In the northern hemisphere, today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It's officially the first day of winter and one of the oldest known holidays in human history. Anthropologists believe that solstice celebrations go back at least 30,000 years, before humans even began farming on a large scale. The stone circles of Stonehenge were arranged to receive the first rays of midwinter sun.So far, my solstice has been marked by a beautiful, cold ride to work. A clear sky is such a nice shade of blue before the sun rises. I'm excited that the days will start getting longer again.
Ancient peoples believed that because daylight was waning, it might go away forever, so they lit huge bonfires to tempt the sun to come back. The tradition of decorating our houses and our trees with lights at this time of year is passed down from those ancient bonfires.
In Ancient Rome, the winter solstice was celebrated with the festival of Saturnalia, during which all business transactions and even war were suspended, and slaves were waited upon by their masters.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
From today's Writer's Almanac