The shortest day of the year


Backroad Ramblings

How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?
– Dr. Seuss

We’re nearing the winter solstice and it can’t get here fast enough, if you ask me.
The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, is Dec. 21. It’s about time because, if the days got any shorter, we’d be going to bed right after breakfast.
It’s funny how just because it gets dark it seems like you should be sleeping. How many times have you decided to go to bed, exhausted, and then realized it is barely 6 p.m.? How many times do you need a nap before hitting the hay at 9 p.m.? It’s ridiculous.
This time of year, I think it would really be okay to be a bear. Bears have it made. All through the fall they gorge themselves, then they go to bed and sleep. Bears don’t have to worry about getting to work on time or getting kids to school or what to fix for dinner. They just sleep. I think they even have their cubs while somewhat comatose. Wouldn’t that have been great? But alas, I’m not a bear.
I’m also not the first one to complain about long nights. The word “solstice” comes from the Latin for “I wish I was a bear.”
The winter solstice has been celebrated for centuries. The ancient Romans celebrated “Saturnalia,” which was a major holiday in which everybody ate, drank and made merry. This is because if they didn’t, they would have started to eat each other.
In fact, just about every ancient culture celebrated the end to the shortening days. The Hindus celebrated with Mithras, the sun god, and the Scandinavians celebrated by burning a yule log, which brought light and warmth to their homes. The Jews celebrate Hanukkah, the “Festival of Lights.”
The Greeks celebrated with a festival to Poseidon, god of the sea. This doesn’t really make sense to me. What does Poseidon have to do with the sun, or light or short days? Then again, maybe those Greeks were pretty smart. They probably didn’t go out to sea much this time of year, so they had more time to celebrate. It would be a big pain to have to go on a long voyage right in the middle of a good festival.
At any rate, the best thing about the shortest day of the year is that it’s the shortest day of the year. It’s not getting any worse. And even though it’s only about six minutes long, we can confidently say, “Summer’s coming.”

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