Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Christians and the Pagans (Dar Williams)

The solstice 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, is the winter solstice. 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, within either the shortest day or the longest night of the year. Though the Winter Solstice lasts an instant, the term is also used to refer to the full day and night (24hrs) within which the event occurs. A more accurate usage might be the "day of the winter solstice" or the "night of/before the winter solstice".

Winter Solstice is a controversial subject, since it is sometimes said to astronomically mark the beginning or middle of a hemisphere's Winter and so there is much argument about when it starts. Winter is a subjective term, so there is no scientifically established beginning or middle of winter but Winter Solstice is clearly defined.

The word solstice derives from Latin sol (Sun) and sistere (stand still), Winter Solstice meaning Sun stand still in winter.

Saturday, Dec. 22, 1:08 a.m. EST, marks the solstice this year - however, since we'll be on the road then, I wanted to honor the occasion (and Dar's phenomenal ability to blend the two belief systems) today...

BOOK: The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas by John Matthews

POEM: Toward the Winter Solstice by Timothy Steele

Although the roof is just a story high,
It dizzies me a little to look down.
I lariat-twirl the cord of Christmas lights
And cast it to the weeping birch’s crown;
A dowel into which I’ve screwed a hook
Enables me to reach, lift, drape, and twine
The cord among the boughs so that the bulbs
Will accent the tree’s elegant design.

Friends, passing home from work or shopping, pause
And call up commendations or critiques.
I make adjustments. Though a potpourri
Of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Sikhs,
We all are conscious of the time of year;
We all enjoy its colorful displays
And keep some festival that mitigates
The dwindling warmth and compass of the days.

Some say that L.A. doesn’t suit the Yule,
But UPS vans now like magi make
Their present-laden rounds, while fallen leaves
Are gaily resurrected in their wake;
The desert lifts a full moon from the east
And issues a dry Santa Ana breeze,
And valets at chic restaurants will soon
Be tending flocks of cars and SUVs.

And as the neighborhoods sink into dusk
The fan palms scattered all across town stand
More calmly prominent, and this place seems
A vast oasis in the Holy Land.
This house might be a caravansary,
The tree a kind of cordial fountainhead
Of welcome, looped and decked with necklaces
And ceintures of green, yellow, blue, and red.

Some wonder if the star of Bethlehem
Occurred when Jupiter and Saturn crossed;
It’s comforting to look up from this roof
And feel that, while all changes, nothing’s lost,
To recollect that in antiquity
The winter solstice fell in Capricorn
And that, in the Orion Nebula,
From swirling gas, new stars are being born.

QUOTE: "I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys." ~ Charles Dickens

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