then rush off to explore Mad King Ludwig's most infamous German castle. We will also share some great tips for gift-giving etiquette and even offer coping strategies to ward of holiday stress during the inevitable hustle and bustle of the season.

Whatever your personal reason for celebrating and honoring the winter holidays, we wish you all the joy in the world, as all creation seemingly lies dormant, waiting with anticipation and bated breath for the excitement of what the new year will bring. May you feel the magic and wonder of unborn possibilities in the air, and above all, may those possibilities become your dreams realized throughout the year to come.

Happy Holidays!

With love and magical wishes,

Jacque Kay Crosswell and Christine Pethel