Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The longest night ...

... of the year is tonight. Today is the day when the darkness lies heaviest over Norway. (Well, I should say southern Norway. Up north they won't have noticed any difference, since they haven't seen the sun now for weeks and weeks anyway. I feel for you. :-) It actually really felt that way today ... it felt like the sun would never rise this morning ... like the light was just dragging its metaphorical feet and would never arrive. And by the time I left work at a little past 3:30 it was already almost dark. It's not very cheering.

But what is cheering is the knowledge that today was the very worst. From here on out it can only get better. :-) Every day now it will get a little lighter. Just a few minutes to start with, but every little counts. The sun turns tonight at 22 minutes to midnight, the winter solstice, and starts making its way closer to us again. The universe is an amazing place.

Another thing that's amazing is the thought of all the emotions and mental energy that has been spent on this event through the centuries. A thousand years ago my ancestors would have celebrated this day with a sacrifice, called blót ... a Yule sacrifice, to bring back the sun and light a hope in the long darkness.

A remnant of this pagan celebration is still alive in the Scandinavian word for Christmas, jul. In the high middle ages the church tried to force us to let go of this ancient word - having successfully foisted their wrongly dated festival upon us in place of our own celebration - they wanted us to call it Kristmesse instead. But they never succeeded, and jól has remained through the many centuries. Whatever we celebrate on December 24th - the spring birth of a man who never existed, our families, Isaac Newton, a few days' vacation or the mountains of good food - it's a welcome light in the darkness of winter. Joy of the season to all. :-)

1 comment:

Elin said...

I tend to use to word "Yule" in English. ;) Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines it as "Christmas", though I don't quite agree. I celebrate midwinter, not the birth of a guy... ;)