John Muir National Historic Site Hosts Winter Solstice Campfire on Dec. 21

December 14, 2013 19:00 pm · 24 comments

Join the National Park Service for a free winter solstice-themed campfire program on Saturday, December 21, 2013 at John Muir National Historic Site (NHS) in Martinez. The program begins at 3PM with crafts and games in the park orchards and continues with a campfire from 5PM-7PM. Rangers will lead the group in songs, stories and activities to celebrate the changing of the seasons and the legacy of John Muir, one of the greatest naturalists and conservationists the United States has ever known.

No reservations are required. Meet at the front gate of the John Muir National Historic Site, 4202 Alhambra Avenue, in Martinez (at the Alhambra Ave. exit off Highway 4). Bring the whole family! Come with warm layers, picnic blankets, lawn chairs, marshmallows and a desire to have a good time. Rangers will direct visitors from the gate to the fire ring until 5:30PM. If it rains heavily, the program will be canceled.

Created in 1964, John Muir NHS preserves the home, landscapes, and gravesite of conservationist and national park advocate John Muir. Mt. Wanda preserves 326 acres of grasslands and oak woodlands that were part of the original Muir/Strentzel ranch in the Alhambra Valley more than a century ago.

John Muir NHS, located at 4202 Alhambra Avenue, Martinez, is open five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday, from 10AM to 5PM. Admission to the site is free of charge. For more information, please visit the park website at or call (925) 228-8860.


1 TinFoiler December 14, 2013 at 8:03 PM

Will it be a Spare the Air Day?

2 Always Right December 14, 2013 at 8:45 PM

Let’s not forget to mention the following:

– December 15-29: Victorian Christmas, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The house is decorated for the holidays following Victorian and Muir family traditions. A special celebration on December 18 will feature tours, storytelling holiday music and refreshments.

After all, John Muir was a Christian who celebrated Christmas with his family.

3 Fresh air December 14, 2013 at 8:48 PM

I am sure it will be a Spare the air day!

4 curious george December 14, 2013 at 8:49 PM

what if its a spare the air day?

5 Paul Louis December 14, 2013 at 8:52 PM

What happens if it is a no-burn day. We have had 8 days in a row. Come on … let burn something.

6 Anonymous December 14, 2013 at 8:58 PM

Hah! If the Air people have their way , there wont be any campfire.

7 Bobfshed December 14, 2013 at 9:25 PM

No if its a no burn night! That is really to bad!

8 Tim December 14, 2013 at 9:27 PM

What if it’s a Spare the Air Day? Would the National Park Service get busted?

9 russ December 14, 2013 at 10:39 PM

I can guaran-tee it won’t be a STAD

10 @Always Right December 14, 2013 at 11:24 PM

Yep, and the Christian powers-that-be piggybacked Christmas onto the pagan Roman holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25.

“In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it. Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians.”

And that’s just the tip of the pagan iceburg for this time of year (Winter Solstice).

As a Christian, it’s a sacred time to celebrate Jesus, but as a human being, I respect that many other non-Christian cultures have contributed to our traditions this season. Is it any coincidence that Christmas marks the turning of longer nights/shorter days into longer days/shorter nights? I think not.

11 :) December 15, 2013 at 12:38 AM

‘Shab-e Yalda’, celebrated on 21 December, has great significance in the Iranian calendar. It is the eve of the birth of Mithra, the Sun God, who symbolised light, goodness and strength on earth. Shab-e Yalda is a time of joy.

Yalda is a Syriac word meaning birth. Mithra-worshippers used the term ‘yalda’ specifically with reference to the birth of Mithra. As the longest night of the year, the Eve of Yalda (Shab-e Yalda) is also a turning point, after which the days grow longer. In ancient times it symbolised the triumph of the Sun God over the powers of darkness.

The Cult of the Sun was first introduced to Iran thousands of years ago by migrant Aryans. Mithra, the Sun God remained a potent symbol of worship throughout the following centuries. Centuries later, during the Achaemenid era, Mithra became a principal deity, equal in rank to Ahura Mazda (the god of all goodness) and Anahita (goddess of water and fertility).

In Sasanian times, Zoroastrianism became Iran’s official religion, but Mithra’s importance remained undiminished. This is evident from the bas-reliefs as Naqsh-e Rustam and Tagh-e Bustan. At Naqsh-e Rustam, Anahita bestows the royal diadem upon Nasri, the Sasanian King. At the investiture of Ardeshir I, Ahura Mazda bestows this diadem to the new King. At Tagh-e Bustan too, Ahura Mazda is again conferring the royal diadem upon Ardeshir II. Mithra is always present as a witness to these ceremonies.

Over the centuries Mithraism spread to Greece and Ancient Rome via Asia Minor, gaining popularity within the ranks of the Roman army. In the 4th century AD as a result of errors made in calculating leap years and dates, the birthday of Mithra was transferred to 25 December. Until then Christ’s birthday had been celebrated on 6 January by all branches of the Christian Church. But with the cult of Mithra still popular in Roman Europe, the Christian Church adopted many of the Mithraic rituals and proclaimed 25 December as the official birthday of Christ. Today the Armenian and Eastern Orthodox Churches continue to celebrate 6 January as Christ’s birthday.

It was said that Mithra was born out of the light that came from within the Alborz mountains. Ancient Iranians would gather in caves along the mountain range throughout the night to witness this miracle together at dawn. They were known as ‘Yar-e Ghar’ (Cave Mates). In Iran today, despite of the advent of Islam and Muslim rituals, Shab-e Yalda is still celebrated widely. It is a time when friends and family gather together to eat, drink and read poetry (especially Hafiz) until well after midnight. Fruits and nuts are eaten and pomegranates and watermelons are particularly significant. The red colour in these fruits symbolises the crimson hues of dawn and glow of life, invoking the splendour of Mithra.

Because Shab-e Yalda is the longest and darkest night, it has come to symbolise many things in Persian poetry; separation from a loved one, loneliness and waiting. After Shab-e Yalda a transformation takes place – the waiting is over, light shines and goodness prevails.

12 funny man December 15, 2013 at 12:44 AM


13 Sam December 15, 2013 at 1:59 AM

If, the National Park Service, a government agency, burns wood on a Spare The Air day, than it would be not only a travesty, but an hypocrisy, of our justice system.

14 Always Right December 15, 2013 at 6:23 AM

I just find it interesting the government is pushing their winter solstice celebration bug ignoring the traditional Christmas celebration.

I am not suggesting an atheist/pagan conspiracy. You don’t need a conspiracy when the people in power all think the same way.

15 bigdaddy December 15, 2013 at 7:50 AM

its a no burn day on the 21st

16 Connie Dobbs December 15, 2013 at 8:27 AM

My family’s pagan, but it’s OK if you’re not. We celebrate Yule.

17 anon December 15, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Sam, would it also be turrible?

18 VikingPrincess December 15, 2013 at 12:38 PM

@always right
John Muir honored nature, he was known for this…Solstice does fit into that category. Its about the season and changing. No different than having the event held for “the coming winter”. The planetary bodies and ocean tides don’t lie. They occur real time. You don’t have to be pagan to honor the change of seasons :).

19 @16 December 15, 2013 at 1:20 PM

I like the Yule log.

20 Silva December 15, 2013 at 2:36 PM

@:), #11
Wow! Thanks for the history lesson! That’s really fascinating.

21 @Always Right December 15, 2013 at 5:17 PM

What government is “pushing” winter solstice on us and ignoring Christmas?
The National Park Service, really? Methinks you’re reading way too much into this. Grab an eggnog, put a splash of rum in it and relax. Enjoy the season and all the different cultures that have contributed to it.

Trade your tin foil hat for a Santa hat.

22 Find Waldo December 15, 2013 at 7:26 PM

I think it’s nice that we can all feel comfortable calling this a Christmas celebration. Merry Christmas! The PC ambassadors can call it what the want.

23 dree December 15, 2013 at 10:09 PM

No one is pushing the winter solstice on anyone. It’s on a different day and there is more then enough room for a celebration of any and all holidays. It’s not about taking something from anyone but adding to the whole as we are one planet, one race the human race.

24 Steve December 15, 2013 at 10:13 PM

This sounds like an interesting event.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: