Friday, 21 December 2012

The Shortest Day



It turns out that I probably look forward to the shortest day of the year more than any other.  More than my birthday (I’ve gone beyond looking forward to them), definitely more than Christmas and New Year; no in my calendar in my head, without even being really aware of it, the shortest day is the day I welcome most.

It does not improve quickly, it does not even improve perceptively straight away, but it is the turning point at which time the days get longer, the dark gets less and everything feels just that little bit better.

There are many traditional festivals this time of year across most cultures in the world.  Some involve sacrifice, some involve birth, others ritual bathing but there is also a theme of reunion and feasting and I shall raise a glass to that. 

The word solstice is derived from the latin ‘sun stopping’ apparently (Wikipedia, where-else).  Basically, the sun looks like it orbits the earth and it does so on an elliptical path.  The tilt of the earth and this path either increases or decreases depending what time of the year it is.  When it reaches full tilt the sun appears to stop and reverse, so starting the process of either lengthening (Winter) or shortening (Summer) the day. 

However, what I liked best when I was reading about the solstice is that (obviously really) is that what the northern hemisphere calls the Summer Solstice, the southern hemisphere will call the Winter Solstice.  Well of course it is like that, but until someone points it out I admit to not really thinking about it.  I think I like the terms Hibernal solstice (Winter) and Aestival solstice (Summer) best, they sound a bit more grand.

Any hoo

The Winter Solstice occurs this year on December 21st at 11.12am.  Hurrah!  That’s it really – just hurrah!

(I shall just whisper that according to the wonderful sunrise/sunset app I have it will be January 2nd before the morning gets one minute lighter.  Even so, one minute is  a minute to be treasured and is the start of many more.)

7 comments :

  1. Replies
    1. I'll second that! Greetings from Hingham, Massachusetts where the encroaching darkness hasn't yet extinguished the blooms of hummingbird sage and scabiosa. Wondering if we're in for another snowless winter. Hoping to dust off the snowshoes soon!

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  2. Sun-pause. What a nice idea. Enjoy your minute (then another and another) when it comes.

    Best wishes for Christmas!

    Lucy

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  3. Thanks for your comments - I hope you all have a good festive break

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  4. Thanks for the retweet this morning! Very much looking forward to the nights getting lighter soon too! I have a date in February in my head when I know I can go out into the garden when I get home from work and it will still be light! Hurrah! Not long off now. I read somewhere that you should plant garlic on the shortest day and harvest it on the longest day. I've planted most of mine, but do have a bit left, so I think I will try it as an experiment this afternoon - my solstice garlic!! Merry Christmas to you, hope you have a wonderful time :)

    Anna B

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  5. I find myself being nore and more aware of the solitice. I suspect as gardeners we are more intune with these things than we realise - happy solstice

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