Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice: Good times are ahead

       People look forward to the winter solstice. People count the days until winter solstice occurs because it means that things will turn around...the sun will shine for longer each day.

      For thousands of years man has observed the winter solstice. They may not have been too exact as the the correct date and various societies may not have agreed when the solstice exactly occurred. The solstice meant new life or rebirth. In many places it also meant the start of the really severe winter weather. 

     We have identified a serious problem that some people experience when the days grow shorter. It's called seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Some people respond to treatment with light. Others require drug therapy, but many just tough it out and feel miserable. Once the solstice occurs they gradually feel better.

     Since I was raised on the bald prairie I saw sunsets and sunrises as the sun appearing or disappearing above or below the horizon. I was keenly aware  of the amount of daylight we received. People in the past were agriculturists or hunter gatherers and lived much of their time outdoors. They observed the changes and organized their activities according to the amount of daylight received.

    I spent a total of five years in the Arctic. At this time of year the sun did not rise above the horizon. We had beautiful twilight for two to four hours a day. On the Mackenzie Delta the sun did not rise from about Dec. 3 to Jan. 8. We always celebrated in some way when the sun came back up over the horizon. The Inuit and aboriginals usually had customs which involved visiting and feasting during the dark time. It was difficult to travel with limited light and trapping was a challenge because the animals were less active.

     So today I feel that it is a milestone. I can look forward to nicer times as there will be longer daylight and some warmer times. I just feel more cheerful. I hope you feel cheerful and happy as well.