Winter Solstice

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 07:24 pm
flwyd: (sun mass incandescant gas)

At 05:30 UTC this Thursday, December 22nd, the Earth's axis will be exactly in line with the sun. Seen from the northern hemisphere, the sun will be the furthest south and closest to the horizon at that instant. The winter solstice has been celebrated for millennia by cultures from the Andes to the Urals and from Ireland to Japan.

Lacking precise astronomical tools, and desiring an excuse to party during the cold and dark season, cultures around the world often extended that moment to a day, a week, or more for a festival celebrating light, rebirth, and keeping warm. Scandinavians would gather family and friends and place a large yule log on the fire, feasting and celebrating while the log burned for many days. Similarly, in China, the Dōngzhì Festival features feasting with family. Solstice often marked a key point in the calendar. Celts and Druids created large stone structures structures like Stonehenge and Newgrange, in where a position is illuminated only at the solstice.

Winter solstice is the longest night and shortest day of the year. The cultural symbolism is thus often tied to the return or victory of a sun figure in the local mythology. Some examples:

  • Japanese myths tell of the sun goddess Ameterasu being lured back out of a cave and into the sky on winter solstice.
  • Korochun, celebrated by Slavs in Eastern Europe, marks the death of the old sun god and his resurrection as the new sun god.
  • The practice of lighting the menorah on Hanukkah may have originated as a solstice tradition.
  • Hopi and Zuni Indians celebrate Soyal, when the sun returns from a long sleep.
  • Sol Invictus, celebrated in the Roman Empire, translates literally as "Invincible Sun."
  • During the festival of Şeva Zistané, Kurds celebrate the rebirth of the sun and victory of light over darkness.

The theme birth and rebirth sometimes includes non-solar figures as well. The births of Pryderi (Welsh), Mithra (Persian), and Dievs (Latvian) are all celebrated at the winter solstice. Contemporary Wiccans and Neopagans often celebrate winter solstice as the death of the old god and birth of the young god. Locally, many Neopagans gather at Red Rocks before dawn on solstice to drum up the sun.

Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, falls on December 25th, the designated date of winter solstice in the Julian calendar. Christmas in many contemporary European communities incorporates old local solstice traditions such as the yule log. The practice of Christmas gift giving may have arisen from Saturnalia, widely celebrated in Rome when Christianity was introduced.

Dia de Saudade

Sunday, January 30th, 2011 03:24 pm
flwyd: (rose silhouette)
I happened to look up saudade on Wikipedia and discovered that today is Dia da Saudade in Brazil.
The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.
A holiday for an emotion like that transcends memorial day, because it doesn't just focus on things which are no more, but things which could have been or even could yet be. Like many complex emotions, many languages describe something like it. But it's often easier to understand by observing a person than reading a definition, so watch a video of Cesaria Evora singing "Sodade", her most famous song.

What makes you feel saudade?
flwyd: (Trevor shadow self portrait)
Reminder: Today is Shadow Boxing Day, the day after Groundhog Day. Now go do what you've been putting off. When you're done, share it with the world. Brag about winning the fight with your shadow. It will give you confidence for the next round.

Holiday CarDs

Monday, December 8th, 2008 10:53 pm
flwyd: (pentacle disc)
In honor of winter holiday season, here's my non-standard "Christmas card" offer. Leave a comment with your mailing address and I will send you a personalized mix CD. Indicate your favorite winter holiday(s) so I can properly address the delivery. Comments will be screened so you don't broadcast your address to the world.

If you'd like something specific, please indicate what. Example requests:

  • I really like $band, give me stuff that's kinda like them.
  • I don't usually like $genre or $othergenre. Send me some stuff that's good so I can decide if my horizons are broad enough.
  • Give me a CD with songs about $theme.
  • Give me songs by bands with numbers in their name.
  • Fast and bulbous! The weirder the better, man!

I have over 500 CDs (including some not listed) and over 77 days on iTunes, but my genre coverage is nonuniform. If I can't reasonably fulfill your request, I'll let you know.

If there's a flood of interest, I may not get to your disc in time for your favorite holiday. I promise all will be sent before Chinese New Year. If you'll be moving soon, let me know so I can put your request higher in the queue.

If you're of the holiday card sending persuasion, here's my contact information. My favorite winter holiday is winter solstice, but I enjoy the traditions of all of 'em. I'll gladly accept a CD of your favorite music, an interesting card (hand-drawn or otherwise), or just an email or comment saying some variation of "Happy holidays."

If you're of the holiday gift giving persuasion, don't buy anything for me unless you know I'll really, really enjoy it (i.e., it's quite specific to my interests). I'll be moving all of my stuff in a few months and I don't want to shake my fist in your absence for some object I'm forced to relocate. If you feel you must spend money with me in mind, donate to a non-profit organization you think I'd support (EFF, ACLU, Wikimedia, a shareware or open source program you like, wilderness conservation, true progressive politics...). In return, I promise not to burden you with useless objects (unless we're in a White Elephant together).

flwyd: (inner maiden animated no words)
Happy MadHatterDay!

(The page claims it was started in Boulder, but I've never encountered it there. Though I guess I was usually in class.)

Good Timing, Patriots

Saturday, July 5th, 2008 12:03 am
flwyd: (red succulent)
Britain's main fireworks night is in early November. China's biggest fireworks night is in late January or early February. But Americans had the sense to declare independence when it's warm all night and you can wander down mountain paths in breezy clothing without any problems but a few succulent spines.

Early July is such a good time for a party, the Canadians followed our lead.
flwyd: (requiem for a dream eye)
Anyone doing anything fun tonight (NYE) or tomorrow (NYD)? I thought I was going to be elsewhere, but now I'm in Denver without any particular plans. If there's interest, I'd be willing to host card/board games in my now-austere living room. If nobody's up for drinking wine and playing games I'll probably go to [ profile] cowitchesbrew to drink tea and play games.

Have fun. Be safe. Be silly. Hang your new calendar.


Saturday, March 10th, 2007 07:49 pm
flwyd: (big animated moon cycle)
Take two: Daylight Saving Time starts tomorrow. As a celebration of spring it's raining right now which may help wash away the piles of dirty snow still lurking in parking lots.

Possible parents and expectant murderers: if a person is born in the summer and dies in the winter they will enjoy two more hours of life than if the seasons were reversed. Void where prohibited. Residents of Hawaii and Arizona may not participate.

Clocks March Forth

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007 06:48 pm
flwyd: (big animated moon cycle)
Remember Americans: In an effort to save energy, Daylight Saving Time starts tomorrow (Sunday). Be prepared for random computer output being off an error if the latest zoneinfo/OS upgrades have not been applied.

Scratch that. My wall calendar has day numbers at the bottom of the box but holidays at the top of the box. I tried to check, but it was unresponsive. Probably because is what I wanted. Thanks to alert readers for pointing out that I don't know my own favorite holiday.

Fun facts about Daylight Saving Time

Fat Days

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007 09:49 am
flwyd: (Vigelandsparken heels over head)
I think each day of the week should be Fat at a different time of the year.

Fat Tuesday is a time of partying before the 40-day Lent celebration leading to Easter.

Fat Wednesday is 40 days before Labor Day. It's designated as the time to have a meeting and figure out who can drive to Burning Man and what it's going to take to build a dome for your theme camp.

Fat Thursday is Thanksgiving.

Other suggestions?
I had a phatabulous Tuesday night with [ profile] mollybzz at the Fox Theater watching The Folderol Follies and Ukulele Loki's Gadabout Orchestra, a burlesque acrobatic show with old-time music. I started dancing to the ambient pre-show music and by the time the opening band was in full swing there were about 20 people on the floor performing various spontaneous and slightly ironic dance moves. The crowd dancing mostly stopped for the main act to feast our eyes on Victorian stripteases, aerial dance in lace and powder, and a glass-walking midget. There may be a non-fuzzy picture or two out of the hundred I snapped.

After the show, Loki invited me to next month's meeting of the HUMBUGS facial hair society. Definitely the best $8 concert I've ever attended.

Shadow Boxing Day

Saturday, February 3rd, 2007 10:20 am
flwyd: (Trevor shadow self portrait)
Punxsatawney Phil didn't see his shadow yesterday, but that doesn't mean you can't.

If the day after Christmas is Boxing Day, the day after Groundhog Day must be Shadow Boxing Day. It's a day devoted to self-examination and intention setting.

It's been a month since many people set new year's resolutions. To those who have followed through, you have my admiration. For the rest of us, this is a day to sit down and have a frank look at why we don't do the things we plan. We'll get inside our enemy's head and psych him out. The shadow's had the upper hand and dealt us some blows, but this is the day for some fancy footwork and a surprise strike.

Today is the day we'll shine a light on what holds us back, knocking the shadow out of the way and taking charge of the situation. Not only will we do this, but I will do this and you will do this. Only I can knock out my own shadows; only you can knock out your own shadows.

Now go do what you've been putting off. When you're done, share it with the world. Brag about winning the fight with your shadow. It will give you confidence for the next round.

Geek Holiday

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007 11:40 am
flwyd: (dogcow moof!)
Today is the birthday of both J.R.R. Tolkien and Apple Computer.

Fanboys may commence rejoicing.

Hippy Holly Daze

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006 01:25 pm
flwyd: (mathnet - to cogitate and to solve)
Is February 3rd Shadow Boxing Day?
flwyd: (tell tale heart)
I added [ profile] tongodeon as a friend because he created the Red Meat Constructor Set, but his journal is regularly full of insightful political and social commentary and well-written amusing anecdotes.

His views on holiday shopping are quite similar to mine.

Nobody should feel obliged for social or personal reasons to give me a gift. If you would like to do something nice for me, invite me over for tea and games. If you have money you would like to spend so that I will appreciate your generosity, make a donation to KGNU, ACLU, EFF, WikiMedia, or an open source project of your choice. If you find an object you know I would appreciate owning, I thank you for your generosity.

If I don't give you a gift it's because I didn't know what you could use and/or figured you could use the resources you would ordinarily expend in acquiring a gift for me could be more efficiently be used by you to get something you actually need.

If you would like a winter holiday-themed physical greeting from me, provide your postal address and which winter occasion you most enjoy celebrating. (I'm leaving comments public on this post, so if you don't want stalkers to find you, send your address to tstone (a)

I make an exception for white elephants in which everyone finds something they already own, have fun wrapping it, have fun watching other people unwrap it, have fun stealing presents, and go home with an object they don't need but can appreciate (at least ironically).

Buy Nothing Day

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006 06:08 pm
flwyd: (spam lite)
I always forget to announce this well in advance, but this is a reminder that tomorrow is Buy Nothing Day. Participate by not participating!


Thursday, November 23rd, 2006 01:56 am
flwyd: (escher drawing hands)
So my enthusiasm has been derailed by a bug or virus. In my body, dork, not on my laptop. Tam and Melissa have been watching Family Guy and Weeds. If my forehead wasn't smoldering and my throat scratchy, it would be a distraction. Only 396 words today, but my brain made some future progress. I'm doubting I can hit 50,000 by next Wednesday. But I can probably do it in a month. National Novel Writing Phase Shift.

When you read this, be thankful you don't feel like I did at seven o'clock. Be thankful that you're well enough off to be an Internet user. Be thankful for the balance in your life. Be thankful you enjoy your family's traditions. Alternatively, be thankful that you don't have to spend an awkward evening with them this year. Alternatively, be thankful that you can look forward to putting it behind you and participate in the Great Holiday of Sloth and Gluttony.

And remember, Thanksgiving ain't over until you eat the last slice of pie.
flwyd: (big animated moon cycle)
Celebrate your country's independence by blowing up a small part of it. -- Apu

The Brits, of course, don't have an Independence Day to celebrate, so instead they celebrate a fireworks show that didn't happen. The Americans were clever enough to declare independence at a time of year perfect for lying on the glass and watching colors in the sky. The British chose November for big public celebrations, so they prefer bonfires to airborne gunpowder.

This year I will opt to celebrate the festival of fall heat by soaking at Valley View. Make sure to vote on or before Tuesday!

Daily Words 2/14/6

Saturday, February 18th, 2006 11:07 pm
flwyd: (tell tale heart)
I often think people make too big of a deal about holidays. If the essence of the holiday is important, the virtue should be practiced year round. Why wait until December to give someone a present? Why wait until October to get dressed up like a freak?

Sometimes the holiday comes at a bad time. When you're fighting a cold it's okay if you can't keep it up on Valentine's Day.
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