Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation
December 19, 2010

The Inca Ceremony of IntiRaymi by Yvonne Hughes 2010. All Rights Reserved.
The Chinese Ceremony of Dong Zhi by Allysson McDonald 2010. All Rights Reserved.
The Persian Ceremony of Shab-e Chelleh, Yalda by Paul K. Davis 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Note: These homilies were part of the same service as Jeremy K. Nickel's homily, The Longest Night.

The Inca Ceremony of IntiRaymi
by Yvonne Hughes

The IntiRaymi or Festival of the Sun was a religious ceremony of the Inca Empire in honor of the sun god Inti. It also marked the winter solstice (which is in June in Peru), when the sun is farthest from the earth, and a new year in the Andes of the Southern Hemisphere.

Fearing the lack of sun and ensuing famine, the ancient Incas gathered in Cuzco to honor the Sun God and plead for his return.

One ceremony performed by the Inca priests was the tying of the sun. In Machu Picchu there is still a large column of stone called an Intihuatana, meaning "hitching post of the sun" or literally "tying the sun". The ceremony to tie the sun to the stone was to prevent the sun from escaping. Gifts were bestowed upon the emperor (called the Inca) and, as Inti's son, he provided a festival feast. It is a time of thanksgiving and spiritual preparation for the coming year.

The Chinese Ceremony of Dong Zhi
by Allysson McDonald

In November, Americans celebrate a holiday where families gather for a big meal to celebrate the harvest. We call it Thanksgiving. In China, they have a thanksgiving or harvest celebration in December. It is called "Dong Zhi", which means "winter arriving". It marks the end of the Fall harvest season and the beginning of the colder winter. It falls on the winter solstice, December 22. So while the weather gets colder, the days will be getting longer, bringing brightness and hope.

You may have seen the Yin/Yang symbol before. In Chinese beliefs, light and dark are not the same as good and bad, rather they represent different types of energy. It is believed that everyone possesses both types of energy in different ratios, but the ideal is balance. In the Fall, as days get shorter, this represents an imbalance in the energy; and at the solstice the shift to longer days represents an increase in positive energy as a result of yang increasing.

Dong Zhi is almost as important as Chinese New Year. Here in America, Chinese Americans get together with their family to celebrate with a big meal.

One of the special foods shared at Dong Zhi is glutinous rice balls - a sweet soft rice dough with red bean paste in the center, served in a sweet red bean broth. I heard a funny story from a friend who says that in China everyone was supposed to have a "kitchen god" who kept an eye on the family and would report to God if you weren't doing what you were supposed to do. The sticky rice ball was a good thing to give to the kitchen god because it was so sticky he couldn't talk and tell on you!

I have some sticky rice balls here for the children to try. We'll see if it has the same effect!

The Persian Ceremony of Shab-e Chelleh, Yalda
by Paul K. Davis

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