Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Winter Solstice

Not that anyone needs to remind the snowed-in people on the Eastern seaboard, but today is the first day of winter, known as the winter solstice. ...

The bleak news: It's the shortest day of the year, meaning the earth's tilt is at 23.5 degrees. As LiveScience puts it, the top half of the earth will spin on its axis away from the sun. Most of us will experience daylight for only about nine short hours. But it gets worse: The weather will actually get colder. Without sunlight to warm the ocean, temperatures will continue to drop. There is a bright side: From here on out, minute by minute, each day gets a little bit longer. In other words: Countdown to summer. The summer solstice falls around June 21, marking the longest day of the year. Take that, winter. ...

As the Dscriber blog tells it, the winter solstice has been marked since the pre-Christian days about 4,500 years ago. The word "solstice" comes from the Latin "sun stands still," and the rock monument Stonehenge is believed to be one of the ancient sites for the winter ritual. The Guardian reports that archeologists have dug up what looks like the remains of a really big barbeque that could have been a winter solstice fete, shedding more light on the purpose of the mysterious stone structure. But as National Geographic points out, celebrations of the solstice soon got switched out for Christmas, once the Christian religion spread to the West.

Although the dark days of winter are upon us, it could be so much darker. If you happen to reside in the North Pole (Santa and reindeers, we're looking at you), you haven't seen the light of day since early October. And, sorry to say, you won't until March.

No comments: