Painful Truth: Darkest days draw to a close

I’m writing this just a couple of days after the winter solstice, aka the longest night of the year. Here in coastal B.C., this tends to coincide with rain and heavy cloud cover, giving us the impression that we’re trapped inside a damp grey gym sock in a poorly-lit basement.

All this darkness can induce a depressed mood for many people, the dreaded Seasonal Affective Disorder. Although we’ve only named this feeling in the last few decades, it’s clear it’s been around throughout and before recorded history.

Take England’s Stonehenge, for example.

Thousands of years ago, neolithic hunter-farmer-gatherers did not have a lot to look forward to over the winters. They got up every day and tramped through muddy forests, chasing muddy animals, only to return to houses made from dried mud, to huddle around peat fires (peat is basically mud that burns), for a nourishing meal of suspiciously grey-brown mush. Things got a bit monotonous, is what I’m saying.

After centuries of watching the sun, moon, and stars, they figured out that there was a tipping point when things were at their grimmest, but after that there was slow and steady improvement, until finally spring and then summer conquered the land, and the world was only made of 30 per cent mud! Maybe 40.

Finally one chieftain turned to his top spiritual advisor, and said something like this:

“By Cernunos (or whatever anthropomorphized natural processes archeologists think we worshiped) we need to pin down exactly when the darkest day of the year takes place! This wallowing in grey misery for a couple of weeks is intolerable! If we can pick a date, we’ll have a big party and barbecue some pigs and everyone can get drunk.”

And the spiritual advisor nodded and stroked his beard and tried to look suitably mystical, and then he went off and did some math, and a few weeks later they were asking contractors for bids on a few thousand tons of Welsh stone, suitable for building giant arches.

I’m just as pleased as the ancient tribal leaders about the passing of the solstice, but even being able to look up to the second the time we pass from fall into winter doesn’t really help much.

The changes in minutes of daylight from December 21 to December 22 or 23 aren’t really that impressive. A couple of minutes. Just a few moments shaved off the darkness.

I’m thinking we need another holiday. Not around Christmas, obviously, and even New Year’s isn’t far enough away.

We need a celebration somewhere around early February.

By that time, we’ve been shrouded in grey and grim weather for three or four months, starting from around the end of October or early November.

But in February, you finally start to notice that the days are getting longer. The sun can actually make it over the tops of the trees, and standing on the south side of a hill is no longer a necessity when it comes to producing a bit of vitamin D.

We should celebrate this vague milestone, this halfway point between the darkest depths of winter and the true return of spring. It’s that day when things start to look brighter, both literally and figuratively.

I don’t think we want to build a giant stone calendar/ritual site this time. Instead, let’s just get some legislation that allows everyone an extra day off sometime between January and March. Send your boss an email, tell them it’s time, and head outside. It beats hauling giant rocks 200 miles, anyway.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Langley firefighters spend hours battling blaze in vacant home

Cause of the late-night fire in Willoughby is still under investigation

LETTER: Faster and easier for Willoughby residents to shop in Pitt Meadows

Writer frustrated with traffic nightmares that have and continue to plague her growing neighbourhood

VIDEO: Fan support almost deafening as Giants take Game 2 in finals

Vancouver G-Men cap comeback with thrilling third period to beat Spokane 4-2 on home ice in Langley

Bobcats, bears, and otters, oh my!

Critter Care Wildlife Society’s 20th anniversary gala set for next Saturday in Langley

VIDEO: Giants draw first blood in Western Conference championships

In Game 1 of the best-of-seven series between Vancouver and Spokane, the G-Men emerged triumphant

‘No answers:’ Canadians react to Sri Lanka bombings that killed hundreds

The co-ordinated bomb attacks killed at least 207 people and injured 450 more on Easter Sunday

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

RCMP looking for witnesses to four-vehicle crash in Burnaby

Police suspect impaired driving was a contributing factor

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

Most Read