|The spirit of the season.|
Growing up, my family celebrated Christmas, but it never held any religious significance to me. As an adult, I still travel during the holidays, drawn home by the allure of traditions that matter: baking cookies (swearing when the sugar cookie dough dries out and cracks), decorating the tree (the smell of fir triggers some serious nostalgia), enjoying an afternoon coffee with a shot of Baileys (definitely did not do this as a kid), getting dressed up on the 24th and staying in pyjamas all day on the 25th (extra points for not taking a shower), and doing very little besides working on jigsaw puzzles, watching movies, and reading (while snacking on the above-mentioned cookies).
Sure, many of you might be able to relate to some of these traditions, but if you don't celebrate Christmas, we probably have less in common. If there is no holiday for you at this time of year, our day-to-day lives might look nothing alike. Nevertheless, I'd like to suggest we all have something to be grateful for, no matter our race, ethnicity, beliefs, or culture. Okay, so maybe you have to live at a fairly high latitude in the northern hemisphere to relate, but that's most of my readers! I'm referring, of course, to the winter solstice, which occurred right around the time this post was published.
|The northern hemisphere's shortest day in 2007.|
On December 22nd, 2011, at 5:30 am UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) / 12:30 am EDT, for just a split second, the sun was as far from the north pole as it can possibly get over the course of the year, giving us the longest night of 2011 and kicking off the winter. Why does this matter? Why am I writing about this on my blog? Because every so often, it's important for me to stop and take note of what the planet is doing, especially if I consider myself an environmentalist. Beneath my feet, the planet is spinning on its own axis, hurtling through space around the sun, and tilting back and forth over the course of that yearly trip - no matter many paper cups I avoid using by drinking from a travel mug!
Forget the holidays. Forget the associated stress. Remember the planet. This extraordinary planet located just close enough to and far away from the sun to support life, to support us. If it didn't spin, tilt, and orbit the sun the way it does, we wouldn't be here. So let's celebrate the days getting longer, the light coming back. It's been really depressing having to get up in the dark and coming home in time to turn the lights on as early as 4:30 pm, or 4:00 pm on a rainy day. Even though the winter is just starting and the coldest days are ahead of us, we're moving towards long, bright days, and we're getting closer to the spring and the incredible amount and variety of life it gives us here in the north. The winter solstice is one of earth's ultimate holidays, and as a lover of this crazy planet, I can't help but love this time of year.
Wishing you a bright solstice!
Photo of crowded mall used under Creative Commons from The Hamster Factor (flickr).
Animated GIF of the winter solstice used under Creative Commons from Jecowa (Wikipedia).
Photo of moonlit night sky used under Creative Commons from Attila Botz (flickr).