Kenneth: These are my all inclusive holiday decorations. Here’s a little Christmas tree.
Kenneth: A menorah.
Kenneth: A picture of President Obama for the Muslims.
Tracy: I’m gonna let that one slide.
Kenneth: And a bowl of meat cubes with a picture of Jimmy Connors sticking out in the tradition of Verdukianism. -30 Rock
It’s the Winter Solstice today. This is one of my favorite holidays, and arguably, is the first holiday in all of human history. (Pardon the Northern-Hemisphere bias of this post.) How so, you ask?
Typically, the Sun rises in the East, travels higher and higher through the sky until midday, and then falls towards the West, eventually setting. It makes a beautiful time-lapse picture.
But as the Summer wears thin and progresses into Autumn, this great arc changes. The eastern rise moves farther to the west, the western setting moves farther to the east, and it doesn’t rise nearly as high above the horizon. In an extreme example — such as near the Arctic Circle — the Sun seems to barely rise at all.
It’s theorized that in ancient times, as the days got shorter and the sun got progressively lower, this was a huge cause for alarm. After all, if the Sun continued to get lower and lower in the sky, it would disappear completely, and that would be the greatest catastrophe of all.
But this doesn’t continue forever. In fact, right around December 21st of every year, the Sun reaches its lowest point above the horizon. After that, it begins to rise again, and take a longer path through the sky.
And, not surprisingly, practically every culture has some sort of a “rebirth” celebration shortly after the winter solstice. The Saturnalia, Christmas, New Year’s, you name it.
One neat, modern trick we’ve been able to photograph is an analemma, or a picture of the Sun at the same exact time on different days over the course of a year.
The lowest point on this shape corresponds to the winter solstice. But after today, the days will start to get longer again. And by Summer Solstice, the people inside the Arctic Circle will get the same glorious view that the people inside the Antarctic Circle get today:
A day without a sunset! So have a great solstice, enjoy the shortest day of the year, and however you so choose, don’t forget to celebrate that longer days are ahead starting tomorrow!