The longest night, or if you wish the shortest day is here and past. We, as a species, survived again. Whatever philosophy or perspective you wish to use, there is a scientific fact that the planet has spun about its eternal eclipse and rests more-or-less back where it was last year and at more-or-less the same angle to the sun, and for these reasons and perhaps more yet to be proven or understood, this day and night signal the start of winter. So, for all your clever friends saying, “winter is coming” and then smirking or laughing… satisfied in their little cultural joke… well… Winter is here.
It is unusually warm this year. At least, perhaps I should say finally unusually warm in the Northeast, the location of the scions and mavens of the Fourth Estate and is it just me or has climate change gotten into the news just a little more of late because of this?
Last year, the Northeast was a blob of bitter cold in an ocean of rather warm blobs and lots of hot spots. It seemed that climate change/global warming/ Armageddon was on hold or altogether canceled. The ice storms, the snow, the long stretches of cold air that sent the temperature well below freezing for days and days on end seemed to mark off one part of North America as a traditionalist when it came to weather. It was cold as I remembered when I was young and certainly the elders among us today (shudder… I am getting closer to their age too), remember further back into the history of weather and remembered ice fishing, snow up to the second floor, and a thaw that came but once a year and caused the river ice to finally snap and break (at least in the areas of the river that are not tidal since the heave and ho of the water causes the ice to break on the shore and pile up large chunks and bergs along the way.
This year, it has suddenly changed. Flowers are blooming. Trees are not fully dormant. This is not good. All else in the system of winter, however, is working as it should. The days are far too short. This is expected, but I must admit, surprise me. By now I should know to expect this. That is is common and I understand the science behind it, yet, I look out my window at work at 4PM and feel that I must sacrifice a lamb or virgin or something in order to bring back the sun. When I have a day off, the light is at such a tilt that it seems that if you miss the morning sun, the rest of the day is one unsettling twilight until a certain moment, when the thick curtain of the night falls. It is no wonder that so many cultures have festivals or pin some important event in their eschatological calendar to these weeks of shortening days and dark cold months.
And to this one fixture that appears to continue to function, all else seems broken. Along with the temperature, the social disagreements as to the reason for the season seem to have multiplied. The intensity an vitriol spill out over social media and infect the Main Stream Media. There is a multitude of new holidays, but these are not those of other religions or cultures, it is the rise of the War On Christmas being celebrated as intensely as old Christmas used to be. I remember carolers, lights on houses, and well wishing, but also I remember that all this did not start until after Thanksgiving. Today, the non-denominational holiday music and dripping commercial representations of Santa infect stores and big box mega shopping centres sometime about Halloween, making the Nightmare Before Christmas an apocryphal tale – a vision of future trends and complications. No wonder there is increased dissatisfaction of the holiday. The once-Christian celebration since it seems with each year it becomes a harlequin comedy of all those holy elements used to market an increased level of products no one really needs. The whole season has smacked for some time of a dark mass of inverted priorities with angry carols written to celebrate the new holiday, the War On Christmas. Perhaps that is the new holiday, Thewaronchristmas, having nothing to do with the other holiday other than assuming its key elements and hiding under a skin as a strange and encompassing costume.
Nevertheless, there is tidings plenty and cheer for all – punctuated by a few horrible seasonal hangovers. Whether celebrating the many holidays or just sitting still and enjoying the longest night of the year, there is a native wonder to this season as in days of old it foreshadowed the hard times ahead of our hemisphere when the storeroom of summer was all that kept you and yours alive or in some level of comfort against what once was the cold and frozen hours of the year. If nothing else, recognize that our lamps and lights have eliminated the frightening dark, the heat pumps and convection ovens dispelled the cold, global warming rid us of the locked channels of ice, and we have achieved a safety and security unknown in the aeons of our species. We can dine on mussels and wine, out-of-season fresh vegetables, and complain about the darkness as we flick though our Netflicks account in an unending search for something “watchable.”
In whatever way you can, to whatever force or spirit you do, in whatever tradition you keep or none at all, at least pause for this long night, think of the many before you frightened and cold, those who remain in fearful places, and think about that from this day, we will return to the light.