Winter: A Reason for Celebration

reprinted from CT DEEP

Winter’s official start was December 21st at 11:28 a.m.

Solstices come two times in the year, summer and winter, and are marked by a longer day or longer night. The Winter Solstice marks the time when we have the longest night and the shortest period of daylight. The Summer Solstice marks the opposite, highlighting the longest day and the shortest night. The Winter Solstice is recognized by many cultures with the commonality of celebrating the coming of light. As with many holiday celebrations, activities are centered around agrarian roots, linking us to the seasons and natural phenomena. In German and Scandinavian cultures the winter solstice was marked by burning oak logs, greens and wood throughout the night and spreading the ash the following days to promise a successful crop for the coming year. From this the Yule log, Christmas tree, wreaths and many holiday traditions evolved. Likewise, in other cultures the celebrations of the importance of light and coming of crops shaped traditions.

The importance of the winter season is sometimes lost in the aversion to shoveling snow or dealing with ice. But we need to recognize the wonder of natural phenomenon and take some time to observe it. Without this period of time seeds could not reset for growth, water systems would not be able to recharge, wildlife would not redistribute and regroup, and the availability of maple syrup would be lost. In the course of changing conditions we are seeing less and later snowfall, warmer winter days, quicker springs and early rains and floods. Our ability to support seasonal activity is based on our ability to know how to reduce impacts. There are many ways for students and individuals to take action. Becoming involved starts with observation. Winter is a great time to take part in some citizen science opportunities honing your skills in observation and research. Enjoy the season and learn more about your natural community.