Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Solstice

Merry Solstice

We made it through the shortest daylight day of the year (9h-24m-43s) on Saturday and today will be 2 seconds longer here in the Dearborn County area. The earth started to spin it's northern hemisphere more toward the sun a little after noon yesterday.

The winter solstice, as well as the summer solstice and equinoxes, has always intrigued me. Mankind has been inextricably linked to these solar benchmarks since they first began to understand the seasons and discovered how to observe their beginnings and ends. Even the earliest hunter-gatherers found an advantage in securing their food by understanding and planning around the seasonal changes that affected animal and plant behavior. Later agrarians found such understanding mandatory to maximize crop yields.

That they established celebrations around the measurable seasonal changes and built "observatories", ala Stonehenge, pyramids,, for planning was natural.

The winter solstice, the day after which each day provides more life-giving sunshine is a new beginning of an annual cycle of light and rebirth, hence a perfect time to start a "New Year" and celebrate.

Even today's Christmas is a byproduct of the winter solstice. Historical non-religious records tell us Jesus was actually born sometime in the spring season. However, later Christians around 336AD during the reign of Christian convert Roman Emperor Constantine, established December 25, the same day as the pagan Roman Saturnalia celebration of the solstice, as Jesus' official birthday. It's thought this was either to repudiate and highjack the pagan celebration or make it convenient and comfortable for potential converts to switch gods.

So, the celebration of Jesus birth at the winter solstice was a marketing strategy. I guess we shouldn't be too surprised at today's crass commercialization.

Anyway, so, as the earth completely ignores us and continues to spin and tilt it's merry way around the sun, enjoy your holidays and the longer days. By June 21st, the summer solstice, we'll be just shy of 15 hours of daylight. That's worth celebrating!

Chet Wolgamot

Manchester Township

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