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Plan a feast with family and friends in celebration of the solstice.

21 December 2009 No Comment

Level: Community — Pillar: Environmental Sustainability

This week’s featured story came in from Washington, DC:

newgrange-lightFor those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, December 21st marks the winter solstice. “Solstice” derives from the Latin phrase “sun stands still” and marks the day each year when the Northern Hemisphere experiences the least amount of daylight between sunrise and sunset. It also marks the beginning of lengthening days leading up to the solstice in June. (In the Southern Hemisphere, December 21 is the time of the summer solstice and the longest day of the year. As the northern days grow longer, the southern days get shorter.)

Throughout history, humans have observed this seasonal milestone by creating spiritual and cultural traditions to celebrate the rebirth of sunlight after the darkest period of the year. Several years ago, I visited Ireland’s prehistoric monument to the solstice – Newgrange. What appears to be little more than a grass-covered mound is in fact a mysterious passage tomb that dates back to 3200 B.C. Although it is impossible to know the full story of its origins, historians suspect that long before the invention of the wheel 300 workers took 20 years to shift 200,000 tons of stone from as far as 50 miles away to build this monument. The tomb is comprised of a long tunnel and cave-like chamber, both of which are precisely aligned to capture light at the exact moment of the winter solstice sunrise. Witnessing a thin beam of sunlight penetrate the inner chamber and flood it with blinding light is breathtaking.

Today, as I sit inside a warm home sheltered from the several inches of snow that blanket the world outside, I am reminded of the miraculous beauty of nature. Songwriters were on to something when they coined winter a wonderland. And, inevitably, several months from now on a day when I am basking in the summer’s sunlight, I will experience a similar moment of awe. As inevitable as the change of seasons is, so too is each season’s beauty. What a perfect reason to celebrate!

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