Monday, December 21, 2009

The Shortest Darkest Day of the Year


Today is the day when ancient pre-Christian Europeans remembered their dead. Everyone knows that Stonehenge's famous heel stone marks the direction of the sunrise on June 21st. But the largest trilithon (now fallen) in the center of the whole circle pointed in the opposite direction, the direction of the setting sun today. Recently, archaeologists have discovered that Stonehenge is an enormous cemetery containing generations, perhaps centuries, of burials. The most important annual observance at Stonehenge probably took place today at sunset, and probably was about those dead.

This was also a time for celebration to drive back the gloom and to mark the turning of a corner. From now on, the days will slowly get longer and brighter until June 21st.

We still carry on those celebrations, and for the same old reasons. Now, we call it Christmas.

4 comments:

Ciss B said...

Lovely picture of Stonehenge! Happy Soltice -I mean Christmas!

Padre Mickey said...

So if Jesus had been born in the Southern Hemisphere, we'd be celebrating Christmas on June 21st, which is closer to the date Clement claimed was the birthday of Jesus: May 20.

Counterlight said...

Well I'd be all for moving His birthday to May 20 or June 21st.

December 25th is MY birthday, and I'd like it back.

Counterlight said...

Come to think of it, my Australian and Brazilian readers are probably having a very different experience right now.

It's 7PM here and it looks like midnight.