Summary: Does seasonal depression keep you in the dark? This year—and this week—there's literally light at the end of your figurative tunnel. See how the solstice can make you smile, even on the typically darkest day and longest night of the year.
This week will introduce us to the shortest day of the year: December 21, 2010. If you're paying attention, that's today. And if you're in the dumps, you can literally look on the bright side by coming out of your hibernation hovel tomorrow! Naturally, there will be more sunlight (a.k.a. more daylight time) following the "shortest day."
What makes the day so short? Why, the position of the sun: Each year, as the Earth rotates around the sun, there are two positions the planet hits that place the sun either furthest away (winter solstice) or closest to us (summer solstice). These are the shortest and longest days, respectively.
The word solstice refers both to the sun's position, as well as to the day when the position occurs. It has two pronunciations: SAHL - stiss (as demonstrated in this audio link to Merriam-Webster) or the way I say it with my own Midwestern accent, SOHL - stiss, just like this woman who sounds a lot like me does at Forvo.com. (By the way, if you ever wonder about any word's pronunciation—English or otherwise—you'll want to check out Forvo. The site's mission is to gather all the words in the world in one place, each in little, audio sound bites.) From the Latin word sol for sun, combined with the word parts -stit- and -stes for standing, it entered the English language around the mid-13th century.
Interestingly enough, this year's winter solstice has another special twist: a lunar eclipse! I happen to be writing this post late in the evening as the spectacle is beginning. And for the shortest day (and longest night) of the year, it is refreshingly bright outside. This solstitial occurrence is a somewhat rare way to ring in the season, and may be cause for celebration.
Read about some ancient ways to celebrate, as well as new ways, in the middle of this linked page at ReligiousTolerance.org.
© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2010