Celebrate winter solstice Celtic style

Optimysm of Taos plans a daylong winter solstice celebration


Cozy up with friends to celebrate the winter solstice in Celtic style with Anam Cara, a five-member Taos-based band. Anam Cara (which translates as “Soul Friend” in Gaelic) features a variety of music, including tunes from Ireland, Scotland and Latin America. The band performs from 4:30-6 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 21) as part of Optimysm’s daylong winter solstice celebration.

From 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., Optimysm, Taos’ metaphysical bookstore, will celebrate the winter solstice with gifts, goodies, music and prayer. The first 50 people who visit will receive a special gift. Throughout the day, there will be homemade cookies and hot apple cider. The event closes with a 6:15 p.m. prayer circle followed by a finger-food potluck.

Anam Cara is Jimmie Killingsworth (mandolin, guitar), Chris Knox (Irish flute, guitar, accordion), Becky Reardon (guitar, vocals), Billy Stewart (bodhran and Middle Eastern drums) and Julie Hawley (Celtic harp, vocals). Members of the group have played together in various groupings for a number of years, but the whole band has only been together for a little more than a year as Anam Cara.

“The idea was to play Celtic music – or modern songs that resonate with that tradition – and to make the harp the centerpiece of the group,” Killingsworth said. “The best way to describe our total repertoire is Celtic and world music. … Sixty percent is Scottish or Irish.”

Anam Cara plays traditional Celtic, European and Latin songs, as well as some original music written by band members Hawley, Reardon and Knox.

Each of Anam Cara’s members brings a wealth of experience and a robust repertoire to the table. Hawley performed with traditional harp ensembles and is experienced in folk singing and composition. Reardon has a strong, varied professional background in singing and songwriting, including folk and jazz genres. Knox is a classically trained musician and longtime session musician who has played traditional Scottish and Irish music. Killingsworth and Stewart play a large repertoire of old-time music, as well as Irish and some Scottish tunes.

Killingsworth enjoys learning new music and has appreciated learning more Scottish music from other group members.

“There’s something about the blend of the harp and mandolin that appeals to me,” Killingsworth added.

For the solstice concert at Optimysm, Anam Cara will play Celtic music, as well as Christmas music, some songs from Northern New Mexico’s Spanish tradition and medieval tunes.

Killingsworth said the set list includes some lively jigs and reels. “We’re going to vary it a little bit to suggest all different kinds of moods,” Killingsworth said.

Nyna Matysiak, the owner of Optimysm, said the Celtic tradition recognizes winter solstice as a time to welcome back the lengthening days with more light after the short, dark days of winter. “That’s why you light candles and burn a yule log,” she explained. “It’s a time to gather as community and share the honoring of the season.”

The solstice celebration is also an opportunity to catch up on holiday shopping.

Optimysm has more than 3,000 used books on spiritual and metaphysical topics, including astrology, self-help, healing, magic, Wicca, women’s studies, occult, angels, divination, philosophy, Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism, natural parenting and shamanism. In addition to books, there are candles, crystals, oracle and tarot decks, jewelry, incense, statues, essential oils, prayer flags, journals, appointment books, calendars, art and cards.

“I have a lot of inexpensive items – someone could come in with $20 and get a nice array of things,” Matysiak said. “There are many things under $10 for the magical person on your list.”

This is Optimysm’s seventh year in business and the store’s third year at its present location. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 2 p.m. The shop will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.