The following article was published by The Daily Review, December 25, 2007.

Stories of the Winter Sun

mary ellen storytelling

SAN LORENZO-The Earth's Northern Hemisphere is at its farthest distance from the sun during the winter solstice. This means that Saturday had the shortest amount of daylight and the longest night of the year, with the sunrise at 7:21 a.m. and set at 4:54 p.m. The days now grow longer and the nights shorter until we reach the longest day of the year-also know as the summer solstice-which is typically June 21 in the Northern Hemisphere.

"Solstice means the sun stands still," storyteller Mary Ellen Hill told a gathering of children and adults Saturday at the San Lorenzo Library.

"A lot of holidays are about light," she said. "Our ancestors were worried about the sun and so would build bonfires so that the sun would come back."

With great animation, Hill told three stores about the sun and mon as listeners hung on her every word-singing at he songs she taught them, along with sign language.

Hill started a Siberian folk tale, "How Snowshoe Hare Rescued the Sun." Ages ago, creatures called tungats stole light-the sun-and kept it in a cave for warmth until Snowshoe Hare bravely took it for the rest of the animals. The hare bounced the ball of light and kicked it into the sky, where a piece broke off to become the new moon and the rest, the sun.

Next, Hill told a story from Nigeria of when Sun lived on Earth, where Sun built an addition to its house so that Water, with all of its animals and plants, could come visit. However, there was now so much Water that Sun magically transformed Water into clouds and Sun went to the sky.

The final story, from the Creek Indians, told of animals that tried to carry the sun back to their dark side of the world. The fox burned its lip and the possum singed its tail until Grandma Spider wove a strong basket and was able to carry the sun back. The turkey vulture then carried the sun into the sky so everyone could see it, but burned its neck and feathers and head, which is why it is bald today.

"All stories are a little true," Hill said.

She reminded the group that these tales were from long ago, when people lived in very different cultures.

Hill, an Oakland resident, often performs at Adventure Time, a day care program in the public schools, and said she recently conducted a solstice ceremony where people lit candles and sang songs.

Stacy Barnard, a 6-year old at the library on Saturday, said she heard Hill at Adventure Time on Friday and was excited to see her again at the library.