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Saturday, December 21st, was the Winter Solstice—the shortest day of the year; the first official day of Winter; Yule. The days, which have been getting shorter and shorter each day since the Summer Solstice, now will be getting longer by a minute or two each day.
Many cultures around the world have celebrated the Winter Solstice. In Ireland, people selected by a lottery are invited to the Newgrange Monument to watch the sunrise on the Winter Solstice. Newgrange is a Stone Age monument that has a chamber that is aligned with the sun as it rises on the Solstice. At dawn, the chamber is filled with sunlight for about 17 minutes. More than 30,000 people apply for a spot every year. Only 60 are chosen.
In Japan, the Winter Solstice tradition is to start the New Year in a warm bath filled with a citrus fruit called yuzu—supposed to help keep you healthy.
In China, the Winter Solstice is called Dong Zhi, which means “Winter arrives.” It is a time for families to get together and remember the past year while sharing good wishes for the new.
In England, of course, thousands of people gather at Stonehenge to welcome the Solstice or in the town of Brighton, where people parade with hand-made lanterns that are then burned in a huge bonfire by the sea.
In Scandinavia, the Feast of Juul is held on the Winter Solstice, with bonfires to celebrate the light and warmth of the returning sun.
Here, in America, it’s pretty much business as usual, except for people like me who keep a little calendar on their desks showing sunrise and sunset times every day because we can’t wait for long warm days to go outside and play in our gardens again.
In the meantime, I’ll have to content myself with watching a couple of dozen Meyer lemons ripen and picking my favorites out from the boxes of 2020 dated seeds that just arrived.
I wish each and every one of you warm wishes for the New Year.