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Reviewed by Sarah Stuart for Readers' Favorite
The introduction to Celebrating the Solstices by Jim Donovan puts forward some intriguing ideas as to the meaning of these special days when Earth is at its extremes of distance in its orbit around the sun. From pagan times they were celebrated as a “new beginning” so why not observe them today for our chance to “live in the now – this moment”? Further, Donovan suggests these parties should encompass and welcome friends. The summer solstice, in the case of Donovan and his family and friends, is built around the grape harvest, whilst the winter solstice is very close to Christmas and includes a holly tree which is decorated after the celebration dinner, the night-watch, and breakfast. I was astounded to realize this wasn’t a tree cut down and brought indoors; it grows in the garden and most of the homemade decorations are edible.
Jim Donovan’s focal point for the Summer Solstice is a wreath, and that is just the first of many beautiful illustrations. His household has a frame for growing grapes, grapevines being suitable for making wreaths. Alternatives are honeysuckle, willow, and wisteria, so one of them should be available almost everywhere. There are so many traditions, such as bonfires and lighting the winter solstice candle, and a whole culture of poetry. On a practical note, there are tables of dates and very detailed instructions on how to do everything and when. I loved the idea of ritual celebrations and I recommend Celebrating the Solstices to anyone who is tempted to embrace “the circle of life”.