Today is a special day.
At 17.11 hours UCT the Sun will reach the end of its six-month journey in the northern hemisphere.
This is my Christmas and New Year in one!
While Jingle bells and New Year bells are cultural constructs, the Winter Solstice is real.
Tomorrow the day will be a little longer.
Psychologically I know in myself that the year has turned and with it so does my mood.
I have been aware of how the short days impact negatively upon me for, perhaps, the past quarter of a century.
Perhaps Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is just Mother Nature just telling you it is time for bed.
Certainly some evolutionary biologists believe that our species is pre-programmed to be semi-hibernatory during the winter darkness.
Before the invention of fire, humans would have understood the life-giving benefits of daylight – simply because it wasn’t the dark.
Many human predators were mainly nocturnal.
The dark meant danger as well as bone-crushing cold.
When I bivi out on a mountain top I am as an early human.
I don’t light a fire and the darkness means it is time to sleep.
The rising sun changes everything.
In the modern age we are overwhelmingly urbanised and with the flick of a switch can pretend that we don’t need to be aware of these seasonal changes.
Perhaps one day the switch won’t work and then we will learn these truths all over again.
In the agricultural age it wasn’t a coincidence that very different cultures all created belief systems around the sun.
From the Incas to the Irish, they knew what was important for their crops and, ipso facto, their survival.
In Ireland this is Mí na Nollag, the month of the Solstice.
Four days from now on Jesus’ birthday, people here will wish each other a happy winter Solstice.
Even after a millennia and a half of Christianity on this island the old ways, connected to nature, still leave an echo.
The ancient inhabitants of this island left us New Grange to remind us how much they understood and worshipped the sun.
In Pagan Ireland, today would have been a time for families and feasting.
That was a culture based on what they knew to be real and important for them.
After today the sun will get stronger in the northern hemisphere and the portion of daylight within the 24 hours, imperceptibly at first, will become greater.
The year has turned and the darkness will recede.
I have much to do and tomorrow I’ll begin again.
Enjoy the turning of the year, we all need the light.