The Longest Night

The Longest Night

2018.12.21

Everyday Miracles

Advent 2018

 

*Song lyrics in { }  written by by the English poet Christina Rossetti.  Rossetti wrote the poem in 1872 (or earlier) as a response to the magazine Scribner’s Monthlys request for a Christmas poem.  When Gustav Holst composed a melody to the poem in 1906 a new Christmas carol was born.

 

{In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, long ago.}  Today at 4:33 CST, the winter solstice will occur.  The date of this solstice, as with the other solstices, varies from year to year.  This is because the tropical year, the time it takes the sun to return to the same spot relative to planet Earth, is different than our calendar year.  The 21st or 22nd of December are the most common dates for the winter solstice, though.  The next solstice occurring on December 20th will not happen until 2080 and the next December 23rd winter solstice will not occur until the year 2303.  It is doubtful anyone reading this will be alive then.

 

The specific time of the winter solstice is determined by the exact instant the North Pole is aimed furthest away from the sun on a 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis.  Also at this exact time, the sun will shine directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.  While the solstice will occur within minutes of this post being published, it occurs at the exact same time worldwide and even for the astronauts on the International Space Station.

 

Since the solstice brings about the longest night of the year, it stands to reason that it is also the shortest day of the year.  After all, each day is only 24 hours, regardless where it falls on the calendar.  For example, New York City averages nine hours and fifteen minutes of daytime or sunlight, depending on the weather, on the winter solstice.  On the summer solstice it experiences fifteen hours and five minutes of daylight.  That compares to Helsinki Finland receiving five hours and 49 minutes of light and Barrow Alaska n9ot even having a sunrise.  In fact, Barrow’s next sunrise will not be until the third week of January.  The North Pole, which has a prominent role in determining the solstice, has not experienced a sunrise since October while the South Pole will not have a sunset until March.

 

Early cultures created a great many myths about the winter solstice.  Celebrations were held to beckon the return of the sun and to celebrate rebirth.  Many believe the traditional Yule logs originated in Scandinavian and/or Germanic cultures to encourage light to return to the earth.  Great feasts were prepared and cattle slaughtered so that people could dine heavily since there would be no fresh meat or vegetables for several months.

 

{Angels and archangels may have gathered there, Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air; But his mother only, in her maiden bliss, Worshiped the beloved with a kiss.}  December 21st has had a prominent role in history for other reasons, though.  The Pilgrims arrived in the New World at Plymouth, MA and went on to settle and found a society encouraging free worship.  In 1898 on this day, Pierre and Marie Curie discovered radium which opened the door for the Atomic Age.  On December 21, 1968, Apollo 8 was launched, becoming the first manned moon mission.  The Mayan calendar supposedly ended on December 21, 2012 and many feared it would be the end of the world.  Others believe it was the rebirth of a new era for earth.

 

Some ancient cultures believed dark spirits walked the earth at this time while others felt it to be a time of renewal.  For most people, the winter solstice is a time of continued hurrying around while they prepared for the holidays.  {What can I give him, poor as I am?  If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; Yet what I can I give him: give my heart.}  How we should celebrate this longest night is by gathering energy to make tomorrow the best day ever.  It truly is a wise man/woman who does their part in helping others, sharing goodness, showing kindness to all.  On this the longest night which has followed the shortest day, I invite you to share your heart with others. 

 

https://youtu.be/U0aL9rKJPr4

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