It’s at a different time every year. Did you know that? I didn’t until a couple of years ago.
At 23:03 UTC tonight (UTC stands for Coordinated Universal Time, which is a sort of GMT but more astronomically accurate and which was acronymised by someone who I suspect suffers from dyslexia) I celebrated the arrival of the Winter Solstice for it was at this time that the Earth reached its maximum declination of 23.5° away from the sun in the Northern Hemisphere. At this point each December, nowhere north of the Arctic Circle sees daylight for an entire twenty four hours and we have reached the darkest point of our northern year.
This means that today has been as dark as it’s ever going to get. Today has been darker than a pint of Guinness, darker than the thoughts that go on in my head and darker than the British Government’s plans for the National Health Service. Actually, the latter of those three is a bit of an exaggeration as there was a bit of daylight in my lovely town of Devizes for a few hours but Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, seems today to be determined to turn off the machinery that supports the life of the NHS.
Normally I sink into an abyss of depression if my day isn’t filled with sunshine from the minute I wake up until the minute I collapse into my pit at the end of a busy day but, rather strangely, I enjoy the Winter Solstice a lot more if it is really miserable as it just enhances the joy I get from thinking about the beautiful summer that is at last on its way.
So at 23:03 tonight the Earth really did move as though some big gearbox deep in its inner core shifted from reverse to first. Just thinking about the fact that during the next few weeks we’ll be moving up the ratios, making the nights lighter and our soil warmer, gives me a real, deeply satisfying buzz. So you could say that when the Earth moved, the Earth moved for me.
Call me an eternal optimist (for the next six months at least) but even though it is still very dark I don’t think it would do any harm to put on a pair of shorts, tie some knots in the corners of my hanky to wear on my head, pop down to B&Q to buy a barbeque, sit in my garden with a bottle of chilled wine until ten o’clock at night and start my Christmas shopping (because the shops in Britain fill up with festive tat for sale by mid-summer).
Whatever I do I will do it feeling happier because our darkest moment is behind us. Now is the time to celebrate. Other things that we celebrate at this time of the year are a bit ambiguous because we don’t know for sure that they really happened. For example, it is written that Leeds United beat Oldham Athletic five nil on Boxing Day in 1923 but there is no real evidence that this miracle actually happened. No one can dispute, however, the fact that the Earth has begun to tilt the other way tonight. I’m not sure if it was Big Jack Charlton or our Lord Buddha who said, “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”
It has become customary for me to do my celebrating of the rebirth of the sun with a small glass of port, topped up with port, with a port chaser and then another one for the road, until I too begin to tilt the other way. It’s what Big Jack would have wanted.
Happy Yuletide to you!
The rebirth of the sun.