What is the Secular Solstice?

It was born as a small thing. 20 friends gathered in a living room, singing songs about the first winter campfires and the latest technologies shaping our world.

We lit oil lamps, LEDs, plasma balls and imitation lightsabers – and then slowly extinguished them until a single candle remained. We told stories about a universe that is often cold and uncaring, and the humans who labored to make it less so.

We extinguished that candle, sharing a moment in absolute darkness together.

And then we rekindled those lights, singing of a tomorrow that we might make brighter than today.

Since that night, solstice has grown and evolved. The next year, there were 50 people who came to New York City from San Francisco and Boston. The year after that, there were 150 people, with people driving up from North Carolina and Ohio. And meanwhile, smaller events in the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston.

To date, there have been secular solstices held across the United States, in Australia, the UK, Germany. Some are huge community events with hundreds of people, others are intimate gatherings of friends.

A Commitment to Truth (even when it’s challenging)

This holiday was created for people with a worldview rooted in both science, progress and compassion. Who want to make the world a better place, and who understand that sometimes this means learning new things that challenge your worldview.

The Secular Solstice is a time when we tell inspiring stories that remind us we’re not alone. That challenge us to work to make a better future. But, crucially, those stories have a firm grounding in our latest, best understanding of the world. (Sometimes this even means taking a second look at the stories that were foundational to solstice).

Light. Darkness. Light.

From Running Brighter Than Today:

Individual communities adapt the solstice to fit their own needs. But there’s a core emotional arc that really defines the holiday: the journey through darkness.

It begins light, enthusiastic and joyful. It transitions into somber contemplation. Candles are gradually extinguished, until a single candle remains. Someone tells a personal, vulnerable story about the hardships they or the community have faced. The story ends by finding good reasons to hope, to keep trying, even in the face of absolute darkness.

Then the lights are reignited. You sing together about the world humanity has built together, and the future you will help create.

We dive into more detail – what kinds of songs are good to sing, what kinds of stories work well – in the Arc Breakdown.

Silly songs. Sacred Songs.

The best Christmas songs range from:

  • Really ridiculous jingles that are easy to sing while drunk, telling the stories of chubby old people who watch you in your sleep.
  • Fun pop-songs that sound totally reasonable playing on the radio
  • Deeply beautiful carols that transport you to a place of quiet tranquility and hint at something sacred.

For the solstice to really stand on its own and fill the gap that many secular people were longing for, it would need songs in each of those categories.

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