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Saturday was the Shortest Day of the Year. I mean, if you live in the northern hemisphere; and it’s really, really short if you’re north of 40 degrees latitude. I completely understand the motives of the ancient Druids and my Swedish ancestors who celebrated this day. Someday, I’d love to go to Stonehenge for this day of limited solar exposure.
I don’t care for the diminished daylight of November and December. I love sunlight. I live in the Mojave Desert where it gets scorching hot in the summer, but I still love the sunlight. It feels so depressing to me to have the daylight disappear at 4:30 p.m. I’ve lived further north than this, too, and had the light leave even earlier. The Nevada state song has a line that says, “…Out where the sun always shines!” and I expect that promise to be kept.
Information about the ancient people of the northern hemisphere tells how various customs were used to commemorate this day. They focused on imploring their gods to not leave their people in the darkness, but to bring back the light. I’ve also read how the early Christians used the symbolism and traditions that were already established and reworked them into celebrations of Christ’s birth. That was a very smart thing to do.
I, of course, know the science of the Winter Solstice. I loved teaching about both aspects to my 4th graders all those years. They are the right age to start noticing that the sunlight is diminishing, and they really enjoy learning science concepts. They also loved learning about how so many of our traditions of winter holidays are recycled from thousands of years ago!
Sunday, there will be a minute or two of extra light. The increased daylight won’t be obvious until late January. But I anticipate that day when I’ll notice that the long shadows on the big rocky ridge a few blocks east of our house have started to shrink. I’ll relax and my solar-powered soul will smile.Published in