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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Winter Solstice

Today is the Winter Solstice.

The Winter Solstice - always occurring on December 21st - is the shortest day of the year (so if you would normally work an 8 hour day, on the Winter Solstice you might only have to work a 3 hour day, but maybe still get paid for the whole 8 hours! Ask your employer!).

FUN FACT: The word "Solstice" has its origin in a Middle English expression, shouted around December 21st: "Die Sol iss't ice!. Got saue oll!", which translates: "The Sun has turned to ice! God save us all!"

The day of the Winter Solstice - marking the first day of Winter - is about 7 to 8 hours shorter than the normal day (Check your local newspaper for the official length, as it varies from year to year due to the regular migration of the poles away from the ecliptic. This year, December 21st will be 16 hours 13 minutes long).

If you're not prepared, the sudden change in day length can lead to complications farther down the road. Here are some tips to help you stay on track:

Be sure to factor in the 7 or 8 fewer hours in your countdown to Christmas. If you think you have 3 days and 5 hours left, double check your math! You may only have 2 days and 21 hours.

Drink lots of fluids and don't overexert yourself. Avoid TV, as this will only upset you.

After the the Winter Solstice, your internal clock will be off by the 7 or 8 hour difference (7 hours and 47 minutes this year). So tomorrow, and in the coming weeks, you will find yourself wide awake about midnight, thinking you have to start your work day. The effect is identical to jet lag and should be treated as such - i.e., keep sightseeing to a minimum your first day, drink fluids, eat meals at the same times the locals do.

The hours taken out of the Winter Solstice are traditionally taken out of the Daytime, so don't be alarmed if most of your day is spent in overwhelming darkness. If you find yourself becoming depressed, drink alcohol until the depression seems to fade into the distance.

Having a big Celebration on the Winter Solstice can help you come to terms with its unnerving strangeness. The traditional celebrations of the early Celtic and Pre-Celtic Europeans are fun and spiritually enlivening:

- Put decorations on a sacred tree.

- Hang the sacred mistletoe of the druids on the lintel and use it as an invitation to sexual foreplay (this is no time of year to hoard your bodily warmth - share!)

- Holly too because of its magical and medicinal powers can be used to bless the home, inviting the gods to keep the family healthy and productive in the next year

- If Elves show up, don't freak out. Remember, you already have absorbed a lot of information on Elvish customs unconsciously. Treat them with respect and deference. "The Lord of the Rings" is a fine guidebook. Flying caribou and the like, though shocking to some, should not be entirely unexpected.

It's almost 11am now, and its long past time I got home and ate supper.

Happy Winter Solstice!

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