The winter solstice arrived on Saturday, Dec. 21, at 11:19 p.m., marking the first day of winter. It’s the shortest day and longest night of the year.
Because of our distance from the equator, Tennessee received less than 10 hours of daylight on the shortest day of the year. Exactly how much, I have no idea. Not too bad when compared to others. The residents of Fairbanks, Alaska received less than four hours of daylight. I would not be a happy camper. Sounds amazingly depressing.
Does anyone celebrate the winter solstice? I reckon not. The day with the least sun and most dark is not a big draw for people looking for a reason to celebrate. Maybe we should reconsider. The solstice brings the return of more sunlight. From that day, each one provides just a little more daylight hours. I do keep an eye on that part.
So, I raise a toast to the winter solstice, “It only gets brighter from here. Next stop, the summer solstice and the beginning of summer.”
Out of curiosity, I googled celebrations of winter solstice. Apparently, a large crowd gathers at Stonehenge to celebrate the solstice, both winter and summer. Some of the pictures made it look like a wild party. One shirtless guy was kind of questionable. That picture was burned into my retinas.
Squirrel! I quickly became distracted and starting reading articles related to Stonehenge. There are many, many theories as to why Stonehenge was constructed. No one seems to know. Any mystery will open the floodgates for speculation, I guess.
Back to the party. If it makes people happy to celebrate the solstice there, go for it. I will make one request. It should be like Vegas: what happens at Stonehenge, stays at Stonehenge. I, for one, would rather not see the shirtless guy again.
I did stumble upon something I wouldn’t mind witnessing for myself, a winter solstice at Chichen Itza called “Shadow of the Snake God.” The pyramid is in Mexico and dedicated to Kukulan, a feathered snake god, and designed as a calendar.
The four-sided pyramid has staircases on each face, each of which has 91 steps. Combined with the platform, this totals the 365 days of the solar year. There are 18 terraces on each side of the stairways, equating to the number of months in the Mayan religious calendar. Perpendicular to the terraces are the 52 vertical panels, representing the 52-year cycle of the solar and religious calendars.
As the sun sets during the spring and autumn equinoxes, an optical illusion is created. The north western corner of the terraces casts a shadow on the northern stairway, creating a diamond pattern representing a snake’s body. The effect is enhanced by the huge snake heads carved at the bottom of the stairs.
I wouldn’t mind celebrating the winter or summer solstice with a trip to Chichen Itza. The pictures online of it look very interesting. I’ll go ahead and pack a bag.
Standard reporter Lisa Hobbs can be reached at 473-2191.