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Winter Solstice 2012: The world definitely is not ending

Winter starts

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The 2011 winter solstice sunset in Frisco, Colorado.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — With all the hoopla of Christmas, it’s easy to forget that the winter solstice was marked by deeply spiritual ceremonies long before the emergence of Christian traditions. But if you take a moment today to contemplate the sun hanging at it’s lowest and most southerly point in the sky, it’s a little easier to understand why ancient people took the trouble to erect massive stone monuments to observe the day.

Try and see the world from the perspective of a Stone Age hunter in a time when the universe was infinitesimally more mysterious than it is today. Now, we understand orbital cycles. Notwithstanding the end-of-the-world hype, we can be fairly certain that the days will soon start getting longer again. We can keep warm in our homes, and fend off the dark with electric lights.

But there must have been a time when the long, dark nights at the start of winter were frightening, with no real assurance that spring would arrive once more. Gradually, through observation, even the ancient ones figured it out, and the fact that the cycle of shortening days was at an end became reason for celebration. Continue reading

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