Winter Solstice

Today is the winter solstice and instead of a few feet of snow in New Hampshire, we have a winter soaker rolling up the east coast with high winds and areal flooding alerts. Postponed is our neighborhood winter solstice bonfire planned for dusk tonight. For months, one enthusiastic neighbor has piled cut tree limbs and yard debris in a cleared area awaiting this day where we would gather at dusk with marshmallows and hot chocolate to celebrate on the shortest day of the year. We will still gather to celebrate the winter solstice but it’ll be after Christmas when the days are beginning to grow longer in the Northern Hemisphere.

orangesI had early thoughts of not doing much in the way of decorating for the holiday this year, but that did not happen. With Christmas just a few days away, not one, but two (artificial) Christmas trees have finally been decorated, stockings are hung by the chimney with great care along with greens on the mantle and wreaths and swags on front and back doors. We’ve baked several goodies, made cookies and more. Cards have been sent, gifts have been mailed out and gifts are still arriving in our mailbox. Dehydrated orange slices are adorning our holiday trees substituting for the multitude of older ornaments passed on to the next generation. I think I like the oranges for a change anyway.

SantasYoung grandchildren have visited, eaten sweets and been thrilled over decorations of bright lights and ornaments, hanging evergreens with nutcrackers, Santas and reindeer in every room.

We’ve gathered with friends for holiday cocktails, luncheons, open houses, shopping, and a holiday flower arranging workshop that I chaired this week. I guess sugarplums are dancing in heads everywhere.

It took me a while but I finally decided that sugarplums are very good thing. I hope I remember this next Christmas…

Total Eclipse of the Moon

July 16, 2000 eclipse

According to NASA, a rare event will occur during the wee hours of tomorrow morning, Dec. 21. A total eclipse of the full moon will occur on winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day of the year

The eclipse for the East Coast will begin at approximately 1:33 a.m. with the total eclipse occurring at 3:17 a.m. when the earth’s shadow will completely cover the moon for 72 minutes.  The entire event will last around three hours and twenty-eight minutes.

Lucky for sky viewers on the East Coast who will have clear views unlike many sections of America that are under cloud cover. During the eclipse, we can watch the moon change colors from gray to yellow to orange to red at total eclipse. This phenomena of color occurs due to the indirect light from the sun passing through the earth’s atmosphere where blue hues are filtered out.

The winter solstice is the official beginning of winter with the sun at its lowest in the sky and the earth’s axis will hit full tilt. The last time these events occurred together was Dec. 21, 1638. The next time these events occur on the same calendar day will be Dec. 21, 2094, visible next time from much of Europe, Africa and Asia. Humans throughout time have honored the occasion of winter solstice with celebrations. After tomorrow, days will gradually grow longer until the summer solstice in 2011. Even though the months to come will seem just the same, thoughts turn toward spring with the eventual return of the sun.

I have set my alarm for 3 a.m and will step outside, protected by a down jacket, hat and mittens, just to witness this once in my lifetime event.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester