Poetry Sunday: The Shortest Day

Admittedly, it has seemed like winter for some time now, as much of the continent has been blanketed in snow and ice. And even here where I live, though we haven't had either ice or snow, we've had gray, cold, drizzly days with icy winds from the north that made us huddle in our sweaters and turn up the thermostats.

The calendar assures us that winter has not, in fact, truly arrived yet, but just a few more days and Earth will have completed its transit around the sun. The year will be complete and the shortest day will signal that the new astronomical year is about to begin.

From the earliest days of human history, this has been a time of festivals - festivals meant to hold the fearful dark at bay and welcome the light of a new day and a new year. We continue this tradition with our year-end holidays and celebrations. They connect us to our forbears, singing and dancing around the fires to drive the dark away.

The Shortest Day 

by Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!


  1. A friend of mine just pointed out that there's a typo in this copy of the poem: it should say "feast" rather than "fest".


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