Let There Be Light

Most people think of Christmas as the central holiday of the season — but before there was Christmas, there were solstice celebrations to mark the longest night of the year and the gradual return of daylight to the northern hemisphere; these festivities were linked to a mythos involving the rebirth of a king who would rule the upcoming year.

The Yule and winter solstice celebrations — including such traditional markings as mistletoe and decorated trees — were co-opted by the church hundreds of years ago because it was more convenient to incorporate the birth of Jesus Christ (who, according to biblical historians, was most likely born closer to July) with the already existing myth of the newborn king than to create a whole new holiday for Christ's birthday.

If you want a taste of the real reason for the season, head to the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street, for the annual Solstice Celebration and Yule Ritual. Ancient, indigenous and modern urban customs will invoke the power of the night while simultaneously celebrating the upcoming lengthening days. Sara Rain will lead the ritual, which will be followed by the Celtic rock of Tuatha. The party starts at 8 p.m., and admission is $13. Make your reservations at 303-294-9258; get information at www.mercurycafe.com.
Sat., Dec. 19, 8 p.m., 2009