Today marks the start of winter, and this is both a happy and sad occasion for me. While I LOVE the fact the days officially get longer after today, the new season brings cold and snow, and for those affected by SAD or seasonal affective disorder, this is the midway point for a difficult journey each winter.
The "winter blues" were first diagnosed as an actual disorder in 1984, and according to the Mayo Clinic, Seasonal affective disorder (also called SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you’re like most people with seasonal affective disorder, your symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. When I explain the feeling to people who can’t understand, I tell them it’s like diving deep into a dark tank of water, with the objective to reach the bottom of the pool. Then quickly touch the bottom and slowly come back to the surface.
The start of the dive is really fall time, when the weather gets cooler, leaves have fallen from the trees and we may even get the first snowfall. And once the time officially falls back in early November, the dive really gets dark. But the good news is Dec. 21 is the bottom of the dive, and soon we will return to the surface. And while the increase in actual daylight is not substantial to most people, I know I will see a whole three seconds of extra sun tomorrow.
Then it’s nine seconds on Monday and 15 seconds on Tuesday. It will take almost a week to get a full minute of sun to return to me, but just like a ship turning in the ocean, the process is slow and the earth doesn’t really pick up speed until New Year’s Day. That’s when we start gaining a minimum of a minute per day, ramping up the increase until the solstice in March, when the earth moves at full speed, roughly 3½ minutes per day of increased sunlight.
The word solstice is Latin for "sun to stand still" because for the week in December and June when the earth finally reaches its peak in one direction, it looks like the sun’s position in the sky doesn’t move.
But if the solstice is the turning point, why is Dec. 21 the first day of our COLD season of winter and June 21 the first day of our HOT month of summer?
It’s like filling your cold tub with hot water. The area under the tap gets warm first, and it takes some time for the entire tub to warm up. If you have a tub of warm water, it’s the opposite. That is unless you forgot about your hot bath all together and come back to your tub of chilled water. The same thing happens with the ocean. Oceans take a long time to heat up and cool down.
In June, they are still cool from the winter, so the warmest days happen in July and August. This is why May long can often have cruddy weather, yet September long is almost always bearable. Likewise in the fall, the oceans hold onto the warmth of summer long after I’ve shut the barbecue off.
So the coldest days usually happen in January and February. And since nobody really knows the date on an actual calendar when Jesus was born, it makes sense that Dec. 25 was picked, because we’re getting our SUN back!
In fact, you can thank the pagans and their celebration of today’s solstice for the living room centerpiece of the holidays, your Christmas tree. The Yule log was a pagan tradition where the log was lit on the eve of the solstice — to conquer the darkness, protect against evil spirits, and bring luck. The log was later replaced by a tree, adorned with burning candles, and decorated with ornaments and garland. Sound familiar?
So obviously I’m not the only one who had ever looked forward to the Sun’s return! And although it will be weeks if not months before we feel any heat from it, the thought of longer days and shorter nights slowly returning to Westman is an early Christmas present for me and others who miss the sun!
Five cool, or downright COLD), winter record breakers:
World’s Largest Snowman
Built in Bethel, Maine, it took five months to plan and build the 113-foot, seven-inch tall snowman which broke the former record held by Yamagata, Japan of 96 feet, seven inches. Although it was huge, carrots and coal were actual size.
World’s Largest Snowflake
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, on Jan. 28, 1887, a 15-inch wide, eight-inch thick snowflake ever observed fell in Fort Keogh, Montana.
World’s Largest Collection of Snow globes
Wendy Suen (China) has 1,888 different snow globes, as of April 2008.
World’s largest snowball
Measures 10.04 m (32.94 ft) in circumference and was rolled by students from ASME Michigan Technological University (USA), in Houghton, Michigan, USA, on March 29, 2013. The diameter of the snowball measures 3.20 m (10.45 ft) and its height reaches 3.28 m (9.28 ft).
World’s largest group of Snow Angels
The most people making snow angels simultaneously is 8,962 at the State Capitol Grounds in Bismarck, North Dakota for an event organized by the State Historical Society of North Dakota on 17 February 2007.
JOKE THIS WEEK
Michael and his wife live in Alaska. One winter morning while listening to the radio, they hear the announcer say, "We are going to have 8 to 10 inches of snow today. You must park your car on the even numbered side of the street, so the snowplow can get through." Michael's wife goes out and moves her car.
A week later, while they were eating breakfast, the radio announcer says, "We are expecting 10 to 12 inches of snow today. You must park your car on the odd numbered side of the street so the snowplow can get through." Michael’s wife goes out and moves her car again.
The next week they are having breakfast again, when the radio announcer says, "We are expecting 12 to 14 inches of snow today. You must park......",then the electric power goes out. Michael’s wife is very upset and, with a worried look on her face, she says, "Honey, I don’t know what to do. Which side of the street do I need to park on so the plow can get through?"
With love and understanding in his voice, like all the men who are married to blondes exhibit, Michael says, "Why don’t you just leave it in the garage this time."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 21, 2013