Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice

I want to make it clear, right up front, that I celebrate Christmas, and I am not doing this post to take away from anybody’s beliefs or religion. I also celebrate Hanukah, and Kwanza. In fact I celebrate any holiday that promotes peace and good will. The only other requirement that I have is that it has to include parties and cookies.

Christmas is celebrated mostly by Christians, and they call it the celebration of the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ.

 Hanukah is: “a Jewish festival marking the rededication to Judaism of the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 bc and celebrated by the kindling of eight lights. from 25th day of Kislev, in December, for eight days. 

 Kwanzaa is: “ a week long celebration held in the United States honoring universal African American heritage and culture, observed from December 26 to January 1 each year. It features activities such as lighting a candle holder with seven candles and culminates in a feast and gift giving. It was created by Maulana Karenga and first celebrated in 1966–1967.”

I have to admit that my favorite holiday is The Winter Solstice celebration. The winter solstice has been around since the Earth first formed into a ball of space dust and started to orbit the Sun. The tilt of the Earths axis points slightly away from the axis of it’s orbit around the sun, so one half the year the center of the axis points slightly toward the Sun, and the other half the year the axis points slightly away from Sun. Winter and Summer.

The thing that I really like about the Solstice is that it has nothing to do with superstition. It can be measured. It is tangible. It has nothing to do with Mumbo-Jumbo. Although, there has been a lot of Mumbo-Jumbo created around it. The solstice is very real and scientific. You could hit it with a hammer. I would imagine that the winter solstice was the first real celebration involving a sentient group of human beings.

In very early human history, while Oog and Moog were sitting in their South facing cave, freezing their rears off, wishing that they could find some fresh fruit, they thought about the years in the past, where they suffered through a cold spell, when the Sun got very low in the sky, and it got very cold. They remembered when the sun started getting higher in the sky, it started getting warmer. They probably had rocks and sticks across the front of their caves to keep the critters out, and the warmth of their fires in. They left a few smoke holes to let the smoke out. They discovered that the Sunlight shining through the holes in their doorway took a different path across the back of their cave everyday. In what seemed like the shortest day of the year the sun started getting higher in the sky every day. The Sunlight path across the backs of their caves told them when the solstice happened. As man became smarter, they figured out how to know when the weather would be warmer, and they knew that they had to have enough food and firewood to get them through the cold season.

The first solstice celebrations must have been amazing. It was one of mans very first scientific endeavors, plotting the winter solstice on the backs of their warm toasty caves. I know how I feel when I know that some nice weather is coming, they must have been elated. They probably had some sort of a major feast. They knew that summer was on it’s way and there would once again be great abundance. So, why not eat a little extra from their winter hoard of supplies?

Soon, the elders became the wise men, they knew about the seasons and the weather, they became the tribe sages, they knew how to predict the warm weather. Oog and Mooog must of highly revered the old people in their tribe. Their knowledge must have been invaluable. Just knowing when it would be summer must have seemed to be a miracle back then. Now we take it for granted.

You already know about the Earth is tilted on it’s axis, that’s why we have summer and winter. But, do you know how long a day is? If you guessed 24 hours, you would be exactly right. That is the period that it takes for the Sun the be straight over head, until the next day when the Sun is straight over head. So, how long does it take for the Earth to revolve one revolution on it’s axis (trick question, Give up?) It is 23 hours and 56 minutes. So, how is that possible? Hint: Multiply the 4 missing minutes times 365, then divide it by 60. You should get very close to 24, the missing four minutes is lost because the earth makes one revolution around the sun every year, that moves the sun 4 minutes off every day, while the earth goes around the sun.

Now to further complicate things, the orbit of the Earth is elliptical. The Earth is closest to the sun in January. By being closer to the Sun, the Earth speeds up in it's trip around the Sun. That means that our winter seasons are faster than our summer season. We also have the added benefit of being closer to the Sun, so our winters are warmer. So if you lived in Australia, you would have shorter hotter Summers and longer colder winters. Have you ever wondererd why the ice is thicker at the south pole? Ain't science wonderful? Aren’t you glad you live in the Northern Hemisphere?

Now Oog and Moog probably didn’t know about all the rest of the stuff, but you can bet your frosty patooty that they knew about the Winter Solstice. Now you know why the Winter Solstice is the holiday of the Scientist. Happy Winter Solstice!!!!    And... Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanza. and yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.


The Editors said...

Happy Winter Solstice, Ernie and Janis!

-Kate & Spence

Stephen said...

Happy Winter Solstice, Ernie, just three more days until the Jewish Sun God is born again. With your astronomy knowledge do you know why sun gods traditionally have their birthdays on Dec. 25th and not the Winter Solstice? It's the three day stutter-step the sun seemed to make after the Solstice as it advances across the horizon each day or at least something to this effect. The ancients' 360 day 30 day month solar calendars didn't quite fit, so they made them fit and either created or received architypal sun gods in dire straits in a three day hell needing rescue. Ishtar rescued the Babylonian sun god, Marduk, and Jesus rescues all of humankind in his three day ordeal. We Christians celebrate this event at Ishtar's day, Easter.

Oh, don't think the Jews didn't go in for these sun god holy days as buried within the Hanukkah celebration is ancient Hebrew worship of Shamash, another sun god of the ancient Near East. Shamash's icon was an eight pointed star and that's why Hanukkah is an eight day celebration and why the center candle, different from the rest on the special Hanukkah menorah is called "Shamash".

These sun gods got around even in the Abrahamic religions. Lot's more about that one some time..

Oh, and Ernie? Tell Eric not to be such a dickhead. He's censoring me so I can't finish the pretty good dialogue going on his blog with Mitch and others. These infantile policos like Eric and Heraldo stooping to such low life tactics to stop dialogue they don't want others to hear one has to suppose. The scary thing is both these two are thee most active blog politicos in Humboldt County and they both suppress free speech whenever they can stop political opponents.

Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

If a global poll were taken, I'd bet more non-Christians celebrate Christmas than do Christians. It's a secular holiday for many people, even

I'm an atheist and I celebrate Christmas for Santa and the solstice angle, although I attribute nothing supernatural to the solstice. Jesus is a late arrival to the holiday. I'm a big enough person to welcome Christians to my Christmas party.

But if you want to mess with 'em, recite Jeremiah 10:1-5, the whole decorating-trees-is-a-worthless-pagan-ritual passage.

Anonymous said...

Whoops, cut off a sentence there...

It's a secular holiday for many people, even in countries that have never had a significant Christian population.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Dear Editors,
My wife and I hope to join you for breakfast on New Years day at your Fortuna Rotary pancake breakfast.

More info on Breakfast

Anonymous said...

This on CNN: How atheists celebrate Christmas.

Shocker: We celebrate it the same way most Christians do. If the holiday didn't have all of the pagan traditions thrown in, it would be about as enjoyable to celebrate as The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ.

skippy said...

Happy solstice and Christmas to you, Ernie. When will it get warmer?

I know you're a refrigeration guy, but please make it warmer, Ernie. It's freezing out here.

Fred Mangels said...

Ernie wrote, So if you lived in Australia, you would have shorter hotter Summers and longer colder winters.

I never knew that, and I thought I was an expert on everything!

This is exciting, having the days get longer. Today we'll have 57 seconds of daylight more than yesterday, according to an article in the Santa Rosa Press- Democrat from a couple days ago. Doesn't get any better than that.

Anonymous said...

Oh, goodie, an excuse to link to an Australian Christmas song. (White Wine in the Sun).

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thank Anon,
Neat song. It pretty much sums it up for those of us who believe in the real things in life, but just can't quite make that leap of faith into religion.

spyrock said...

To All My Democrat Friends:

Please accept with no obligation, expressed or implied, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious.../secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2012, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. This is, of course, neither to suggest nor imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country; also, this is not to imply that "America," as noted herein, is the only America in the Western Hemisphere. May these heartfelt wishes be received with equal intensity regardless of distribution of individual wealth, documented carbon footprint, or perceived social privilege among the wishes addressed herein. This wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, or sexual preference of the wishee.

To All My Republican Friends:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

via my cousin mark from pennsylvania, merry pc xmas and a positive 2012, love spyrock

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks Spy
I laughed until my sides split. That is so true... It's tough to live in a Politically Correct world.

US 2012 election novel said...

An interesting post esp. on Kwanzaa.Best wishes for your future posts.