Bob Groeneveld has been sharing his Odd Thoughts with Langley readers for the past four decades, give or take a few months.

Bob Groeneveld has been sharing his Odd Thoughts with Langley readers for the past four decades, give or take a few months.

Odd Thoughts: Darkness assures brighter days ahead

Winter solstice at the heart of Christmas and multi-religious experience

By Bob Groeneveld

.

I am approaching my 66th Christmas.

I don’t remember every one of the 65 Christmases that preceded this one.

I was too young for the first couple to have established any reliable recollections.

And then there were the university years…

But one thing that I can be certain of about each and every Christmas in my past life is that they were all dark.

I don’t mean emotionally dark, or film noir dark, or anything like that.

I just mean dark.

Christmas happens to be one of the five or six darkest days of the year.

This year, the Winter Solstice occurs at precisely 8:19 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 21. The official sunrise here will clock in at 8:05 in the morning, and the sun officially sets at 4:16 in the afternoon.

That’s eight hours and 11 minutes of official sun – only a tad longer than one third of a day that’s about 24 hours long (give or take a few bits of a second).

By Christmas, our daily allotment of sun-up will have increased to a whopping eight hours and 12 minutes – a whole minute more – with sunrise at 8:06 and sunset at 4:18.

By any reckoning, that’s a dark day.

Granted, if it happens to snow, the light hangs around little longer, despite the sun’s reticence.

But on the other hand, when it rains – and folks, I don’t need to tell you which is more common around these parts – the clouds veritably smother the sun, and the day barely seems to happen at all.

Ironically, it was the dark, dinginess of the season that provided the initial sparks that eventually burst into the joy of Christmas… and practically every mid-winter religious celebration celebrated by practically every religion that ever was.

That’s because celebration of the solstice predated anything that we could see as a religion today by thousands – maybe tens of thousands – of years.

Perhaps the one thing that sets us humans apart from practically every other animal on the planet is our amazing ability to recognize patterns… what we call “intelligence.”

And the recognition of the cycle of the seasons may have been the very basis of what we now call “civilization.”

Without knowing the why of the cycles as we do now – planet on a tilted axis spinning around the sun, etc. – the fact that the shortening of days would eventually reverse into lengthening so that crops could be planted again would certainly have been cause for celebration of hope… which is practically the definition of joy.

It and a few other landmark points in the seasonal cycle became natural rest stops in the annual religious cycle, and were absorbed into each new religion – often with a few identifying embellishments – as they eclipsed each other.

That’s why it’s okay to say Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays, or Joyous Festivus, or whatever.

Because no matter what religious or non-religious experience motivates you, now is the time to recognize that the days ahead will be brighter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Peterson, owner of Velocity Cycling in Walnut Grove, said it’s still hard to get enough bikes and parts, more than a year into the pandemic-inspired cycling boom. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Langley bike shops still swamped by would-be riders

It can be months to order a simple new bicycle due to COVID-19

Legion branch 265 president Doug Hadley shows off the green space where food service can continue via outdoor dining. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)
Aldergrove legion branch #265 preparing to open patio dining on back lawn

Branch president Doug Hadley said COVID-19 restriction have hurt clientele

Pilots from the Canadian Museum of Flight in Langley were unable to take part in the actual Vimy Ridge centennial tribute in France in 2017, and similarly they were grounded today – the 103rd anniversary of the battle. This time due to weather conditions. (Canadian Museum of Flight/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Vimy Ridge flyby tribute just not in the cards?

This time, for a different reason, Canadian Museum of Flight pilots couldn’t take to the air – again

.
LETTER: People must change their actions to slow global warming, Langley student writes

Grade 7 students at Gordon Greenwood Elementary were tasked with writing about climate change.

.
LETTER: Glaciers disappearing faster than in previous decades, Langley student writes

Grade 7 students at Gordon Greenwood Elementary were tasked with writing about climate change.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Emergency crews on scene after a small plane crashed in a grassy area on the northeast side of Boundary Bay Airport Saturday morning (April 10). A freelancer said the plane caught fire and one person was transported to hospital by BC Emergency Health Services. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
1 taken to hospital after plane crash at Metro Vancouver airport

Plane appears to have suffered ‘significant’ damage, says freelancer

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Most Read