Happy Winter Solstice. A day I like to refer to as the shortest day of the year. I celebrate it mainly because I know the light in the sky will start to lengthen. Thankfully. I always felt, however it doesn't make sense that the shortest day of the year is the first day of Winter. Why would the shortest day of the year (this is only in the northern hemisphere) and the sun's "daily maximum position in the sky" is the lowest be on the first day of Winter, the Winter Solstice?
In astronomical terms the term solstice refers to the two times a year when the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator, the great circle on the celestial sphere that is on the same place as the earth's equator. This occurs inthe northern hemisphere during Winter Solstice when the sun shines over the Tropic of Capricorn. The earth spins on an axis as it rotates around the sun. The axis is tilted 23.5 degrees toward the plain of its rotation. Because of the orbit, the hemisphere that is angled closest to the sun receives more direct sunlight.
Winter Solstice is actually only a moment in time, "an instant in time." In many cultures it is known as mid-winter, not the beginning of winter like we know it here. Since winter is not a scientifically established fact it begins differently in many cultures. The Celtics begin their Winter calendar on November 1st, which seems to make sense. The temperature has reached the teens here in New Jersey and our weekend blast this weekend, with a Winter Blizzard on December 19th, which technically here in the states is before Winter would be a pre-winter blast. I don't think so. This is midwinter dammit!
Something I also found fascinating is the Julian Calendar established Winter Solstice as December 25th beginning in 45 BC, in all of Europe, but it fluctuated because of the calendar and moved three days every four centuries. It was changed in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII because the calendar was changed and it moved to December 21st, though it varies a bit. Is this the reason Jesus was said to be born on December 25th? Many European solar calendars still celebrate December 24th as the eve before the Winter Solstice. Coincidence? I don't think so.
Look at the Celtic Cross which represents Christianity's triumph over paganism. This may be another manifestation.In many cultures, especially pagan cultures Winter Solstice is a celebrated event of magnificent proportions. Stonehenge in England and New Grange in Ireland place both axis on the Summer Solstice (Stonehenge) and Winter Solstice (New Grange).
New Grange is in County Meath Ireland and is over 5,000 years old. It is more than 500 years older than the Great Pyramids and predates Stonehenge by 1000 years. Did my fucking tour guide not want to show us this? Many places have been built like it since, I seem to remember many pagans travelling somewhere in the north of Maine to celebrate. New Grange is one of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world and the most famous of all Irish prehistoric sites. It was built in such a way that at dawn on the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice a narrow beam of sunlight illuminates the floor of the chamber at the end of a long passageway.
This year Winter Solstice will occur exactly at 12:47 PM today, December 21st. Enjoy the pagan holiday.