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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Winter's Wonders

A single storm does not a winter make, some will say, but as we moved into the month of December, it was very obvious that at least winter might be trying this year, and there is no doubt that we need old Jack Frost to be neighborly.  Winter can be frigid and dry, can be wetter than an old wet hen and not so cold, and be just right, with enough chill in the air to remind us that it is winter, and with enough snow to make our spring and summer lots of fun and productive.

Winter officially begins on December 21 this year, the occasion of the winter solstice, bringing us the day with the least amount of daylight, after which we begin the slow climb toward spring.  The ancients lived by the sun and stars, there were no calendars as such, no clocks, work began at or slightly before sunrise and ended at or slightly after sunset.  Chickens still live their lives that way.  Many in agriculture do as well, but with the advent of electrical lighting, the chickens are messed up and so is the farmer.

With the advent of civilization, back in Mesopotamia, came the advent of agriculture, but there are indications that celebrations of solstice and equinox may pre-date agriculture.  Hunter gatherers used these occasions for celebrations that may or may not have been related to some kind of religious program.  Knowing that less sunshine, thus colder weather, also brought flocks of ducks and geese into the area would be a good thing, knowing that deer and elk are more inclined to think about breeding than self protection when the cold weather begins would be excellent knowledge.

Knowing that the first storm of the season as we had this year means it’s time to unhook the hose and wrap the heat tape is that same kind of intelligence, 21st Century style.  If the solstice entices the hunters of Stonehenge to venture forth, it too makes the survivors of today wrap the pipes.

There has always been some indication that high birth rates in August and September are reflections of the previous winter, and that brings us to mistletoe, and its curious connection to Christmas.  Mistletoe is supposedly known as a pagan plant within the Roman church, yet it is freely used in many programs within the church.  Never-the-less, hanging a sprig and enticing a lovely to stand under it has benefits beyond the reach of the church.  The druids are known to have held mistletoe in high esteem.

Along with mistletoe, early civilizations used holly and ivy in their winter pageants, thus when Christianity came along, the church confiscated that for their own, saying such things as holly representing the crown of thorns, and that ivy and its clinging had something to do with clinging to God.  The so-called pagan rituals written into the new church.

Symbolism is rampant during the winter months, the ancients working overtime to entice the sun to wend its way back high in the sky, the religious adding to the fervor of celebrating coming glories, and the massive amounts of evergreens being slashed into wreaths, cut for Christmas trees, and mangled into what the British used to call “Kissing Boughs,” not being satisfied with tearing mistletoe from surrounding oak trees.

Following immediately on the heels of Christmas come the New Year, and we make all kinds of promises to ourselves, few of which last the week, and pray for more snow, until at last it’s Groundhog Day and we can start to believe in Spring.  Until then,

Merry Christmas To All

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