So, earlier tonight I walked out onto the back porch with a cup of decaf, and looked up to see a truly beautiful winter solstice moon. I couldn't get a great picture on my iPhone, or I'd share it with you. Then again, you could simply walk outside if you're reading this on December 21, 2018 in East Texas.

The moonlight was so bright at one point, I could've almost read a chapter of my book outside if I had wanted--almost. Now, there isn't always a full moon on the winter solstice, but it certainly added to the drama of the "longest night of the year."

Usually, the winter solstice is mentioned in passing or you may have noticed it on your calendar from time to time. But what is the winter solstice, exactly?

Technically speaking, Wikipedia defines the winter solstice as "the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year, when the sun is at its lowest daily maximum elevation in the sky. At the pole, there is continuous darkness or twilight around the winter solstice."

I really like this simple definition from one of my favorite writers, who refers to it as "midwinter":

The winter solstice has been celebrated in many ways for millennia--across many cultures at different times. You may have also heard it referred to as Yule, which we still sing about in some of our Christmas carols. Some of our Christmas traditions, such as "boughs of holly," Christmas trees, and that playful sprig of mistletoe we hang over our doorways, were also a part of winter solstice celebrations of long ago.

There's something special about this crisp season. Now, this is Texas, and though we aren't typically socked in with miles of snow and ice, we definitely get our cold winter days and nights. It's during this season that we turn inward, gather with loved ones, and take a break from the frantic pace of the rest of the year--well, once we've finished our holiday shopping and cooking, that is. There's a certain warmth that can only be experienced in contrast to the outside chill. It reminds us to take a breath, get cozy, focus on loved ones, celebrate faith and family, and reflect on the new year.

And of course, it heralds the arrival of Christmas in just a few days--wishing you and yours a very merry one.