Friday, December 21, 2007

winter solstice 07' today

via Wikipedia
photo via: me

Winter Solstice- tonight at 6:08 pm

Also called Midwinter, DōngZhì, Yule, Şabe Cele/Yalda, Soyal, Teḳufat Ṭebet, Şeva Zistanê, Solar New Year
Today marks the longest night observed by various cultures, ancient and modern around the world

Astronomically, tonight marks the middle or beginning of winter, the interpretation varies from culture to culture, but most hold a recognition of rebirth for this time. Around the world though people give celebration and festivals today, spending time with loved ones, feasting, singing, dancing, and lighting fires both hearth and candle.

The exact time for the next few years of winter solstice are below:

2007 21 18:06 22 06:08
2008 20 23:59 21 12:04
2009 21 05:45 21 17:47
2010 21 11:28 21 23:38
2011 21 17:16 22 05:30
2012 20 23:09 21 11:11
2013 21 05:04 21 17:11
2014 21 10:51 21 23:03

"The winter solstice occurs at the instant when the Sun's position in the sky is at its greatest angular distance on the other side of the equatorial plane as the observer. Depending on the shift of the calendar, the event of the Winter solstice occurs sometime between December 20 and 23 each year in the Northern hemisphere, and between June 20 and 23 in the Southern Hemisphere, and the winter solstice occurs during either the shortest day or the longest night of the year.

Calendrically, in most countries the time of the winter solstice is considered as midwinter. This is evident in calendars as far back as Ancient Egypt, whose system of seasons was gauged according to the flooding of the Nile. Most East Asian cultures define the seasons by solar terms, with Dong zhi at the Winter solstice as the middle of winter. Some Midwinter festivals have occurred according to lunar calendars and so took place on the night of Hōku (Hawaiian: the full moon closest to the winter solstice). And many European solar calendar Midwinter celebrations still centre upon the night of December 24th leading into the 25th in the north, which was considered to be the winter solstice upon the establishment of the Julian calendar. In Jewish culture, Teḳufat Tevet, the day of the winter solstice, is historically known as the first day of the "stripping time" or winter season. Persian cultures also recognize it as the beginning of winter. Recently, many United States calendars have marked the date on which the winter solstice occurs as the Astronomical First day of winter as a reference to the Tekufah.
Since the time when the 25th was established as the solstice in Europe the difference between the Julian calendar year (365.2500 days) and the tropical year (365.2422 days) moved the day associated with the actual astronomical solstice forward approximately three days every four centuries until 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII changed the calendar bringing the northern winter solstice to around December 21st. In the Gregorian calendar the solstice still moves around a bit, but only about one day in 3000 years.

Astronomical events, which during ancient times allowed for the scheduling of mating, sowing of crops and metering of winter reserves between harvests, show how various cultural mythologies and traditions have arisen. On the night of Winter Solstice, as seen from a northern sky, the three stars in Orion's belt align with the brightest star in the Eastern sky Sirius to show where the Sun will rise in the morning after Winter Solstice. Until this time, the Sun has exhibited since Summer Solstice a decreasing arc across the Southern sky. On Winter Solstice, the Sun ceased to decline in the sky and the length of daylight reaches its minimum for three days. At such a time, the Sun begins its ascent and days grow longer. Thus the interpretation by many cultures of a sun reborn and a return to light. This return to light is again celebrated (at the vernal equinox, when the length of day equals that of night.

The solstice itself may have remained a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since neolithic times. This is attested by physical remains in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeological sites like Stonehenge in Britain and Brú na Bóinne (New Grange) in Ireland. The primary axes of both of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line framing the winter solstice sunrise (New Grange)and the winter solstice sunset (Stonehenge). The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not assured to live through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common in winter between January to April, also known as the famine months. In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was nearly the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time. The concentration of the observances were not always on the day commencing at midnight or at dawn, but the beginning of the pre-Romanized day, which falls on the previous eve.

Many of these cultural gatherings are still valued for emotional comfort, having something to look forward to at the darkest time of the year. This is especially the case for populations in the near polar regions of the hemisphere. The depressive psychological effects of winter on individuals and societies for that matter, are for the most part tied to coldness, tiredness, malaise, and inactivity. Winter weather, plus being indoors causes negative ion deficiency which decreases serotonin levels resulting in depression and tiredness. Also, getting insufficient light in the short winter days increases the secretion of melatonin in the body, off balancing the circadian rhythm with longer sleep. Exercise, light therapy, increased negative ion exposure (which can be attained from plants and well ventilated flames burning wood or beeswax) can reinvigorate the body from its seasonal lull and relieve winter blues by shortening the melatonin secretions, increasing serotonin and temporarily creating a more even sleeping pattern. Midwinter festivals and celebrations occurring on the longest night of the year, often calling for evergreens, bright illumination, large ongoing fires, feasting, communion with close ones, and evening physical exertion by dancing and singing are examples of cultural winter therapies that have evolved as traditions since the beginnings of civilization. Such traditions can stir the wit, stave off malaise, reset the internal clock and rekindle the human spirit."

To see more about specific cultural observances read more at Wikipedia.

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