Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Tomorrow’s Solstice

In my opinion, winter ends – tomorrow! Here’s wishing you a wonderful Winter Solstice, which occurs Wednesday, December 21, 2005, at 1:35 PM EST. The shortest day and the longest night of the year are marked by the winter solstice, as explained here.

The abbreviated version is, tomorrow’s the day that the sun appears at its lowest point in the sky. Its noontime elevation appears to be the same for several days before and after the solstice; it appears to stop right there. That’s the origin of the word “solstice,” from Latin solstitium, from sol, “sun” and -stitium, “a stoppage.” Sun lovers like me are grateful: After the winter solstice, the days begin to grow longer and the nights shorter. Spring is on its way, even though it may not feel like it north of the Line - the longer days prove it. (I believe! I believe!)

It’s considered pagan now by many people, but the winter solstice used to be a time of great celebration in Europe and throughout the world. Most of humanity's existence was spent in times when it wasn’t really understood that there were predictable patterns in nature, and that the seasons followed a dependable cycle.

In those days, the sinking autumn noontime sun must have been scary. Would the sun ever return, or would it keep on sinking and disappear…forever? December 21st brought relief each year, as our forebears finally realized the sun would rise again. Light, warmth, and sunshine for crops would return soon. Tanning lotion would once again appear on the shelves at Walgreens and CVS.

So when you look up in the sky tomorrow, give a thought to the end of winter. It’s really coming – except in Minnesota.

“Untitled Winter Scene” by Ceil Rosenberg, Public Works of Art Project, 1934 Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, National Archives and Records Administration (MO 69-62).

No comments: