Happy Winter Solstice

As of yesterday, days will be getting longer again on this side of the globe. Of course here, in the Old North State that’s not that big a deal, anyway. But I did start paying more attention to sunrise/sunset this fall. When I bike to work and back home, I prefer to avoid the bad light conditions at dawn and at dusk.

Considering that the shortest day of the year is still 9 hours and 42 Minutes long here, I am amazed at the seemingly overpowering desire of our neighbors to string hundreds of lights, and thousands of lights in some cases, all over their houses, trees and shrubs, all over the yards and even on a vehicle (in one case). But it ‘s probably not so much deprivation of sunlight around here, as it is the spirit of the holiday season taking possession of their brains and compelling them decorate their yards with, for example, a 10-foot/3-meter illuminated, inflatable nativity. Or maybe it’s just mall-Christmas-muzak and eggnog induced temporary insanity?!

I wonder how popular this Christmas-lights-craze is in places that are much darker this time of year, like Reykjavik, Iceland (4 hours), or Point Lay, Alaska (0 hours)? In Freiburg, Germany (8h 22m) days are shorter than here, but folks are much more restrained when it comes to decorations, at least the electrical flavor (maybe because of their power bills?). And what about, say, Honolulu (10h 50m)? Do the Hawai’ians who celebrate Christmas decorate their houses with lights? I’ll have to ask John next week … when we see him in Charlotte, Michigan (9h 02m).

In Togo I never saw any electrical Christmas lights. Probably because the village has no electricity. And when folks said they were going to “light the tree” they meant it quite literally, and set fire to it. December it the driest time of year in Togo, and so most farmers burn their fields to get them ready for the next growing season. That means there are huge bush fires all over, and on Christmas eve we’d sit on the porch, drink some palmwine and watch the festive glow of the fires all over the mountains around us.

So, Happy Winter Solstice to all, especially those of you who need UV-light treatment this time of year!

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