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Getting the solstice out of the way
by Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service


December 21, 2004

If you're at loose ends on Tuesday, Dec. 21, you may want to consider marking the winter solstice, when the daylight is the shortest and the sun is at its lowest in the sky.
jpg Dale McFeatters

Mankind has observed the solstice for thousands of years. Indeed, it plays a part in why Christmas is when it is because the early Christians tended to co-opt pagan festivals.

One history says the Mesopotamians were the first to mark the solstice, holding rites "designed to help the god Marduk tame the monsters of chaos for one year" - which sounds rather like what the U.S. military is up against in present day Mesopotamia.

The solstice comes at 7:42 a.m. EST Tuesday. Don't make a point of being outside for it. There's really nothing to see. All of our sunlight is being lavished on the Tropic of Capricorn.

There are a couple of ways to look at the solstice depending on your temperament. The solstice is, by the solar means of reckoning these things, the first day of winter, which is bad. But it also means that the hours of daylight, almost infinitesimally at first, will start getting longer, meaning spring is inexorably on the march. And that's good.

And then there's the National Weather Service's way of looking at it. The Weather Service marks winter from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28, meaning - and here we're edging into serious no-life territory - that winter is more than one-fifth gone. Can spring be far behind? Well, yes it can because there's the little matter of January and February to get through.

Reason enough to wish Marduk good luck as he battles with the monsters of chaos. Don't want them around when the weather turns nice.



Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,


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