The Winter Solstice and The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn
Today we celebrate the Winter Solstice and the rare great conjunction of the two largest planets, Jupiter and Saturn of the solar system; they will be closest to each other and seem to form a double planet as the “Christmas star”. This is certainly an event for celebration as the closest separation between the two planets was 1623, almost 400 years ago. But the year when they could be observed in conjunction was in 1226, almost 800 years ago on the longest night of the year or the shortest day of 2020.
The great conjunction reminds us we are not the only phenomenon in this vast universe, we are just mere players that strut about on a stage for a very brief period and will all disappear into oblivion while the planets remain majestic and exalted.
In the yin and yang of Chinese philosophy, the yin of darkness and bitter cold of the Winter Solstice reached their height in the longest night and the shortest day of the year but also marks the turning point of ushering in the light and welcoming gradual warmth of yang.
My parents were immigrants to Malaya and Singapore from southern China and continue the tradition of serving glutinous rice flour balls served in a warm, sugary, gingery syrup or Tang Yuan 湯圓 in the Winter Solstice. 湯圓 is homophonous with 團圓 which means reunion or wholeness. The shape of the balls symbolizes and celebrates family reunion.
With the coming of the Winter Solstice and the celebration of the Great Conjunction, let us hope it marks the turning point for our darkest time of the pandemic, for us to look forward to the lengthening of the day, a solace for the darkest and longest night of the solstice. Several coronavirus vaccines are now available to help us fight the pandemic, there is yet light at the end of our dark, long tunnel of struggles.
There will be time for us to come together, to hug, touch, and be whole again.