At 12:11 p.m. EST today (11:11 a.m. CST), the sun will appear directly overhead along the Tropic of Capricorn, at 23.5 degrees south latitude. With the Earth’s north pole at its maximum tilt from the sun, locations in the northern hemisphere will see the sun follow its lowest and shortest arc across the southern sky. For the next six months, the sun will spend an increasing amount of time above the horizon and our days will be progressively longer.
From the earliest days of human history, this time of year has been a time of festivals - festivals meant to hold the fearful dark at bay and welcome the light of a new day and a new year. We continue this tradition with our own year-end holidays and celebrations. They connect us to our forbears, singing and dancing around the fires to drive the dark away. In honor of the Winter Solstice, here is a poem which expresses that human need to cast out darkness and celebrate the light.
The Shortest Day
by Susan CooperSo the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Happy Solstice Day and let us look forward to those longer and lighter days ahead. The garden and the gardener are ready for this new year.