For about two months, Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) youth participants from Moving Forward, Young Revolutionary Front, and We’Ced Youth Media gathered at the YLI office in downtown Merced to plan and coordinate Merced’s first Winter Solstice Ceremony.
During planning sessions, youth led rehearsals and art sessions. Youth were guided by YOALI elders in the significance of the cultural practices to prepare for a Winter Solstice Ceremony.
Winter Solstice is the moment during the year when the path of the Sun is farthest from the earth. Indigenous cultures believe that the ceremony is offered to thank the sun and mother earth for providing and to offer strength for its return.
On Dec 18, 2021, Merced held its first Winter Solstice Ceremony at the Boys & Girls Club of Merced hosted by Merced young people, YLI, Maestro Robert Castro (YOALI), Mexica danzantes from across the Central Valley and Bay Area. They were joined by families, residents, City Council members Bertha Perez and Jesse Ornelas, and United Way, who provided covid tests.
Winter Solstice is important for the young people of Merced to host to honor Indigenous practices, to gather and create community, to share the knowledge which offered a new experience and gave residents a chance to reflect on the significance of the ceremony for Indigenous people.
Transcript of video narration:
Run: Merced’s 2021 Winter Solstice ceremony began with a run led by young people to symbolize the strength of families, elders, and young people to bring the sun to return to its cycle throughout winter to spring.
Tree: After the run concluded, papel amate was given to the runners which symbolized their perseverance and strong will. It was tied to the branches of a tree as an offering to the tree to honor mother Earth and our “Plant-cestors” with gratitude for its life and support throughout the year.
6 directions: Community members gather around the Tlamanalli which is the altar in the center to start honoring the 6 directions, but due to respect, traditionally we do not film the 6 directions. It honors the
East: Spirituality, where the sun rises & precious knowledge,
West: Woman, medicine & an acknowledgement of woman who lost their lives during childbirth North: resting place, place of quiet, place of our conscious memory
South: childrens direction, left handed hummingbird (huitzilopochtli)
Father sun: Sun, creator,
Mother Earth: woman nation, sustenance, plants
and each direction is a version of the creator.
Song: After honoring the six directions, Youth members started singing “huitzilopochtli” and is meant to be a greeting song.
Dancers: Mexica danzantes supported the ceremony by providing an offering of dances which honors huitzilopochtli in celebration of the ceremony.
Community Closing: to close the ceremony the participants gathered in a circle to share closing reflections. Many were grateful for the experience and indigenous leaders and elders closed the circle with a reminder to honor mother earth. Then we spent time socializing and sharing cultural food amaranth with honey called Huautli.