Friday, December 24, 2021

Happy Holidays

The year is winding down, winter is setting in (if it hasn't already for you), and a new year approaches. December holds dozens of different holidays for different groups; the list varies by how far you want to stretch the definition of “holiday”.

The Winter Solstice, when the tilt of the Earth gives the northern hemisphere the shortest day and longest night, was on December 21st this year. We recognize it as the first official day of winter and look forward to the lengthening hours of sunlight that lead to spring, but pagan and ancient cultures have noted the changing of the seasons for millennia as a way to keep track of time. The changing of the moon and length of daylight are easy to keep track of, so most early calendars are based on them. As an aside, quite a few religious holidays “wander” on the Gregorian (solar) calendar that is commonly used in Western countries because they were first recorded using lunar calendars, and the two systems don't match up perfectly.

Here in the United States, Christmas is the big holiday of the season but everybody celebrates things in their own way. Presents and parties, gathering with friends and family, and time off work are all common ways to celebrate the birth of the Christian Savior. Like most things in America, it has become commercialized and is used in marketing, but the “reason for the season” hasn't changed. Enjoy it in your own way. Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, Los Posadas, Omisoka, Bodhi Day, Krampusnacht, and about a dozen other holidays fall in the month of December. Look them up if you need another reason to celebrate something.

New Year's Eve, the time for getting out the new calendar and starting a new year, is fast approaching. Some cultures celebrate the new year as a time of rebirth and new opportunities, which makes sense from a practical standpoint: it's good to have a definitive starting and stopping point to things as it makes life a bit more predictable.

Celebrations are important to us as humans; we have a need to commemorate births and deaths, changes of seasons, “holy days” or holidays, and various other important dates. Doing so reminds us of what has gone before and shows us that there is a way forward. While it is fun to gather with friends and family, the important thing is that we have those friends and family. Remember those who have passed and celebrate the achievements of the young, give encouragement and comfort to each other, and be willing to accept it from those who love you. Even if the SHTF, we're still human and need to stay that way.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

PS: December is a busy month for everyone, so be kind to those you meet.

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