This time of year, from around what is now called mid-December to mid-January, is traditionally known as NINENE –  The Moon of the Child. 

NINENE – MOON OF THE CHILD (mid-December to mid-January)

The face of the young man represents youth, a new beginning, the rebirth of the animal world, and the new edible shoots. This is the Saanich New Year. The moon’s yellow hair is the returning light to the world.

CONNECTIONS AND BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Winter Solstice (December 20/21) is the point at which the sun is farthest from the Equator, thus it is the darkest day of the year, and at this “turning point” the days will become longer. As with the Summer Solstice, the shortest day of the year holds great importance in many cultures.

WEATHER

This is the time that the Northern Hemisphere starts to move closer to the Sun once again. All things begin to warm up; everything in nature is being reborn. Although it is cold and there are Winter rains, there are some good days and this is the first sign that a new year has begun.

ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES

Some of the twine that had been made from nettles was now woven for reef net fishing. Each family group had a responsibility to produce a certain amount of net or the fishery and these parts would later be assembled. Because there was no hunting or fishing going on, people relied mainly on the fish and game that had been stored for the Winter. For those who would risk the rough seas, there was halibut fishing as the fish returned to their spawning grounds. This was also the season when fawns were born, so the new moon signaled the time to stop deer hunting.

CULTURAL ACTIVITIES

The instruction of the children through telling of tales helped to pass the long Winter nights. The longhouse ceremonial dances continued.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • Why do so many cultures celebrate New Year’s at this time of year?
  • What are New Year’s celebrations like in other cultures?
  • Are other cultures New Year’s celebrations in and around the winter solstice?
  • If you were to develop your own New Year’s celebration, how would you organize it?
  • What celebrations does your culture have during Winter Solstice?
  • How does your life change in the winter when there is less daylight and it is colder and raining or snowing, as compared to summer?

This illustration of the W̱SÁNEĆ calendar, SḴÁU ȽTE, by artist MENEŦIYE is located on S,DÁYES (South Pender Island). The illustration depicts the four seasons, the 13 moons and the culturally important plants, food, medicines, animals and marine life.

Based on the sacred interconnectedness of all things, the observation of  the 13 moons is part of W̱SÁNEĆ natural law. Each of the 13 moons provides guidance as to what cultural and economic activities are best suited for the time of year, as well as what weather to expect and what food is most abundant.

Artist Briony Penn, copyright Tsawout First Nation.

“It was not our way to separate these activities when we lived a traditional life because all was sacred to us. Our art, language, spirituality and our everyday activities were all one. In our homes and in our longhouses we continue to observe the wisdom of the past.”

~The Saanich Year, by Earl Claxton (YELḰÁTŦE) and John Elliott (STOLȻEȽ).

The 13 moons don’t line up exactly with the Gregorian 12-month calendar, but loose associations between months and the moons can be made, as shown above.

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NINENE – MOON OF THE CHILD (Mid December to Mid January)

The face of the young man represents youth, a new beginning, the rebirth of the animal world, and the new edible shoots. This is the Saanich New Year. The moon’s yellow hair is the returning light to the world.