Despite the fact that we have been bombarded with winter scenes and winter songs, today is the actual first day of winter. The shortes day of the year. I understand that it actually isn’t a shorter day, only shorter daylight, it this sort of leads to the kind misperception I want to talk about today.
I was watching a video of Neil deGrasse Tyson about common misconceptions. He quoted the general perception that days get longer in the summer and shorter in the winter. This jives with our general feeling about this, we think of the darkness of winter and the eternal daylight of summer. Tyson said that not only this not true, it is the opposite of truth. Days get longer in the winter and shorter in the summer. This is so counter intuitive that I had to think about it for a while, but of course, he’s right. Today is the shortest day of the year, so each day after today gets longer. The first day of summer is the longest day of the year, so each day after is shorter.
While there is no intrinsic value to daylight over night, there is an internal optimism that is felt by all with more daylight. If this is true, then winter is an optimistic season, a season of light. Of course most everyone knows that the Christian feast of the Nativity was a baptism of a former feast of the unconquerable sun. Ancient peoples saw daylight going steadily away, and the feast celebrated the yearly recognition that the world was not going to disappear into unending darkness.
So winter is a season of growing light, not darkness, and the last day of winter will be the same length as the first day of summer. Happy winter, the season of light!