Winter, and how to tell it’s here

I noted today that on December 21st this very year, there will be a new moon and, what is more, winter will begin.

“Much learning does not teach understanding.” Heraclitus

“The reasons why I talk to myself are because I’m the only one that listens and gives me answers I’ll accept.” George Carlin.

Peter Warland

Here we go once more. I am not exactly leaping up and down again like a frustrated Wiley Coyote, but it is close. You see, to my utter amazement, I noted today that in my beautifully illustrated wall calendar it announces that, on December 21st this very year, there will be a new moon and, what is more, winter will begin.

Where was this thing printed? Florida? Haven’t we here had frosts since October? What was it that zapped my tomatoes? Didn’t the temperature hereabouts plunge down below minus 20 degrees Celsius in mid-November? Then, didn’t it snow? Why are numerous deer in my yard standing hock deep in snow?

And then, early this month, didn’t we suffer those cold, plug-in-your-car or else nights? Even though they’ve got their snow-tires mounted what do folk want before they’ll admit to the fact of winter when it actually arrives? This bothers me year after year.

Fish, animals, birds and oodles of retirees know the facts; they migrate. Some scientists state that it is the shortening length of daylight hours that is the signal to head to warmer climes but, whatever it is, they’re off, probably the scientists too; you’ve got to prove as theory before it becomes a fact.

Thousands of years ago, our ancestors must have migrated when the length of the days suggested it might be a good idea but, when some smarti-pants invented farming, they were caught. They were forced to stay put and suffer. It was then that they started calculating by noting the shortening and the lengthening of daylight hours and planning accordingly. They also attempted to appease the sun and so had parties and lit huge fires and made booze from their cereals around the days with the shortest length of daylight. When they were suitably drunk, this seemed to work.

Around December 21st each year we in the north call it the Winter Solstice. It is the middle of the winter, not the first day. We’re halfway through. Cheer up. Put out lots of lights. Like your ancestors, get hammered.

Those folk that relied on farms food did well but, later, the monotonous diet and the grit in their cereals caused dental problems; dentists were invented and became ridiculously rich.

In Europe the time of the summer solstice, six months later, could seem like purgatory. The weather was pleasant but people couldn’t go to the beach. The food stored over the winter ran out and starvation was rampant. In at least one place the inhabitants of a village linked hands and jumped off a cliff into the sea. This was overdoing the sea-side holiday a bit.

However, when the autumn equinox arrived and crops ripened, folk invented Harvest Festivals and Thanksgiving, and probably lit big fires and celebrated by getting soused.

Scientists (bless their cotton socks) are now saying that the winter solstice around December 21st (remember that date?) was the time that the Druids conducted the ceremonies at Stonehenge, and those ceremonies were about the DEAD. That was the dead of winter, not the first day. They probably lit whacking great fires too and got legless on mead.

The Christmas that we think we know got invented and moved around to suit the Christian priests, who attempted to guess when their Christ was born. It was also around the times of the ‘pagan’ Saturnalia and so this new festival kept the pagans happy. Incidentally, Christmas carols weren’t invented until Charlie Dickens happened along but, with the Winter Solstice over and done with, the days were drawing out. It was a good sign and a chance to get snookered.

Anyway, with all that Google of information off my chest: A Very Happy Solstice to you and, if you can work out when it occurs, A Fine and Prosperous New Year. Get soused; you deserve it.

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