So today is the first day of winter. The solstice was yesterday, and that means that the days are about to start getting longer again. *sigh*. The pendulum swings.
I know that this has probably been spoken about and folks are no doubt weary of the conversation, but I'd like to put my thoughts down...
In ancient days, as I understand them ("ancient" meaning well before when I was born), the length of the day was very important to man, whether the society in question was hunter / gatherer or agrarian based. Short days typically meant less time in which to hunt, gather, or...agrary? hehe. It meant less time to get or make food, especially in a northern climate. Bad news, that.
Naturally, that point in the year when the days start to get longer was a big deal at that time, much more so than it is today. So, there was a big festival honoring the solstice.
Ah, but the rub is that in ancient days, they couldn't just look at a calendar and declare: "Yep...ta-dayze th' solstice...git plates on the table, so's I c'n eat...I'mma havin' a beeah".
Ancient astronomers were not able to tell that the days were getting longer until the days actually started to get longer, which was three days or so after the solstice. Where does that land us? The 24th of December. Give them a day to collect and prepare the food and festivities...
Thus, a yule celebration. And, I'll conjecture, as the pine tree was one that would weather the winter days that were to come, ancient cultures looked at it as a symbol that they too, could survive until the spring thaw. That tree is with us today ('cause, as we all know, that pagan yule celebration was shanghaied into Christmas).
- I'm a life-long New Englander, father of 4 challenging kids (I know: I'm supposed to say "wonderful", but while that'd be true, technically speaking, it'd also be misleading), and fortunate husband to my favorite wife of more than 20 years. I've got over 20 years experience breaking things as a test engineer, quality engineer, reliability engineer, and most recently (and most enjoyably) a Product Safety / EMC Compliance Engineer. In the photo, I'm on the left.