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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Winter? Party on!

With “official” winter still a week and half away, and with a major winter storm blasting its way through the Sierra Nevada and western Nevada, I thought a little jump start on the season might be in line.

There are atmospheric conjunctions about to take place in this northern hemisphere of old earth, there are conjunctions created by the human race, and there is always that possibility that Mother Nature herself will step in with something to offer. First is the natural change from fall to winter, known as the winter solstice, on or about December 21st. It’s the day with the shortest amount of sunlight and it ushers in the three month period known as winter, but interestingly brings about just a bit more sunlight each day during that period.

The ancient people learned that these changes in our weather were of extreme importance. Knowing when to plant, when to harvest, when to prepare for the long hard winter months allowed for the humans to flourish. As is human nature, even unto today, a change can be an opportunity to party on.

In the tropics, that section of the earth least affected by its tilt, the changes are from drier months to wetter months. I spent four years living on Guam, and the difference we found between the dry season and the wet season was, simply, during the dry season it only rained once or twice a day. There was an almost unnoticed change in the daily temperature.

For those south of the tropical zones, December 21 is the start of summer, the autumnal equinox is spring, time for planting, and March 21 means time to harvest. But Christmas is Christmas and Hanukkah is Hanukkah. And New Year is always an opportunity to party, make a resolution or two, and sing “Auld Lang Syne”. Bless you Robert Burns, for without ye, we’d have nothing to do at midnight except drink a cup of kindness and fire off a shotgun or bottle rocket.

Unless of course we are in Japan and be celebrating Oshogatsu. These are “forget the year” parties. In Spain we’d eat twelve grapes, and in the Netherlands we’d burn our Christmas trees in the middle of the street. Oh, the fun of it all.

Getting back to December 21st, if we could please, many in the pagan worlds of yore, looked forward to the long nights, bundled up by a roaring fire, the smell of evergreens flooding the house, and great pots of meats and veggies roasting, braising, baking, and frying. Here in my little valley some twenty miles north of Reno in the great state of Nevada, the chickens are in bed by quarter to five each evening, the horses simply don’t give a tinker’s dam when the sun goes down, and Patty and I bring out the best from our collection of cast iron pots and pans. Many of our dinners come completely from our pens, corrals, and gardens, which makes it pretty easy to say ‘thanks’.

The atmosphere has been getting cooler each day since September 21st, and it will take a long time before it starts warming its way to March 21st. Even though the days will have more sunshine, the air and ground will not get warm for some time. With bitter cold nights lasting as much as fourteen and a half hours for weeks on end, old man sol has his work cut out getting things warmed up. Maybe an après ski party(ies) would(will) help.

We must have a celebration to welcome winter, on or about December 21st. Then we must celebrate Christmas. We must celebrate Hanukkah. And, hang on Nellie, we must celebrate the coming of the new year. From New Year it’s thirty-three days ‘till Ground Hog Day, so let’s party while we can.

Until next time, read good books and stay regular.

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