Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Merry Solstice!

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, this is the shortest day of the year -- and for optimists, that means every day hereafter will be longer than the one before.

Sumer is icumen in
Loude sing cuckou!
Groweth seed and bloweth meed
And springth the wode now
Sing cuckou!

It's all thanks to the Vikings, really. Chaucer no doubt had a lot of Viking blood in him, as did most Europeans who lived within raiding distance of water -- including those in Kyiv, as Vladimir Putin has discovered to his sorrow this year. 

At the winter solstice, the Vikings lit bonfires to drive back the darkness, which began the tradition we now honor in the lights on our Christmas trees. As for the slippage of the date, well, in the Julian calendar, introduced in 46 BC, the winter solstice fell on December 25. By the time the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1852, however, Caesar's version was four days out of whack, and the solstice had moved back to the 21st. Christmas of course remained on its traditional date, even in the Southern Hemisphere, where it's actually the summer solstice....

Loude sing cuckou!


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