Thanks to the tilt of Earth’s axis, we’re about to mark the Perihelion Solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere, or longest day and shortest night in the southern.
Earth will be closest to the Sun, at its orbital perihelion, about two weeks after the December Solstice. The close timing is a coincidence, an artifact of our eccentric orbit.
In 1246, the December Solstice was on the same day as the Earth reached its Perihelion. Since then, the Perihelion and Aphelion dates have drifted by a day every 58 years. In the short-term, the dates can vary up to 2 days from one year to another.
Mathematicians and astronomers estimate that in the year 6430, over 4000 years from now, the timing of the Perihelion and the March Equinox will coincide. timeanddate.com
Our ancestors have studied the annual cycle of the Sun since Neolithic times. Stonehenge may be the most famous instrument to monitor the seasons, but there are many others across the world. We still celebrate the solstice, whether by that name or subsumed into other holidays. Our tribe still gathers to feast, defying the darkness with promises of future prosperity.
From the traditions of northern Europe we get Christmas trees, wreathes, and Yule logs – and celebrate by exchanging gifts. These traditions were even carried to the southern hemisphere, where a snow-bound Xmas is just a story.
In Iran, families gather together to eat – with nuts, pomegranates and watermelons favored – and read poetry.
In China, expect to see pink and white rice-flour dumplings in sweet broth, symbolizing unity and prosperity.
I’ll be attending a friend’s party and walking her candle-lit labyrinth.
I’m no Persian poet, but here’s my ode to the shifting North Star.
What holidays will travel with us to Mars? I speculate that the orbital points of equinoxes and solstices will be observed, and perhaps anniversaries of mission landings. Mark your holidays with gifts of books – science fiction and poetry.
All my books, including science fiction and science-inspired poetry, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers. You’ll also find paperbacks at Create Space and all major digital formats at Smashwords. Read one today.