Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Beginning or Middle of Winter - What's in a Name?

I was talking with a friend yesterday about the winter solstice. She quoted the ABC weatherman at the local channel saying that the day before had been the last day of autumn and the 21st the transition to winter. That would make today the first full day of winter. Something in me just rejected all that.

Think back to your weather on the 20th if you live in the northern hemisphere. Did it seem at all like autumn to you? I told her I really believed that winter solstice was more like the middle of winter. Or at least approaching that point rapidly. With freezes in September slowing plant growth and snows coming in October I find it really hard to believe fall continues to December 20th.

So I did what I usually do when challenging information I have received - I Googled. And wound up on Wiki as per usual. While it seems it is a cultural difference as to what solstice is called there is much historical basis for Midwinter over first day of winter. The Celts believed winter began November 1st. Seems more accurate to me. So winter solstice would be about 2 months into winter. And ergo spring actually begins in March.

Early March is when green begins to appear. There are little buds on the trees and the patches of grass showing through the snow are becoming green. So then spring equinox would be midspring?

I don't know if that is as important to get right as Winter Solstice. While the days will begin to be longer I find it quite depressing to believe it is the BEGINNING of winter. Where I live we have had winter for at least a month and a half. Midwinter is so much more optimistic! If you have made it to this point you can survive it. And today you more than half way through the ordeal.


  1. Hi Jacqui, I agree that the Winter Solstice is mid-winter. It is the shortest day of the year and the longest night. Following this, the days begin to get larger and the nights shorter.

    This was commemorated by the Romans as a festival of the birth of the Unconquered Sun (Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) which was celebrated when the duration of daylight first begins to increase after the winter solstice, the "rebirth" of the sun.

  2. Smart Celts. Some years I dread The Dark Time, Halloween to Ground Hog Day. Midwinter it may not be, but mid-dark time it certainly is.
    On the other hand I am not anxious to start thinking of fall on June 21.


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